As they come down the back stretch, it’s Leicester City noses in front of Tottenham Hotspur and Arsenal, and Manchester City fading quickly.
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As the 2015-16 Premier League season enters its final 10 weeks this weekend, it’s either a two-horse race for the title, a three-horse race, or a four-horse race, depending on who you ask. By the end of day Sunday, we’ll know a little more than we do now. As such, key matchups affecting the title race consume this weekend’s PL storylines…
The biggest North London Derby of them all
Tottenham Hotspur vs. Arsenal — Saturday, 6:45 a.m. ET (NBCSN) — FULL PREVIEW
In terms of league standing, there’s never been a bigger NLD than the one we’re all (those of us Stateside, at least) going to wake up at way-too-early-o’clock on Saturday to watch. 2nd versus 3rd, three points and six points back of the PL’s top spot. By 9 a.m. ET on Saturday, we could have a two-horse race for the title on our hands (if Tottenham win), or the tightest three-horse race we’ve seen since the explosion PL finances. Is the Gunners’ reign of north London dominance coming to an end (for a season, at least), or will Spurs “Spurs” it up one more time and fall into the battle for a top-four place? The narratives are oh so strong with this one.
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Beware the banana skins, Leicester
Watford vs. Leicester City — Saturday, 12:30 a.m. ET (NBCSN)
Meanwhile, Leicester just keep plugging away and holding onto the league lead. Even when they slip up and drop points, they continue to gain ground and grow their lead. It’s a charmed life for those Foxes, who travel to Vicarage Road to face 12th-place Watford on Saturday. With just 10 games remaining in the season, any further slip-ups could prove costly for Claudio Ranieri‘s side. That said, no side has won more points away from home this season than Leicester (28), and only Spurs have a better goal differential on the road (+12 to +11). They’re the PL’s road warriors of 2015-16, and they’re so close to the title they can surely taste it.
Every game is must-win for Man City… for the title or Champions League
Aston Villa vs. Manchester City — Saturday, 10 a.m. ET (NBCSN)
Are Man City still in the title race? Are they in danger of missing out on the top-four and UEFA Champions League qualification? Could they miss out on the Europa League (if not for having already won the League Cup)? All of the above? Wednesday’s hammering at the hands of Liverpool made it three straight PL losses for Manuel Pellegrini‘s side, and suddenly they’re 10 points back of Leicester (with a game in hand). They’re also just a point ahead of fifth-place Manchester United and two points ahead of a once-again surging West Ham United (with a game in hand on each). It’s now or never for the Sky Blues, because the prospect of Pep Guardiola taking over a Europa League side this is very, very real.
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Youthful Man United back in the top-four race
West Bromwich Albion vs. Manchester United — Sunday, 11 a.m. ET (NBCSN)
Anthony Martial. Jesse Lingard. Marcus Rashford. Guillermo Varela. Timothy Fosu-Mensah. These are a few of the kids (average age: 20.2) willing Man United back to life in recent weeks. Rashford scored a brace in each of his first two games for the Red Devils, making him the flavor of the
month week day. With Wayne Rooney out for an extended period of time, it’ll be up to those kids once again on Sunday as United visit The Hawthorns with a chance to reclaim fourth in the league table. It won’t be easy, though, as West Brom are unbeaten in their last five league games at home.
A pair of relegation six-pointers at the bottom
Swansea City vs. Norwich City — Saturday, 10 a.m. ET (Premier League Extra Time)
Newcastle United vs. Bournemouth — Saturday, 10 a.m. ET (Premier League Extra Time)
Believe it or not, of the four above listed sides, tiny ole Bournemouth currently sit the highest in the league table (15th) and are only eight points from the magical 40-point benchmark that generally equals safety from relegation. Newcastle and Norwich, on the other hand, are in worlds of trouble. The Magpies have won just two of their last 11 league games (plus two draws), while the Canaries are winless in their last eight PL games (just one draw during that time). These are desperate times at the bottom of the PL, when every point could be the one that keeps you up.