It may have taken 29 weeks, but the time is finally here: the Premier League title is within Leicester City’s grasp.
Before this weekend, there seemed to be all manner of permutations that stopped them from being the clear and decisive bookmakers’ favourite. But now, after a pulsating gameweek, fate, destiny and silverware is in their hands.
The North London derby was always going to carry extra significance this time around, with the winner surely going on to challenge the Foxes for supremacy and the loser having to make do with a ‘close but no cigar’ style campaign.
The draw was not in the script, however.
After Toby Alderweireld had cancelled out Aaron Ramsey’s opener, the masked Harry Kane curled home a scorcher of a strike from the corner of the penalty area and there was pandemonium in the White Hart Lane stands. Maybe this was going to be Spurs’ year after all?
But no: Alexis Sanchez found himself in space before slotting home the equaliser. Both sides threw the kitchen sink at the other – the draw was no good to either side really given that Leicester would now have a game in hand – but alas neither could find a winner.
The result left Arsenal five points adrift of Leicester and Spurs two prior to the Foxes’ evening trip to Watford.
Mind the (Watford) Gap
Vicarage Road is not a ground that Leicester fans have particularly fond memories of. It was here that their promotion dream from the Championship was shattered nearly four years ago, and so there is always a sense of revenge on the cards when the Foxes are in town. This year, a different emotion would come to the fore.
After an energetic first half which saw both sides create chances, the Tinkerman (Claudio Ranieri) worked his magic at half time again in bringing on Jeff Schlupp and Andy King, but it was a more familiar source of goals – Riyad Mahrez – who did the ultimate damage.
The Algerian curled home from the edge of the area to give Leicester the lead after 56 minutes, and despite a hugely-testing final passage to the match in which Watford created numerous chances, the table toppers clung on and extended their lead to five points.
And so here’s the situation: their fate is now in their own hands.
But for punters, there really is no time like the present to back Leicester to win the title. Next time out they host a Newcastle side that has lost five of their last six matches, seven of their last eight away outings and eleven of fourteen on the road all campaign.
Trust us, the best price of 5/4 available at the time of writing will not be here in a week or so.
Black Cats Poised For Great Escape
Of all the sides currently battling it out for Premier League survival, you always got the sense that Sunderland perhaps had the best chance of survival. Marshalled by a canny operator in Sam Allardyce, the Black Cats are a steady if unspectacular squad of players, yet Big Sam has cajoled them into a point-winning specimen. The same cannot be said of Newcastle and Norwich.
Sunderland’s point against Southampton means they have now lost just one of their last five matches; and that’s survival form right there. Their North East neighbours succumbed to a 1-3 loss against Bournemouth (who incidentally are all but safe – what a job Eddie Howe has done there), and while Newcastle heads may be down they are still only one point adrift of safety. They may need a wily old dog to navigate them to safety….someone like Big Sam for example.
Norwich are a single point from safety too, but even that looks a bridge too far for a team that has lost eight of their last nine matches. Losses to the likes of Leicester and Chelsea are manageable – defeat to fellow relegation candidates Swansea less so.
Incredibly, the best thing that will happen to Sunderland this coming weekend is not playing. They have the week off due to Everton’s participation in the FA Cup, while Newcastle travel to Leicester and Norwich host Man City. The Black Cats will enjoy putting their feet up.
Punters are advised to back the relegation treble of Aston Villa, Norwich and Newcastle, which is still available in places for as long as 13/8.