March kicks off with midweek action in the Premier League in what could prove to be a pivotal month in the race for Premier League glory.
Leicester City continue to defy expectations and top the pile, while Tottenham are starting to emerge as stronger title contenders than their north London neighbours, Arsenal. Back-to-back defeats to Leicester and Spurs have dented Manchester City’s bid, but the Citizens can’t be written off yet.
Here’s a look at each of the title contenders and where they may end up by the time April rolls around…
Upcoming fixtures: West Brom (H), Watford (A), Newcastle (H), Crystal Palace (A)
The Foxes last-gasp victory over Norwich on Saturday was crucial not only for the points that they bagged but also for the renewed momentum it will provide. Having suffered an agonizing defeat to Arsenal in their previous league fixture, failure to down the struggling Canaries would have dealt something of a psychological blow if nothing else.
West Brom head to Leicester on Tuesday, and while it’s a fixture that Claudio Ranieri will certainly fancy three points from, Everton and Crystal Palace both came unstuck against the Baggies last month.
Of Leicester’s next four matches, a trip to Watford looks the most imposing of tasks. The Hornets have lost some of the early sting which saw them flirting with the top six, and have won just twice in the league since the turn of the year. However, should Odion Ighalo and Troy Deeney be in the mood, then the Foxes could have a few problems.
Leicester will be without the services of midfield dynamo N’Golo Kante against West Brom and Watford, and how they cope without the Frenchman will be key.
A visit from Newcastle and a trip to Crystal Palace are the kind of fixtures that Ranieri’s side shouldn’t slip up in, and simply can’t afford to.
West Brom – Win
Watford – Draw
Newcastle – Win
Crystal Palace – Win
Points at the end of March: 66
— OptaJoe (@OptaJoe) February 29, 2016
Points: 54 Form: WWWWWW Upcoming fixtures: West Ham (A), Arsenal (H), Aston Villa (A), Bournemouth (H) Tottenham boast a young and balanced squad who have shown time and time again that they can come from behind to win, and if winning is a habit then Spurs have something of an addiction at the moment. Mauricio Pochettino’s side show no signs of letting up, but unlike Leicester, they – as well as Arsenal and City – have European fixtures to contend with in addition to their league exploits. Even without the influential pair of Moussa Dembele and Jan Vertonghen, Spurs have been able to get the job done, but they face a tricky opening to March. A trip to an impressive West Ham side on Wednesday will be a stern test of Spurs’ mettle. The Hammers have lost just twice at home this season and are just a point adrift of Manchester United in the battle for fifth. This weekend’s north London derby could prove to be decisive in the title challenges of Spurs and Arsenal. While Tottenham are filled with belief, Arsenal will be wondering if they have what it takes to win the league. The three points are there for Spurs’ taking. Clashes with Aston Villa and Bournemouth either side of a Europa League fixtures with BVB Dortmund should be straightforward enough if Spurs still have the legs. Predicted results: West Ham – Draw Arsenal – Win Aston Villa – Win Bournemouth – Win Points at the end of March: 64 Arsenal
Upcoming fixtures: Swansea (H), Tottenham (A), West Brom (H), Everton (A)
After securing just two wins from their opening six Premier League fixtures in 2016, it appeared Arsenal’s title challenge was on the brink of falling apart. A come-from-behind win over Leicester provided the Gunners with the boost they needed, but then it all came crashing down once more at Old Trafford on Sunday with a defeat to Manchester United.
Arsenal look a side who aren’t sure if they can win the title and at this stage that could be fatal.
A home fixture against Swansea should get Arsenal back into the winning groove ahead of a must-win north London derby. Should Wenger’s troops fail to put Tottenham away their hopes will be hanging by a thread.
A visit from West Brom should be simple enough – although one always says so with some trepidation when Arsenal are concerned.
A trip to Goodison Park to round off the month won’t be nearly as straightforward, particularly as it comes after a Champions League adventure away to Barcelona in midweek. Luckily for Arsenal, Everton have been abysmal at home this season, with six of the seven defeats they have suffered coming at Goodison.
Swansea – Win
Tottenham – Loss
West Brom – Win
Everton – Draw
Points at the end of March: 58
Points: 47 (with a game in hand)
Upcoming fixtures: Liverpool (A), Aston Villa (H), Norwich (A), Manchester United (H)
Much of February was a month to forget for the Citizens. Consecutive league defeats to Leicester and Tottenham were followed by a humiliating 5-1 FA Cup defeat at the hands of Chelsea. However, the blue half of Manchester is all smiles now, with the Capital One Cup sitting securely in the trophy cabinet.
The defeats suffered by Leicester and Arsenal mean that should City win their game in hand they remain very much in the title race.
Liverpool will be out for revenge when they welcome City to Anfield on Wednesday, and this is a fixture that Manuel Pellegrini has every reason to be concerned about.
Aston Villa’s chances of kickstarting a run to avoid relegation are unlikely to start with a trip to the Etihad, while Norwich away is not a fixture that should instill much fear for City – although the plucky Canaries showed against Leicester that they certainly can’t be considered easy meat.
And then comes the Manchester derby, it’s sure to be delectable. Who knows what we will be expecting from United come the end of March. The doom and gloom was well and truly entrenched at Old Trafford before an 18-year-old striker turned things around for Louis van Gaal’s side with four goals in two matches. Marcus Rashford will have significantly more attention paid to him by the time the Red Devils head to their rivals, and it will require a great team effort for United to leave with three points.
Liverpool – draw
Aston Villa – win
Norwich – win
Manchester United – win
Points at the end of March: 57 (still with a game in hand)
So what will the top four look like at the start of April?
- Leicester – 66 points
- Tottenham – 64 points
- Arsenal – 58 points
- Manchester City – 57 points