City tipped to win EPL as top four put under microscope

Claudio Ranieri
Claudio Ranieri

Leicester City

WHY THEY CAN WIN IT

Claudio Ranieri's team have the league's leading scorer, Jamie Vardy, and its most creative player, Riyad Mahrez. Wes Morgan and Robert Huth have formed a doughty partnership at the back and Danny Drinkwater and N'Golo Kante have energy in midfield. Most important of all, they have a clear sense of who they are and how they intend to win games.

AND WHY THEY CAN'T

Victory at Manchester City last weekend presented Leicester with an entirely new challenge - being taken seriously. Ranieri has made much of his team needing to enjoy their unlikely situation this season, but by moving five points clear of their nearest rivals - and in such style - at the Etihad, they are now in unknown territory. All of a sudden, they have something to lose. It is impossible to know how they will cope with that pressure.

HOW IT WILL END

•Feb 14: Arsenal (a) LOSE

•Feb 27: Norwich (h) WIN

•Mar 1: West Brom (h) WIN

•Mar 5: Watford (a) DRAW

•Mar 14: Newcastle (h) WIN

•Mar 19: Crystal Palace (a) DRAW

•Apr 2: Southampton (h) WIN

•Apr 9: Sunderland (a) WIN

•Apr 16: West Ham (h) WIN

•Apr 23: Swansea (h) WIN

•Apr 30: Man United (a) LOSE

•May 7: Everton (h) WIN

•May 15: Chelsea (a) DRAW

Now: 53pts. Final total: 80pts. Finishing position: 2nd (on goal difference)


Tottenham Hotspur

WHY THEY CAN WIN IT

Thanks to Leicester, Mauricio Pochettino has been able to fly under the radar as he has quietly built a young, dynamic, intelligent team, one rated by Quique Flores, the Watford head coach, as the best in the league.

  • Method in predicting how this mad season will end

  • Making sense of this season's English Premier League is tricky, but an introduction of logic could help in the title-race prediction.

    In assessing the run-ins of the leading four clubs, it has been assumed that they will lose any matches away to a fellow top-five side, draw away to clubs who are at present sixth to 13th and win all their other fixtures.

    Arsenal's tough schedule sees them slip to fourth in this model, while Manchester City benefit from having already played away to each of their main rivals.

    This forecasting system leaves City joint top on points with Leicester, given that Manuel Pellegrini's side would have fared the better of the two clubs over the final 13 rounds of matches.

    The assumption is that City's goal difference will remain superior and thus give them the title ahead of this season's upstarts.

    THE TIMES, LONDON

The emergence of Dele Alli has eased the burden a little on Harry Kane, while they have a settled side and the best defence in the division, seemingly undisturbed by the loss of Jan Vertonghen to injury.

AND WHY THEY CAN'T

Their biggest enemy is the calendar. They must still travel to Man City, Liverpool and Chelsea, plus face Arsenal and Manchester United at home. This is bad enough, but the looming Europa League is surely worse. They play Fiorentina in the last 32 next week. Pochettino, and the club, have always taken the competition seriously. Defeat, just this once, would not be a disaster.

HOW IT WILL END

•Feb 14: Man City (a) LOSE

•Feb 28: Swansea (h) WIN

•Mar 2: West Ham (a) DRAW

•Mar 5: Arsenal (h) WIN

•Mar 12: Aston Villa (a) WIN

•Mar 19: Bournemouth (h) WIN

•Apr 2: Liverpool (a) DRAW

•Apr 9: Man United (h) WIN

•Apr 16: Stoke (a) DRAW

•Apr 23: West Brom (h) WIN

•Apr 30: Chelsea (a) DRAW

•May 7: Southampton (h) WIN

•May 15: Newcastle (a) WIN

Now: 48pts. Final total: 76pts. Finishing position: 3rd


Arsenal

WHY THEY CAN WIN IT

This seemed, for so long, like the chance that Arsene Wenger had been waiting for - so many of his richer, more acquisitive rivals in disarray, his own side garlanded by the presence of two of the league's undisputed class acts, in Alexis Sanchez and Mesut Oezil. Drawing Barcelona in the Champions League may not be a bad thing, either - progression would provide a major boost in confidence; elimination would allow them to zero in on winning the league.

AND WHY THEY CAN'T

As Bournemouth's Benik Afobe, a product of Arsenal's youth academy, has said: "They can win it but it has been the same every year. This time of the season they normally fall behind and start losing games they should be winning." They will have chances to do just that: They still must go to Man United, Tottenham, Everton and Man City.

HOW IT WILL END

•Feb 14: Leicester (h) WIN

•Feb 28: Man United (a) LOSE

•Mar 2: Swansea (h) WIN

•Mar 5: Tottenham (a) LOSE

•Mar 12: West Brom (h) WIN

•Mar 19: Everton (a) DRAW

•Apr 2: Watford (h) WIN

•Apr 9: West Ham (a) DRAW

•Apr 16: Crystal Palace (h) WIN

•Apr 23: Sunderland (a) WIN

•Apr 30: Norwich (h) WIN

•May 7: Man City (a) LOSE

•May 15: Aston Villa (h) WIN

Now: 48pts. Final total: 74pts. Finishing position: 4th


Manchester City

WHY THEY CAN WIN IT

Few would argue with the assertion that Manuel Pellegrini can call on the best squad in the country and is capable of putting out a team that can beat any of their rivals. It is a cliche, but thanks to Sergio Aguero, David Silva and Raheem Sterling, there is no question City are the best team on their day. The arrival of Pep Guardiola this summer should also mean no danger of complacency setting in.

AND WHY THEY CAN'T

Because, in short, their day does not come very often. They have found it hard to win back-to-back games this season and, thanks to Vincent Kompany's continuing injury problems, their defence has become an obvious weak spot. At times, it feels as though they could win all of their remaining games and storm to the title, but there has been precious little evidence of it so far.

HOW IT WILL END

•Feb 14: Tottenham (h) WIN

•Mar 2: Liverpool (a) DRAW

•Mar 5: Aston Villa (h) WIN

•Mar 12: Norwich (a) WIN

•Mar 20: Man United (h) WIN

•Apr 2: Bournemouth (a) WIN

•Apr 9: West Brom (h) WIN

•Apr 16: Chelsea (a) DRAW

•Apr 23: Stoke (h) WIN

•Apr 30: Southampton (a) DRAW

•May 7: Arsenal (h) WIN

•May 15: Swansea (a) WIN

•TBA: Newcastle (a) WIN

Now: 47pts. Final total: 80pts. Finishing position: 1st (on goal difference)

THE TIMES, LONDON

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on February 10, 2016, with the headline 'City tipped to win EPL as top four put under microscope'. Print Edition | Subscribe