Four games remain in the Premier League, five points separate the top two of Leicester City and Tottenham Hotspur. So who will win the title? The National's sports desk offer their picks.
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Jon Turner — Online sports editor
This past weekend could have provided the ultimate momentum swing in this season’s title race. Leicester City’s 2-2 draw, albeit admirable with 10 men, still came at a cost. Striker Jamie Vardy, absolutely vital to his team’s success, faces a two-match suspension after being charged with improper conduct by the English Football Association to go with his red card against West Ham United. After five successive clean sheets, some of which can be considered fortuitous, Leicester’s stingy backline was finally breached, and the leaders can count themselves lucky to have earned a point against West Ham. To suggest the bubble has burst would be overreaching, but it has certainly been deflated somewhat. Leicester’s run-in is hardly straightforward either. After a banker of three points against Swansea City, they head to Manchester United, host an Everton team far superior on the road than at home, then head to Chelsea. Tottenham Hotspur, on the other hand, were exceptional at Stoke City on Monday night, and laid down exactly the marker they needed to ramp up the pressure on Leicester. Their run-in by comparison is more manageable: West Bromwich Albion at home, a trip to Chelsea, Southampton at home, and Newcastle United away. Yes, both sides travel to Stamford Bridge, but Spurs — a more well-rounded and talented team — are the more likely to leave with three points. Let’s also not forget, there has been greater ground lost by league leaders in the past, all of which boasted far more title-chasing experience than Leicester.
Thomas Woods – Sports editor
The key factor in this run-in will be both side’s games away at Chelsea and, given how the soon-to-be-dethroned champions played against Manchester City last week, it is hard to see them beating either Leicester City or Tottenham Hotspur. Also, Leicester’s trip to Stamford Bridge is the final day of the season. Give me a team with everything to lose against a team with nothing to play for. So, assuming Chelsea don’t upset Leicester, then where do they drop points to allow Spurs in? Spurs would have to win every game and Leicester would have to lose twice (or lose once and draw twice) to throw away the title. The trip to Old Trafford to face Manchester United looks like the toughest game for Leicester. They will probably be without the suspended Jamie Vardy and United have a knack of pulling big performances out of the hat against the top teams. But even if they lose in Manchester, Leicester would have to go some to throw away the title. Swansea City and Everton at home should be victories. Claudio Ranieri’s side have seven clean sheets in nine home games and they were barely troubled in open play against West Ham United, despite conceding twice. One was a penalty, the other an unstoppable screamer and both came when they were down to 10 men following Vardy’s red card. Swansea are clear of relegation and lost 3-0 at Newcastle United at the weekend. Everton could have one eye on the FA Cup final. I’m backing Leicester to take a minimum six points from their next three games and then get whatever result they need at Stamford Bridge to win the title on the last day.
Jonathan Raymond – Online sports editor
Monday night's match against Stoke City could have been a microcosm of all that is Tottenham past. Harry Kane scores a nifty early goal. Spurs continue to attack, work to create some nice chances – none more so than Christian Eriksen's laser off the crossbar in a clear one-on-one. Danny Rose gets clean through in the area and goes down, no save from the referee coming. Dele Alli skies a nice chance from about 15 yards. If at this point, about an hour into the match, you were told Stoke would go on to equalise and the match would end 1-1, it probably wouldn't register as a massive shock. For all of their brilliance, in this the most successful of Spurs seasons, Tottenham have still just a few too many times failed to get the maximum. It is why, with the Premier League's best goal difference by a long way, they nonetheless trail Leicester by as much as they do at this stage. A couple too many draws (Liverpool 1-1, Arsenal 2-2) and close losses (West Ham United 1-0, Leicester City 1-0) when the moment most required more. Well now Spurs have no margin for error. And Monday night, away against a capable Stoke team, they did not frustratedly watch fate resign them to a point when the moment no longer allowed for anything less than three. They kicked fate in the teeth. The Tottenham who won Monday night 4-0 with a flurry of skill and scoring in the final half-hour, the fully-realised Tottenham who smashed Manchester United 3-0 the previous match, is the Premier League's best team. If those Spurs can consistently maintain that level for their final four matches – West Bromwich Albion (home), Chelsea away, Southampton (home), Newcastle United away – they will finish with a deserved 80 points. And, there stands a reasonable chance: 80 points will be enough to make them deserved champions.
Steve Luckings - Senior sports editor
For all the mesmerising football Tottenahm Hotspur displayed in dismantling Stoke City at the Britannia Stadium on Monday (the 4-0 line flattered Stoke, not Spurs) there is still one unescapable fact: Leicester City, at five points clear, can afford to lose one of their four remaining games. Tottenham can’t. We can argue the toss till the cows come home over who has the harder run-in, but it is hard to imagine Leicester losing two of their four remaining games, with six points all but certain to guarantee them the most unlikeliest of Premier League titles. An interesting statistic is that Tottenham have surrendered seven points in matches immediately following their involvement in this season’s Europa League, before they were eliminated at the quarter-final stage by Borussia Dortmund. Had Mauricio Pochettino’s side only had the league to focus on – as Leicester have following early exits from both the League Cup and FA Cup (to Tottenham, funnily enough), then it is not inconceivable that the team from North London would have their noses in front heading down the home straight. No doubt Tottenham have been the best footballing side in the Premier League in 2015/16, but the table doesn’t lie and it will be Leicester who are crowned champions next month. The irony for Spurs fans is that in the one season in the Premier League era their team finish ahead of Manchester City, Arsenal, Manchester United and Chelsea they get pipped to the title by Leicester.
Football certainly is a funny old game.