Can Leicester really win the Premier League?

Twelve months ago if you had asked the question of whether or not Leicester City could become Premier League champions your sanity would have been questioned.

After 24 matches in the 2014/15 season, the Foxes were rock-bottom in the division with just 17 points and teetering on the brink of relegation.

Fast forward to the present and Claudio Ranieri’s side have nearly tripled their points tally to top the table on 50 points, three ahead of title favourites Manchester City.

Undoubtedly Leicester are in a strong position to win the title – the table doesn’t lie, the adage goes – but history is with them too.

In the previous 11 seasons, the team that is at the top of the table at the start of February has gone on to win the title. The last team to win the title without being at the top at the start of February was Arsenal in 2003/04, but the Gunners won their next match to go top and never relinquished the lead thereafter.

History, though, hasn’t counted for much in the current crazy Premier League season. If you discount the ridiculousness of Leicester actually being at the top of the table, defending champions Chelsea were near the relegation zone for much of the season, Tottenham look a shoe-in for a place in the Champions League, Manchester United are in grave danger of missing out on qualification for Europe’s premier club competition, while Liverpool are involved in midtable battle with the likes of Stoke City and Watford.

To say the season has been unpredictable is a massive understatement.

Realistically, though, how likely are Ranieri’s charges to lift the trophy in a little more than three months’ time?

Most bookies still make them second favourites behind Man City, who are their opponents this weekend. Fourth-placed Arsenal, who trail Leicester by five points, lie in wait next week.

The next two matches, away to their likeliest rivals for the title, will go some way in deciding their fate. A pair of wins will see them take a dominating lead into March, while two defeats could see them drop as low as fourth in the space of a week.

What counts in Leicester’s favour for the remainder of their season is fixture congestion, or the lack thereof.

To date Leicester have only played 29 matches, while Arsenal have played 34 and City 39. While Leicester’s squad is certainly smaller than their two rivals, saying they are slightly fresher at this stage of the season is a fair assumption to make.

For the remainder of the season, that trend will continue. Leicester have only Premier League matches to focus on. Arsenal and City are both in the FA Cup and the Champions League, with City involved in the Capital One Cup final later this month for good measure.

Leicester will play another 14 matches this season. Arsenal will play at least 17 and possibly as many as 25. City, will play at least 18 more games and could play as many as 26.

The overriding feeling for much of the season has been that Leicester will fall away eventually, but taking into consideration how far the season has already progressed, and coupled with the Foxes having fewer fixtures over the next three months, it is safe to say they won’t be going away any time soon.

Whether or not their title challenge will go the distance is impossible to predict in this season of the absurd.

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