Is the Premier League title race really back on? Analysing the final fixtures for the contenders

Chelsea’s defeat to Crystal Palace on Sunday rekindled talk about a Premier League title race. But are the chasing pack really back in contention?

Defeat to Crystal Palace was as much of a shock to the Premier League’s system as it was to Chelsea’s, but a glance at the table still shows a seven-point gap between the Blues and second-place Tottenham.

However, with a game against Manchester City next up, there could be the real prospect of the gap closing to just four points with eight games still remaining.

But is it actually realistic to expect one of the chasing pack to catch Antonio Conte’s runaway league leaders?

Tottenham Hotspur

Spurs have been consistently excellent for a number of months now and have the best chance of the chasing pack of putting pressure on Chelsea. Currently seven points behind after the same number of games, 29, Mauricio Pochettino’s team have what appears to be a very winnable streak coming up, with four favourable fixtures prior to the visit of Arsenal to White Hart Lane on April 30.

However, even if Tottenham are able to shut the gap during April, their run-in is daunting, with the Gunners and Manchester United being the final two visitors to the Lane and a tricky trip to rivals West Ham scheduled for a Friday night in May. And a season ending trip to Hull City might not be all that straightforward either, with the relegation-threatened Tigers possessing a terrific home record under Marco Silva, taking 13 points from the last possible 15 at the KCom.

For Spurs captain Hugo Lloris, securing a top-four spot and finishing above rivals Arsenal remains the attainable goal, before there are any thoughts of an unexpected title push:

” We’re still focused on ourselves. We need to carry on because it’s very tight in the league behind us. Anything can happen so it’s important to stay involved, to stay together and keep fighting until the end because we want to finish as high as possible in this league and be back in the Champions League. We don’t talk about the title because even seven points is a big gap at this stage of the season.”

Tottenham’s remaining fixtures
Swansea (a)
Watford (h)
Bournemouth (h)
Leicester City (a)*
Crystal Palace (a)
Arsenal (h)
West Ham (a)
Manchester United (h)
Hull City (a)

Manchester City

City are on the march under Pep Guardiola, but three straight draws have slowed their charge up the table. And the upcoming fixtures aren’t all that straightforward either, with trips to Chelsea and Arsenal in the next four, shortly followed by a home game against their Manchester rivals United.

City are trailing Chelsea by 11 points at present so would likely need to win all of those big games to stand any chance of bridging the gap. However, if Pep’s men were to get through that stretch unscathed then their final four games of the campaign are eminently winnable, with Middlesbrough, Crystal Palace, Leicester City and Watford making up the run-in.

Manchester City’s remaining fixtures
Chelsea (a)
Hull City (h)
Southampton (a)
West Brom (h)*
Manchester United (h)
Middlesbrough (a)
Crystal Palace (h)
Leicester City (h)
Watford (a)

Liverpool

Ten points separate Liverpool and Chelsea going into the midweek matches, but the Reds will take confidence from by far the easiest run-ins of the chasing trio. Not a single top-seven opponent remains for Jurgen Klopp’s team, with a trip to eighth-placed West Bromwich Albion the most testing of the remaining matches.

But it’s not all good news for Liverpool, who need to make up the 10-point gap with a one-game disadvantage over their top-four neighbours thanks to their relatively poor cup showing.

And games against teams outside of the top seven might not be all that good news for Liverpool, given that all five of their losses this season have come against clubs currently in the bottom half of the table.

The injury sustained by game-changer Sadio Mane could also be crucial if the Senegal international is out for any substantial length as time, as Liverpool struggled badly in his absence during January.

Liverpool’s remaining fixtures
Bournemouth (h)
Stoke City (a)
West Bromwich Albion (a)
Crystal Palace (h)
Watford (a)
Southampton (h)
West Ham (a)
Middlesbrough (h)

Chelsea

The leaders were left kicking themselves after the loss against Palace, but the destination of the title is still firmly in their hands and it would take a big slip from their current position to relinquish that grasp.

The Blues still have the two Manchester clubs to play, with a trip to Old Trafford on the horizon after Wednesday’s hosting of Man City. But even defeat in both of those matches wouldn’t be enough to let a rival team catch them at the top of the table… and dropped points in the other seven games to come would appear unlikely.

Conte’s side have made short work of the vast majority of mid-table teams this season, and the likes of Watford, Middlesbrough and Sunderland visiting Stamford Bridge would do extremely well to emerge with anything. Trips to Everton and West Bromwich Albion are potentially tricky, but a run-in of Boro, the Baggies and the Black Cats is as straightforward as they come – particularly if the two north-east teams are already assured of relegation by then (which is a distinct possibility).

For Chelsea to mess this up from here would rival Newcastle United and Liverpool for the biggest bottle jobs in Premier League history.

Chelsea’s remaining fixtures
Manchester City (h)
Bournemouth (a)
Manchester United (a)
Southampton (h)
Watford (h)*
Everton (a)
Middlesbrough (h)
West Bromwich Albion (a)
Sunderland (h)

*Chelsea’s home game against Watford, Man City’s home game against West Brom and Tottenham’s trip to Leicester have been postponed due to cup commitments and have yet to be rearranged

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