EPL is Back – The Burning Questions

THE Premier League returns for the final run home this weekend, with Leicester City’s title credientials to be put to one last gruelling seven-match test.

Claudio Ranieri’s Foxes have it all to lose now but there’s plenty to play for across the league, with the battles for Europe and to avoid relegation set to dominate the headlines in the weeks to come.

Ahead of this weekend’s EPL fixtures, we ask the ten burning questions for the remainder of the season.

Can Leicester go all the way?

Why not?

The Foxes have set the standard for the majority of the season and are now just seven matches away from the unlikeliest of Premier League titles.

Despite holding a five-point lead over second-placed Tottenham, winning the league won’t come easy.

After facing Southampton this weekend – full of confidence after overturning a two-goal deficit to defeat Liverpool last time out – encounters with Sunderland, West Ham, Swansea, Manchester United, Everton and Chelsea will follow.

It seems inconceivable the title race won’t come down to the last day, where the Foxes will attempt to cap their magical season with victory over reigning champions Chelsea on their turf.

This won’t come easy, but who would be willing to bet against Leicester at this stage?

Can Tottenham bridge the gap to Leicester?

A first Premier League title for Tottenham is not out of the question, but it will take a special effort to hunt down Leicester.

In their final seven matches Spurs face Liverpool, Manchester United, Stoke, West Brom, Chelsea, Southampton and Newcastle, a draw of similar difficult to the league leaders.

It is unlikely any of those fixtures will prove easy for Spurs, especially their final day trip to St James’ Park, a match which may decide Newcastle United’s EPL fate.

It is far from out of the question and of course Leicester must keep winning themselves, but it will take a special effort for Mauricio Pochettino’s side to win a maiden EPL title.

Will Arsenal and Manchester City hold on to their top four positions?

Not long ago, when Leicester’s title charge was a thing of fantasy and Chelsea floundering nearer last than first, Arsenal and Manchester City were supposed to fight out the league.

But a string of insipid performances from both sides has all but put paid to their title hopes. Arsenal sits closest to Leicester but an 11-point gap is an enormous margin to close at this stage.

Of paramount importance to both sides is ensuring they do not slip out of the Champions League places for next season.

Manuel Pellegrini has already agreed to leave City to make room for Pep Guardiola’s arrival, but with just a point separating them from West Ham and Manchester United, things are getting desperate at the Etihad.

The pressure on Arsene Wenger at the Emirates is equally suffocating and a failure to finish in the top four would likely call time on his Gunners tenure. He has a little less to be worried about than Pellegrini, but a growing injury list will be of grave concern.

Can West Ham finish in the top four?

Despite knocking off a number of top sides away from home early in their EPL campaign, West Ham by and large flew under the radar until well after Christmas. Not anymore.

The Hammers are a serious chance of bringing Champions League football to the Olympic Stadium at the first time of asking next season thanks to a brilliant campaign that has them placed on 50 points from 30 matches, one out of the top four.

Slaven Bilic’s side is the joker in the pack, with matches against Arsenal, Leicester and Manchester United coming up that will have a major say on the top four.

Should they take nine points from those matches, a Champions League place will be theirs to lose.

Can Louis van Gaal save his job?

Aside from reports a pre-contract agreement has been signed between Manchester United and Jose Mourinho, there still appears a realistic chance Louis van Gaal can save his job.

The Dutchman is a tactical mastermind in the big games and United have plenty of them coming up, beginning with this weekend’s visit of Everton.

While his side have failed to meet the expectations laid upon them this season, like West Ham they sit just one point outside Champions League qualification with eight matches remaining.

A top four finish could give van Gaal one more year at Old Trafford to finish the job he began – but anything less will leave his reign in ruins.

Can Liverpool resurrect their European hopes?

The 3-2 defeat to Southampton before the international break cruelled the momentum Jurgen Klopp’s side had built up in the weeks prior.

Surrendering their two-goal lead at St Mary’s will have hurt Jurgen Klopp and he will be expecting a response from his players against high-flying Tottenham this week.

The Reds sit on 41 points with two matches in hand on many of their rivals. A Europa League place is not out of the question for Klopp’s men, but Champions League football appears a bridge too far.

Do Chelsea have anything left to play for?

Chelsea’s miserable season has just eight rounds remaining. Thanks goodness.

John Terry is supposedly reluctantly on his way out, Eden Hazard doesn’t want to be there and the man everyone wants there, Guus Hiddink, doesn’t want to stay either.

Despite a spirited fightback to work their way up the EPL table since Hiddink’s arrival, there is little more than pride for Chelsea to play for now.

The Blues will likely finish in a Europa League position and will have a major say on the other European placings with matches against Manchester City, Tottenham and Liverpool slated for the next six weeks.

Then they face Leicester on the final day. What better way to signal their intent for next season by potentially scuppering Leicester’s title hopes at the final hurdle.

Is there any fight left in Aston Villa?

They have lost two managers this season and sit 12 points from safety with seven matches remaining.

Do Aston Villa’s players give themselves any chance of saving their club’s Premier League status?

With Remi Garde gone, Villa’s players now have nowhere to look but themselves as they fight to remain in England’s top flight, starting with the visit of Chelsea this week.

The Blues have little to play for, the Villans have it all on the line. Can they pull off a miracle relegation escape?

Can Newcastle survive with Rafa Benitez at the helm?

A club of Newcastle United’s size and stature should not be relegated at all, let alone twice in a decade.

But that is the situation staring the Magpies, 19th in the league and three points from safety, squarely in the face ahead of a massive clash with Norwich this weekend.

The arrival of Rafa Benitez has seen sweeping changes to training arrangements and expectations, but is yet to translate into a win on the park in two attempts.

But in their draw with rivals Sunderland and close loss to Leicester the Benitez effect was already on display.

Newcastle already look a tighter defensive unit but the only way to win games is by scoring goals and if their attack fails to fire in the next few weeks, it could be lights out at St James’ Park.

Who will win the golden boot race?

It’s little wonder Harry Kane and Jamie Vardy were on target for England in the international break.

They have been the dominant strikers of the EPL season and lead the golden boot charge – Kane on 21, Vardy on 19.

In recent times it is Kane who has scored with greater frequency after Vardy set the early pace when establishing a new record for consecutive matches scored in (11).

Not to be discounted is Romelu Lukaku – who too was on target for Belgium this week – on 18, while Riyad Mahrez and Sergio Aguero hold an outside chance with 16 goals apiece to their names.



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