On Sunday afternoon, just hours after Leicester City had gone seven points clear at the top of the Premier League, one bookmaker began to pay out winnings to any punter lucky enough to be in possession of a Foxes backing betting slip, suggesting that the title race is now a foregone conclusion.
But, with the business end of the season well underway, just how far can second placed Tottenham Hotspur go to spoiling the 'Jamie Vardy Party'?
That party, led by the talismanic striker, will gain more momentum if Leicester can pick up an away win at Sunderland this weekend. Though no game is ever easy, the trip to The Stadium of Light will provide a stern test for the league leaders. Battling for their own Premier League survival, the Black Cats have improved under the guidance of Sam Allardyce in recent weeks. Allardyce’s managerial CV has never been blemished by relegation and a win for his side would rejuvenate their survival bid.
Meanwhile, Spurs are at home to Manchester United. In the corresponding fixture on the opening day of the season, The Red Devils stole a 1-0 win after a poor Nabil Bentaleb pass fed in Wayne Rooney. The Algerian has hardly featured since. Tottenham are certainly the better footballing side between the two, and after controlling the majority of the game in the 1-1 draw at Anfield last weekend, Mauricio Pochettino will be confident his side can get back onto winning ways.
Such confidence has been boosted by the fact that the Argentine has a whole week to spend with his team in the build up to the fixture. Unlike Leicester, who have played just once a week for the majority of the season, Tottenham have been hindered by their participation in the Europa League, often playing Thursday nights and then again on Sunday afternoons. The decision to rest key players against Dortmund in the previous round may have raised eyebrows amongst the footballing community at the time, but if Spurs do go on to win the league then the decision will be remembered as a masterstroke from El Poch.
The hunger and desire that the young Spurs side have shown this season has gone hand in hand with their never say die attitude, coming back from more losing positions than any other team in the division. If the North London side are in the losing position right now, then it can guaranteed that Harry Kane, Dele Alli and the remaining pack will fight tooth and nail for the title, right until the last minute.
Could Kane have his 'Aguerooooo' moment?
When it comes to minutes, an additional three or four can be vital in determining the league champions come mid-May. Just four seasons ago, in what was the most dramatic season finale of all time, Manchester City won their first Premier League title in the final minute of the final game. Trailing 2-1 to QPR and needing to match the result of rivals United in order to win the league, Edin Dzeko popped up with what many believed to be a consolation equaliser. Though Sergio Aguero and Mario Balotelli were not keen on settling for second. With one last attack the Italian forward squared the ball to his strike partner, the nippy forward taking it round his man before rifling it into the net and dancing off into Poznan pandemonium.
Though it is highly unlikely that this season will go to the last day, never mind the last minute, it is worth remembering that with six games to go four years ago, Manchester City were trailing a team of champions led by Sir Alex Ferguson, by eight points. Eight!
While reading too much into that stat may be clutching at straws just a wee bit, remaining bookies should be careful not to follow the example of their aforementioned colleague. Yes it may now be an “odds on” certainty that the once backed 5000/1 group of footballers will go on to complete their once in a lifetime fairy-tale. But what did this writer have to remind my friend this evening, who in need of a quick raise, stuck 50 quid on Cristiano Ronaldo to score and Real Madrid to win, in their eventual 2-0 defeat to Wolfsburg?
“My friend, there is no such thing as an odds on certainty.”
A hypothetical finale to make Spurs fan smile.
|Current points total:||69||Current points total:||62|
|Remaining fixtures:||Prediction||Remaining fixtures:||Prediction|
|Sunderland (A)||L||Manchester United (H)||W|
|West Ham (H)||D||Stoke (A)||W|
|Swansea (H)||W||West Bromwich Albion (H)||W|
|Manchester United (H)||L||Chelsea (A)||D|
|Everton (H)||W||Southampton (H)||W|
|Chelsea (A)||D||Newcastle (A)||W|
|Points gained:||8||Points gained:||16|
|Final points total:||77||Final points total:||78|