Leicester, Tottenham and Southampton beneficiaries from game-week 25 in the EPL
Heading into game-week 25 of the EPL, the top 5 were poised for challenging fixtures that could alter the course of their season. In fact taking West Ham into consideration would also be considered fair since the Hammers headed into this week’s round of fixtures (week 25) just one-point shy of Manchester United and are firmly fighting for the final spot in European football.
With 13 games still to be played and with the quality within the squad, Slaven Bilic and his men can have realistic dreams about challenging for the Europa League spot this season.
Leicester stun Manchester City
Match day 25 saw the league leaders Leicester City face the then closest rivals, Manuel Pellegrini’s Manchester City. Pellegrini who has been under the spot-light ever since the news of Pep Guardiola set to join City at the end of the season broke out, has had a difficult week although he appears to be calm and seems to be handling the news and questions from the media in a highly professional manner.
With the title on the line the Chilean emphasized that he wants to win the EPL and wanted to put these questions behind him and focus on the task at hand. His professionalism and calm demeanour during an interesting week for the club as-well-as himself, won him the support of the Manchester City faithful who were all praises for the Chilean boss before kick-off against Leicester at the Etihad displaying a huge banner in honour of him.
City had a lot riding on this game and a win would see them level on points with Leicester and five points clear off the two London clubs (Arsenal, Spurs) but it wasn’t to be. Leicester had their game-plan perfectly laid out and with nothing to lose, Claudio Ranieri’s men looked and played like champions or a team deserving to be top of the league at this stage.
Leicester started the brighter side with Riyad Mahrez taking on and beating Kolarov who gave away a free-kick right at the edge of the box and the outcome of that free-kick which was taken by Mahrez who added another assist to his name, was a goal scored by Robert Huth. The opening goal was scored within 3 minutes and that must have shaken up the men from the blue half of Manchester. Throughout the first half the Leicester back-line seemed comfortable and there was never a particularly alarming situation for the Leicester team to deal with.
Jamie Vardy had one-on-one chances on either half to increase his goal tally but Joe Hart denied him glory on both occasions but it mattered little to Vardy who witnessed his team-mate Riyad Mahrez score after dribbling past Demichelis with a step-over and whacking the ball past Hart with his weaker right foot. Leicester displayed more desire to win as-well-as the desire to run after the ball and the build-up leading to the second goal was proof of that.
Robert Huth added a second to his name and a third for Leicester in the 60th minute and the City fans were seen heading for the exit as Leicester celebrated. Vardy had a superb chance to increase the lead to 4-0 but for Harts save ; But this did not affect Vardy or the Leicester team in general who were in great-spirits and smiling-away since the beginning of the game. Aguero’s consolation goal came in the 87th minute after substitute Bersant Celina delivered an absolute peach of a cross.
Glory beckons for Tottenham
The victory for Ranieri meant that Leicester are now a solid 5 points clear of the nearest challengers, 2nd placed Tottenham. Spurs have not been this high in the EPL after 25 games since 2012 and have not won the league since 1961. Mauricio Pochettino and his men faced Quique Sanchez Flores’s Watford who have been one of the most impressive clubs in this season’s EPL having been newly promoted and written-off on most occasions by experts.
Tottenham were struggling to break the dead-lock but were proving to be a constant threat going upwards and were asking questions of the Watford defence on numerous occasions. Heurelho Gomes who returned to White Hart Lane was in impeccable form between the sticks and proved to be the obstacle denying Pochettino’s men on numerous occasions but finally succumbed to the intense pressure on the 64th minute with a goal from right-back Trippier.
Watford who now sit 10th in league had chances of their own but Hugo Lloris was equal to the task. The win meant that Tottenham are now 2nd in the league and that their title fight is real. Pochettino believes that his players are now ‘daring to dream about the title’ and rightfully so. Spurs visit City next week and Leicester travel to London to face Arsenal. This will prove to be a vital round of fixtures in the race for the title.
Southampton go marching on
Southampton who are currently flying high under Ronald Koeman have now won four of their last six league games grabbing 13 points out of a possible 18. The Saints find themselves in a deserved seventh place will definitely be looking to fight for a place in Europe with Manchester United and fifth place a mere 4 points away now.
Southampton hung on to their lead provided by Japanese Maya Yoshida early on and despite being reduced to 10 men after Victor Wanyama was sent off by Mark Clattenburg in the 54th minute for his scissor-like challenge on Dmitri Payet. Southampton were resolute at the back and Frasier Foster who was unbeatable against Arsenal at the Emirates displayed yet another superb performance helping his team hang-on and subsequently move within 2 points of their opponents.
Manchester United who travelled to London to face Chelsea were held to a 1-1 draw which helped neither of the clubs causes as United find themselves further away from the top 4 and the hopes of a title fading away. The draw at Stamford bridge meant West Ham did not lose much ground on Manchester United with just two points separating them and the win for Southampton keeps their European dreams very much alive with West Ham just two points ahead and Manchester United who are currently occupying 5th and the Europa League spot just 4 points in front of the Saints.
Big weekend lies ahead in the EPL
This week’s round of fixtures have further enhanced Leicester’s cause, and the dream for a title seems to be coming to reality with each passing game and with each victory but with Tottenham’s charge upwards and with 13 games still to be played the rat-race for the title is on.
With the current top four set to face each other next week (Arsenal vs. Leicester, Man City vs. Spurs), a draw in both the fixtures will be favourable to Manchester United who face Sunderland at The Stadium Of Light. With yet another interesting round of fixtures coming up the EPL, the world will be eager to see what the teams have in store for them this week and if there will be any other dramatic twists in the league and subsequently the EPL standings.