Chelsea’s lead at the top of the Premier League may have been cut from 13 points to four, but they still remain heavy favourites for the title even they must negotiate six more league games this season.
The 2-0 defeat by Manchester United on Sunday came 15 days after a surprise 2-1 loss to Crystal Palace, and with Tottenham mounting a seven-match winning streak in the league, the title race suddenly appears to be wide open once again.
But any hope of Spurs beating Chelsea to the title may be slightly premature when the two have their season run-ins compared, and with the Blues needing five victories to guarantee the Premier League title in Antonio Conte’s first season in charge at Stamford Bridge, the effort from north London may be too little, too late.
That’s because Chelsea face a much easier run-in than Spurs, with games against Middlesbrough, West Bromwich Albion, Watford and Sunderland in May looking like a dream scenario for how Conte would want to end the campaign, along with games against Southampton and Everton this month.
In contrast, Spurs’ schedule is littered with potential stumbling blocks as Crystal Palace, Arsenal, Manchester United and Leicester City all feature, with their remaining two matches coming against West Ham and Hull City.
Chelsea will expect to beat Southampton at home next week, with Spurs facing a testing trip to Selhurst Park a day later to take on Palace before the north London derby with Arsenal the following weekend on the same day as Chelsea travel to Goodison Park to face Everton, having beaten them 5-0 earlier in the season.
Heading into May, Spurs should see off West Ham at the London Stadium despite the intensity that the Friday night kick-off will give the London derby encounter, while the following Monday sees Chelsea take on Middlesbrough at home, a side who could be heading for the Championship by that point of the season.
One of Chelsea’s harder encounter sees them travel to the Hawthorns to face West Bromwich Albion, though they do so two days before Spurs play Manchester United that, on paper, looks to be Mauricio Pochettino’s side’s hardest match left in 2016/17. And while Spurs wrap up the season against outgoing champions Leicester and a Hull side who may well be fighting for Premier League survival come the last day of the season, Chelsea play Watford and Sunderland, two sides whose season is likely to be over with the Hornets safe from the drop and Sunderland heading for the Championship as they sit nine points from safety.
Should Chelsea beat Southampton, Middlesbrough, Watford and Sunderland, along with one of Everton or West Brom, then there will be nothing that Spurs can do to prevent the Blues from winning the title. They need Chelsea to draw two of their remaining games and win all six of their own in order to finish level on points and likely secure the title courtesy of their superior goal difference, while two defeats would open the door for Spurs to beat Chelsea on points alone.
The one influential factor that could play a big part though comes not in the Premier League, but the FA Cup. Chelsea meet Tottenham this weekend in the semi-finals at Wembley, and if they can inflict a heavy defeat on Chelsea they can leave their rivals on the floor in terms of momentum and morale. Such a blow could then have a major impact on their remaining games, and open the door for Spurs to capitalise and claim a first league title in 56 years.
Chelsea’s remaining fixtures:
25 April – Southampton (h)
30 April – Everton (a)
8 May – Middlesbrough (h)
12 May – West Bromwich Albion (a)
15 May – Watford (h)
21 May – Sunderland (h)
Tottenham’s remaining fixtures:
26 April – Crystal Palace (a)
30 April – Arsenal (h)
5 May – West Ham (a)
14 May – Manchester United (h)
18 May – Leicester City (a)
21 May – Hull City (a)