THE writing is on the wall for Tottenham, Arsenal and Man Utd — buck up or face losing out on Champions League football next season.
Forget the top two. Liverpool and Man City are in a league of their own. But in recent weeks, Brandon Rodgers’ Leicester and Frank Lampard’s Chelsea have pulled away from their rivals as they share joint third and fourth place.
There is a six-point gap between them and Arsenal in fifth and a further 10 points separate the Foxes and Blues from Man Utd and Tottenham, who are languishing in 10th and 11th spots in the Premier League table.
Following their impressive form, there have been talk that Rodgers’ Leicester are even better than Claudio Ranieri’s 2015/16 Premier League champions. The Foxes go head-to-head with Arsenal today in a key battle in the race for a top-four finish and rightly start as favourites against the erratic Gunners.
Leicester have scored 27 goals this season and conceded just eight, giving them the joint best defensive record in the division and striker Jamie Vardy tops the scoring charts with 10 goals so far.
While he may be the star of this Leicester side, behind Vardy there are a host of players who have been in excellent form and are thriving in the side’s march up the table.
James Maddison, Harvey Barnes, Youri Tielemans and Ayoze Perez are hardworking players with loads of creative talent between them. In defence, Ben Chilwell and Ricardo Pereira have also been impressive in their side’s promising start to this campaign.
In contrast, Unai Emery’s Arsenal have flattered to deceive so far. The Spaniard saw his side let a lead slip for the fourth game in a row on Wednesday as they were held by Portuguese side Vitoria in the Europa League.
Arsenal need a result against Leicester as another poor performance will increase the pressure on Emery, especially with strong rumours of Jose Mourinho possibly replacing him at the Emirates.
It has been a turbulent couple of weeks for the North London side as controversy still looms over former captain Granit Xhaka after his outburst against Crystal Palace the previous week.
This promises to be an exciting fixture with all the ingredients of an explosive encounter and I would not be surprised if Rodgers’ side clinch a comfortable win.
Chelsea welcome London neighbours Crystal Palace to Stamford Bridge and will be in a buoyant mood after staging a remarkable comeback from 4-1 down against Ajax Amsterdam to gain a point in their Champions League clash in midweek.
Lampard’s young side showed plenty of heart and fighting spirit and more of the same kind of attitude will be needed today against Roy Hodgson’s resilient Palace.
The Eagles will be hoping to bounce back from last week’s dire home defeat to Leicester and Hodgson will have had the luxury of having the whole week free to drill his players on how to curtail the Blues impressive youngsters.
Palace do seem to be more comfortable playing away from Selhurst Park and will be dangerous opponents, especially with Wilfred Zaha and Jordan Ayew in the ranks.
Tottenham welcome sixth-placed Sheffield United today and will be looking to eager to get their league campaign back on track after a dismal run of form. Their overall form this season has been poor, losing four of their 11 matches in the Premier League and suffering a 7-2 humiliation at home to Bayern Munich in the Champions League.
Mauricio Pochettino’s side thrashed Red Star Belgrade 4-0 in their midweek Champions League assignment to move closer to the knockout stages and will look to put last week’s draw at Everton, where they conceded a last-minute equaliser, behind them.
The Blades will come to London full of confidence after whipping Burnley 3-0 last week and having not lost a league match since losing to Liverpool in late September.
The returning Harry Kane and South Korean Son Heung-min should have a big say in a game where I see the host winning by a couple of goals.