Write an Article

Fantasy becoming reality in Premier League shakeup

f

Football Soccer - Crystal Palace v Leicester City - Barclays Premier League - Selhurst Park - 19/3/16 Leicester City fans celebrate winning after the game Action Images via Reuters / Tony O'Brien Livepic
Football Soccer - Crystal Palace v Leicester City - Barclays Premier League - Selhurst Park - 19/3/16 Leicester City fans celebrate winning after the game Action Images via Reuters / Tony O'Brien Livepic

By Martyn Herman

LONDON (Reuters) - With two months of a gripping Premier League season left Leicester City are closing on the title and it is not fanciful to suggest that Tottenham Hotspur, West Ham United and Southampton could complete the top four.

The idea of Chelsea, Arsenal, Manchester United, Manchester City and Liverpool, or even just two of them, finishing fifth or lower, would have been laughed off as absurd before a ball was kicked in August.

But fantasy has become the new reality in the world's richest soccer league.

Leicester, 5000-1 shots to win the title at the start of the season, need six wins from their last seven matches to guarantee becoming champions of England for the first time.

Tottenham, without a title since 1961, are their nearest challengers and West Ham United, in fifth place level on points with sixth-placed Manchester United, are sniffing a first-ever qualification for the Champions League.

Southampton, who came from two goals down to beat Liverpool on Sunday, are just four points behind fourth-placed Manchester City who are caught in a downward spiral.

Jose Mourinho knows only too well that reputations no longer count for anything in the Premier League.

The man who led Chelsea to the title last season was sacked in December after losing nine of their first 16 games.

"Every club has very good players so I think it's difficult for the top teams in England because of the competitive nature," he had predicted in August after watching the likes of Crystal Palace, Stoke City and West Ham sign world class players.

One statistic sums the shift in power this season.

Chelsea, Arsenal, Manchester City, Manchester United, and Liverpool have a lower combined points total so far than Leicester, West Ham, Southampton, Stoke and West Bromwich Albion (241 to 248).

Many expect normal service to resume next season when Man City will be buoyed by the arrival of Pep Guardiola, Chelsea re-group under a new manager and United could possibly have Mourinho at the Old Trafford helm.

But according to Stoke's manager Mark Hughes, the days when the establishment dominated the top five or six places is over.

"This year isn't a one-off, it will be more prevalent in years to come and I think maybe there has been a changing of the guard somewhat," Hughes, whose side are on course for their highest Premier League finish, was quoted as saying in The Telegraph.

"The middle group have got stronger, there are only so many players that top clubs can really bring into their squad to make them better. You can only fill so many places. There is a lot of talent out there that will want to come to the Premier League."

With a new eye-watering domestic TV contract kicking in next season, a three-year deal with Sky and BT worth 5.13 billion pounds ($7.38 billion), 71 percent higher than the current one, the quality gap is likely to shrink again next season.

Fans around Europe where title races rarely feature more than two clubs, or in France's case these days one, can only watch on in envy at the unpredictability of the Premier League.

No wonder Spanish league president Javier Tebas said recently the Premier League will soon be the 'NBA of football.'

West Ham manager Slaven Bilic, whose 10 million pounds plus signing Dimitri Payet would be a guaranteed starter for any of the traditional elite, agrees.

"Now, it's definitely the place to be. Every single club is in a situation to buy good players."

($1 = 0.6948 pounds)

(Reporting by Martyn Herman, editing by Pritha Sarkar)


UEFA Champions League 2016/17 Draw Follow live updates from the draw of the 2016/17 UEFA Champions League on Sportskeeda.com
Twitter reacts to UEFA Champions League 2016/17 draw That time of the year when Champions League group stage draws are announced. Here's how Twitter reacted:
UEFA Champions League 2015/16: Lionel Messi awarded goal of the season for superb strike against Roma There is no stopping Lionel Messi as he bags yet another award
Transfer news and rumours of the day: 25th August, 2016 All the transfer news and rumours across Europe in one place. For you.
EPL 2016/17: Manchester City confirm they have signed Claudio Bravo from Barcelona Bravo joins on a 4 year deal for a reported 17 million pound fee
Cristiano Ronaldo's surgeon stunned by his physical ability, calls him a Scholar and a Monster Doctor Noronha expects Cristiano Ronaldo to bounce back from injury.
5 world class players who don't get the attention they deserve These players are absolutely vital for their teams, but they do not get the attention they deserve
Liverpool transfer news: Mario Balotelli in talks with OGC Nice The Liverpool striker has flown to France for negotiating a transfer move to OGC Nice. The player's contract with the Reds ends in 2017.
EPL team of the decade - 2000s Paul Scholes and Cristiano Ronaldo obviously makes the list, but who else?
EFL Cup third round draw Chelsea face the Premier League defending champions away from home, while Manchester United travel to Northampton.
20 best football shoes, boots and cleats for 2016-17 The top 20 football boots, shoes and cleats available in the market this year
Five possible destinations for Joe Hart Joe Hart has been an integral part of Manchester City for a decade, but it looks like he will have to leave to find first-team football.
The Kolkata derby has been confirmed for the CFL and will take place on September 7th India's biggest footballing event will take place on the 7th of September.
Stephen Constantine announces list of 28 for Puerto Rico match Constantine informed that all the Players would be reporting to the Camp on August 28 with practice sessions beginning next day (August 29).
Indian kid earns youth contract with Bundesliga club TSG Hoffenheim A remarkable achievement by yet another Indian youth.
Dutch goalkeeper Jasper Cillessen confirms he's signed for FC Barcelona The 27-year-old will essentially replace Claudio Bravo at the Camp Nou.
Marco Reus hairstyles and haircuts Take a look at some of Marco Reus' most famous haircuts over the years.
Cristiano Ronaldo says Pepe was Euro 2016's best player Cristiano Ronaldo and Pepe were part of the EURO 2016 Portuguese national team as well as Real Madrid team which won the Champions League.
Should John Terry return to the England national team? A new England manager, but could it see the 'third coming' for the former captain?
Daniel Sturridge wants to play more central at Liverpool Jurgen Klopp played the striker out wide against Burnley and Burton Albion.
Fetching more content...
Related articles