Chelsea’s shock 1-2 defeat at the hands of Crystal Palace at home, has reduced their advantage at the top to seven points.
While there’s still plenty of time left for the league to finish, do you think the Premier League title race is still alive?
Let us know your thoughts as our two writers discuss the topic.
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MATT MONAGHAN, SAYS YES
It’s not just Chelsea’s shock slip against Crystal Palace which should give the Premier League’s chasing pack hope.
From recent history to upcoming fixtures and emerging deficiencies, there is ample evidence which suggests the chase for the title is not already sewn up.
Wilfried Zaha and Christian Benteke’s outstanding goals in the Eagles’ 2-1 win at Stamford Bridge helped cut the lead to seven points with nine games left and added intrigue to a season which once looked to be ending in a cantor.
The Premier League era is littered by false dawns from once-commanding positions. Manchester United in 2011/12 saw an eight-point lead with six games left disintegrate, in the process teeing up the iconic “Agueroooooooooo” moment as Manchester City prevailed.
United were the benefactors in 2002/03, Arsenal leading by eight points in March only to epically fall apart. Other collapses can also be cited, including Liverpool in 2013/14 and United in 1997/98. A look at Chelsea’s recent performances provides another fillip.
From conceding four goals in 13 matches from October 1-December 12, they’ve not kept a clean sheet in their last seven.
Up top, striker Diego Costa has two EPL goals in the last seven games after rocketing in 15 during the opening 20. Antonio Conte’s men have also lost a significant advantage in regards to a lack of European football.
They might not have endured draining multi-game weeks at any stage, but closest rivals Manchester City and Tottenham Hotspur are now both in the same situation for the last stretch after recent exits.
Chelsea still have to face five teams in the top half of the table, compared to two for Spurs and three for City. With Chelsea and City set to meet on Wednesday, this race is anything but run.
JAMES PIERCY, SAYS NO
Before Leicester were taken seriously around this time 12 months ago, it was the Premier League title race nobody wanted to win. A year on and it’s the title race nobody is capable of winning, other than Chelsea.
Because if the Blues are to start dropping points with Diego Costa’s goals drying up and a seemingly impregnable defence starting to look all David Luiz circa 2014, it’s going to require those behind them to start stringing wins together.
Manchester City are the lowest-placed team who can realistically catch Chelsea but since their remarkable start Pep Guardiola’s men have strung three or more Premier League victories together just twice: three wins – December 14-26 and four wins – March February 1-March 5.
They undoubtedly have the firepower to put themselves in a position to really put the pressure on Antonio Conte’s side but defensively remain a mess and, as yesterday showed, will draw too many games they should win.
Third-placed Liverpool also have plenty of attacking merit as the league’s leading goalscorers but eight of the division’s top 10 boast a better defensive record and their propensity to lose at the likes of Burnley, Swansea and Hull will be repeated.
Then we come to Tottenham who look the best balanced and most likely of the chasing trio, all the while with Harry Kane returning to fitness.
However, do they have the mentality to not only go level with Chelsea but then pass them, with matches against Arsenal and Manchester United among their final four fixtures? Games at home where expectation will be considerable against sides potentially fighting for fourth place.
There’s also the statistic that over the last four seasons, in their last 10 games, teams coached by Mauricio Pochettino possess a win percentage of just 45 per cent.
It’ll take some turnaround for Chelsea not to be crowned champions on May 21.
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