Sunday 11 December 2016

The 10 games that will decide Premier League title race

Published 15/02/2016 | 14:40

The Premier League title race is a real four-way battle
The Premier League title race is a real four-way battle

With the season looking ever more like a four-horse race, which games will be key to deciding who lifts the trophy come May 15?

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1.  Manchester United 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.

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2.  Liverpool v Manchester 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.

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3.  Tottenham v Arsenal

Saturday, March 5

Last time out: Arsenal 1 Tottenham 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 the title 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.

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4.  Manchester City v Manchester United

Sunday, March 20

Last time out: Man Utd 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, though.

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5.  Liverpool v Tottenham

Saturday, April 2

Last time out: Tottenham 0 Liverpool 0 - Klopp earns point in lacklustre draw

The longest drumroll in recent managerial appointment history, and it ended with this: a classic Premier League tale of sound and fury with no goals and precious little quality, although you would be hard pressed to blame all that on Jürgen Klopp. The rematch at Anfield, however, should be a full of nervous, electrifying tension. Spurs have real title ambitions while the Reds at home means one thing... noise!

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6.  Tottenham v Man Utd

Saturday, April 9

Last time out: Manchester United 1 Tottenham 0 - Van Gaal's side labour to ugly win

It was not pretty or convincing, but the positives of a hard-fought victory over a top-six rival on the opening day of the season heavily outweighed the negatives. But while United under LVG have failed to kick on, Mauricio Pochettino's men are flying high and in with a real shout of title glory. However, United may be more boring than drying paint, and unlikely to finish in the top four, but they could still derail Tottenham's lofted ambitions.

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7.  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.

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8.  Manchester United v Leicester

Saturday, April 30

Last time out: Leicester 1 Manchester United 1 - Vardy breaks Premier League goalscoring record

There are strikers who score goals and then, above even them, there are the kind of strikers who simply look like they will never miss and that is the form in which Jamie Vardy finds himself these days. He needed one good chance to set a remarkable record, one goal at least in each of his last 11 Premier League games, 13 in all, surpassing the mark set by Ruud van Nistelrooy. Thanks to Vardy, Leicester can win the title, but will the wheels come off? They haven't yet!

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9.  Man City v Arsenal

Saturday, May 7

Last time out: Arsenal 2 Man City 1 - Ozil the supplier as Walcott and Giroud 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.

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10.  Chelsea v Leicester

Sunday, May 15

Last time out: Leicester 2 Chelsea 1 - Vardy and Mahrez put Mourinho on the brink

The last time these two sides played in the league Chelsea lost again, at the time their ninth Premier League defeat of this crazy season, and with it their league title, their hopes of a top four finish and, shortly after, their manager. However, under Guus Hiddink they have been rejuvenated. Yes, thay can't win the league, or finish in the top four, but if this season was to go down to the wire, and Leicester are still in the hunt, this could be the biggest game in Premier League history!

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