Clash between surprise leaders Leicester and the team hoping to get their title hopes back on track, Arsenal, is the weekend’s highlight
All eyes will be on the action in the Barclays Premier League today when the season’s surprise package and current leaders, Leicester City, take on fellow title hopefuls Arsenal at the Emirates Stadium.
The Foxes’ fairy tale rise to the summit of English football has been a surprise to fans and pundits alike, including those who tipped the minnows for relegation at the start of the campaign.
However, under the stewardship of wily old fox Claudio Ranieri, Leicester have gone from strength to strength this season, thanks in no small part to the exploits of star duo Riyad Mahrez and Jamie Vardy. However, the Foxes are by no means a two-man team, with the likes of Robert Huth, Danny Drinkwater and N’Golo Kanté also playing a crucial role in the Premier League side’s monumental success this term.
They face one of their sternest tests to date in the shape of Arsène Wenger’s Arsenal, who are only five points behind Ranieri’s side heading into the business end of the season.
The Foxes have tasted defeat on just two occasions in the league, the most recent of which was a 1-0 loss to Liverpool at Anfield on Boxing Day. Their only other defeat came at the hands of Arsenal, who halted the Foxes’ incredible unbeaten run with a 5-2 triumph at the King Power Stadium on September 26.
While many suggested the loss to the Gunners would mark the start of a downward spiral, Leicester simply shrugged off the defeat, continuing to pick up results and stake their claim at the top of the Premier League standings.
Ranieri will be quietly confident of avenging their defeat to the Gunners, especially as Leicester seemingly remain as determined as ever and are showing no signs of letting up in their quest to claim a historic and memorable title.
Arsenal, meanwhile, head into this encounter aiming to do the double over the Foxes in a bid to keep themselves in the hunt for the league crown. Their recent form in the Premier League leaves much to be desired though, with last weekend’s 2-0 victory over Bournemouth marking their first three-point haul in five attempts.
A win would reduce the gap between them and Leicester to just two points, while also keeping up the pressure on fellow high-flyers and London rivals Tottenham, who currently occupy second place.
Later in the day, Tottenham will target a fifth straight victory when they travel to Manchester City, who come into the clash on the back of a shock 3-1 defeat to Leicester.
While Leicester have grabbed the headlines in recent times, Spurs have sneaked under the radar, so to speak, on their way to clinching second place on goal difference last weekend with a 1-0 victory over Watford.
Manager Mauricio Pochettino has transformed the London outfit into a well-oiled machine capable of grinding out results week in, week out, and his motivated group of players will undoubtedly be quietly confident of recording a positive result against the Citizens.
Manuel Pellegrini’s side, meanwhile, lost ground on the leading pack following their defeat to Leicester, a result that followed hot on the heels of the revelation that Bayern Munich boss Pep Guardiola will take over the reins from the Chilean at the Etihad ahead of the 2016/17 campaign.
The defeat to the Foxes will have raised doubts over the mentality of City’s players amid fevered speculation over potential summer transfer business, and Pellegrini will be hoping to dispel such talk, for the time being, when his side locks horns with Spurs at home.
With just three fixtures scheduled, Liverpool travel to relegation-threatened Aston Villa in today’s only other game.
The past month has been challenging for the Reds, to say the least, with fixtures coming thick and fast, and results have not matched up to expectations at Anfield. Jürgen Klopp’s men have been knocked out of the League Cup and the FA Cup in the space of a fortnight, while they have slipped down to ninth place in the league, just two points clear of 10th-placed Watford.
The Villans, meanwhile, will be hoping to have turned the corner, with a 2-0 victory over Norwich City last weekend lifting them to within four points of 19th-placed Sunderland in the standings.
– TEAMtalk media