The 10 games that will decide Premier League title race
Published 19/01/2016 | 15:23
With the season looking ever more like a two-horse race, which games will be key to deciding who lifts the trophy and who finishes in the coveted top four?
1. Arsenal v Chelsea
Sunday, January 24
Last time out: Chelsea 2 Arsenal 0 - Gabriel and Cazorla sent off as Arsenal implode at the Bridge
Perhaps Chelsea need an opponent of real quality to get their act together this season? Their low points in this spectacularly dreadful title defence have mostly been at home, they've not lost by more than a goal on the road since a 3-1 defeat at Everton on September 12. Arsenal have failed to beat Chelsea in their last eight attempts in the league, but did manage to defeat them 1-0 in this season's Community Shield. They'll need a repeat of that result at home this weekend to prove they're in the title race for the long haul.
2. Man City v Leicester
Saturday, February 6
Last time out: Leicester 0 Man City 0 - Ranieri keeps dream alive with entertaining stalemate
The Leicester juggernaut has slowed in recent weeks, but Claudio Ranieri's side have shown on numerous occasions this season that they're a match for anyone at their best. They may have to curb their rampant counter-attacking instincts at the Etihad and play a more stifling game. If they can frustrate Manuel Pellegrini's side, and nick a goal, Leicester can put a dent in their title chances and potentially get back into the race themselves.
3. Arsenal v Leicester
Saturday, February 13
Last time out: Leicester 2 Arsenal 5 - Sanchez's stunning hat-trick halts City
Leicester travel to Arsenal the following weekend and face the only team to have outclassed them all season. At the time, this looked to be a reality check for Claudio Ranieri after taking seven points from his opening three games. In fact, it was the last time Leicester would lose in the league for three months. For this game at the Emirates, much will depend on how Leicester fared against Manchester City. If they're riding high, they will be stiff opposition for Arsene Wenger.
4. Man City v Tottenham
Sunday, February 14
Last time out: Spurs 4 Man City 1 - Kane breaks duck as Tottenham run riot
Spurs are one of this season's most-improved teams, and are now legitimate Champions League candidates. It's probably too much to expect them to blow City away as they did in the game at White Hart Lane earlier this year, but they should certainly be heading into this match with plenty of confidence and purpose. Harry Kane, in particular, will fancy his chances against City's suspect central defence.
5. Man Utd vs Arsenal
Sunday, February 28
Last time out: Arsenal 3 Man Utd 0 - Arsenal blow away United in first 20 minutes
United have been boring rather than bad for most of this season, but they managed both at Arsenal in October. It's a stretch to say United are formidable opposition at the moment, but Old Trafford can still do odd things to football teams. Arsenal will need to channel the spirit of 2002, when they won the league at the stadium.
6. Liverpool v Man City
Wednesday, March 2
Last time out: Man City 1 Liverpool 4 - Calamity for City in Liverpool demolition job
City have suffered several arresting off-days in 2015/16. The most pronounced was a 4-1 defeat at home to Liverpool which suddenly made Jurgen Klopp look like the solution to all of his new club's problems. It hasn't quite panned out like that, but City cannot afford even a hint of a repeat at Anfield in March. Raheem Sterling is sure to receive a warm welcome.
7. Tottenham v Arsenal
Saturday, March 5
Last time out: Arsenal 1 Spurs 1 - Gibbs snatches late equaliser
The North London derby is rarely straightforward for Arsenal. They've not won by a margin of more than two goals since a 5-2 victory at home in November 2012. Arsenal have won two out of their last three at White Hart Lane, though, including a League Cup win earlier this season. Spurs should still be in the race for a top-four spot at this stage, so the pressure on them, in front of their own fans, may work in Arsenal's favour. Discipline will be the watchword for Wenger, both in performance and behaviour.
8. Man City v Man Utd
Saturday, March 19
Last time out: Man United 0 Man City 0 - Defences come out on top in disappointing derby
One of this season's least memorable games was played out by these two, who not so long ago were providing Wayne Rooney bicycle kicks and Mario Balotelli message t-shirts. Given City's clear superiority over United in every position other than in goal, this should be a fairly comfortable assignment for Manuel Pellegrini's side. The derby factor could disrupt that assumption.
9. Chelsea v Man City
Saturday, April 16
Last time out: Man City 3 Chelsea 0 - Mourinho takes off Terry as Chelsea collapse
Would it be any huge surprise if Chelsea were safely residing in the top 10 by this point of the season? That's certainly the received wisdom, but they've failed to live up to expectations at many notable moments in this campaign. Regardless of form, if a team with Thibaut Courtois, Nemanja Matic, Eden Hazard and Diego Costa can perform at anything like their expected level, at home, City face a stiff test as the season draws to a close.
10. Man City v Arsenal
Saturday, May 7
Last time out: Arsenal 2 Man City 1 - Ozil the supplier as Walcott and Girous secure points
Unless the season of surprises suddenly makes Arsenal or City dreadful, this will be an enormous match. With eminently-winnable games on the final day - Arsenal host Aston Villa while City are away at Swansea - this could, and hopefully will be, a title decider. Cancel all of your plans for the first weekend of May.