Now or never for Tottenham as Chelsea look to put Premier League title race to bed
The Spurs must prevail in a difficult home fixture against Arsenal, while Chelsea’s clash with Everton presents their toughest remaining match
This weekend might be the last chance to set up a grandstand finish in the English Premier League title race, with leaders Chelsea facing their toughest remaining match away to Everton on Sunday. Unfortunately for Tottenham, who trail by four points with five games to play, they also face a difficult fixture at home to Arsenal.
Home advantage means Tottenham have the better percentage chance of success among the two title contenders, as the betting odds confirm, but their need to win is greater than Chelsea’s and a 13th home league victory on the trot will be far from easy in the fiery atmosphere of the north London derby.
For the first time in many years, Tottenham are the best team in north London at the moment but derbies are often tight and four of the last five league meetings were draws (the other was a home win for Tottenham).
Interestingly, Arsenal have the knack of scoring first in derbies (five times in the last seven league meetings).
Tottenham will boost their chance if they can turn that trend around, but either way their greater resilience is a big plus.
Everton ought to give Chelsea a good test, but there is still the painful memory of their 5-0 defeat at Stamford Bridge in the reverse fixture and that is not the only time Ronald Koeman’s team have been flaky against big opposition, as they also lost both derbies against Liverpool this season.
The home defeat by their local rivals is Everton’s only loss in the league at Goodison Park this season, which suggests victory will be a push even for Chelsea, and the leaders might be happy enough with a draw.
Seeing that result would encourage Tottenham, who could then close the gap to two points with victory over Arsenal, but it would be no surprise if Chelsea put safety first. Under 2.5 goals looks a good bet.
The question at the bottom end this weekend is whether any of the relegation-threatened teams can find the away win that would give them a precious three points in the fight for survival.
All the teams from Bournemouth in 13th to Swansea in 18th are on the road and the saving grace for those just above the relegation zone might be that Swansea have the toughest task of all away to Manchester United tomorrow.
Death, taxes and football’s greed the three certainties in life as Premier League clubs investigated
By the time that match kicks off, Swansea may know that a win or even a point would move them closer to the teams above them, but equally they will find themselves five points adrift if Hull win at Southampton.
An away win for Hull has looked unlikely for most of the season, and even under new manager Marco Silva, but there have been more encouraging signs in recent away games and a point is not out of the question.
Hull have scored in three of their last four away matches and were right in the game against Stoke last time, recording more possession and a similar number of shots as the hosts.
Stoke won 3-1 in the end, but for some time after Hull’s equaliser early in the second half the match hung in the balance.
There is a question mark over Southampton’s commitment now that they have become one of three mid-table sides (along with West Brom and Watford) to reach the 40-point mark.
They have lost both games since then, meaning that those three teams have lost eight out of 10 between them since getting to 40 points.
It has to be noted, however, that Southampton’s two defeats in the past week were against big-six sides Chelsea and Manchester City, and their recent record against teams outside the elite is strong with four wins and a draw from their last five.
Hull are not without a chance of an upset at big odds, as they are clearly an improving side even on the road, but the two strugglers with better chances of a good away result are Bournemouth at Sunderland and Leicester at West Brom.
Bournemouth were hammered 4-0 at Tottenham in their last away game but had drawn their previous three on the road (at Manchester United, Southampton and Liverpool) and that sort of form could see them hammer the final nail in Sunderland’s coffin.
Leicester have gone off the boil slightly in recent weeks but the win that would take them to 40 points looks possible at West Brom, who rank fifth-bottom of the form table over the past eight games. Leicester are fifth in that ranking, although that takes into account their blistering start for new manager Craig Shakespeare.
Bournemouth on handicap
Can take big step towards safety
Leicester on handicap
Another of the strugglers with a good chance
Reading home win
Can end all hope for visitors Wigan
Roma home win
Good odds for derby win
Hamburg on handicap
Can bounce back from last week’s terrible loss
Crystal Palace, Tottenham, Huddersfield.