With just eight games remaining in the current Premier League campaign and with a lull in proceedings due to the international football break, it may be an ideal opportunity to reflect upon the potential title winners at the end of the season and the prospects of those teams vying to secure qualification for the 2015-16 Champions League.
Chelsea remain in pole position to clinch a first league title in five seasons especially with a six point lead and an extra game to play at basement team Leicester. With the exception of home matches against Manchester United and Liverpool plus a London derby to be staged at the Emirates, the other six matches to be played by the Blues would appear fairly benign although there are consistent doubts regarding the fitness of striker Diego Costa. Additionally, the Chelsea defence is prone to the occasional lapses in concentration as proved by recent 5-3 and 4-2 defeats by Tottenham and Bradford respectively plus a narrow 3-2 weekend victory at Hull.
Current champions Manchester City occupy second position but inconsistency has blighted their campaign since the beginning of January. They have won just one of their five previous matches on away soil but remain capable of producing outstanding displays as per their performances when beating Stoke 4-1 and Newcastle 5-0 during February. Difficult fixtures ahead include the Manchester derby at Old Trafford and games against Tottenham and Southampton but City need to win at least six of their eight games to be considered as possible end of season champions.
An outside bet to claim the Premier League title may be Arsenal, just seven points adrift of Chelsea. The Gunners have claimed six successive league victories with Olivier Giroud netting in their five latest contests and a 2-1 win at Old Trafford in an FA Cup sixth round tie proved their ability to win difficult matches on away turf. Liverpool and Chelsea still need to visit the Emirates and another away match at Manchester United is scheduled but their remaining five games can all be classed as winnable.
Manchester United have deemed Champions League qualification as their main priority with the team eight points adrift of Chelsea and having played an extra game. Louis Van Gaal purchased several expensive players during the summer but four successive league victories suggests that his team are arguably producing their best form of the campaign but forthcoming fixtures against Manchester City, Everton, Chelsea and Arsenal will present Van Gaal with the more difficult closing sequence of the top four teams.
Such a demanding finish will offer Liverpool some hope of finishing above their current fifth position, but they still need to close a five point gap to their Old Trafford rivals and the 2-1weekend home defeat by Manchester United may have affected morale with visits to Chelsea and Arsenal still awaiting the team.
Meanwhile Tottenham and Southampton still retain slim hopes of securing a Champions League berth but they cannot afford to relinquish any further points and a draw will suit neither club when they clash at St Mary’s Stadium on April 25th.
The Premier League season concludes on May 24th and with no European fixtures to distract attention, more attention can be focused on collecting domestic points, but at this stage it would appear that Chelsea can only lose the title with Arsenal perhaps emerging as runners-up.
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