THE scenario is becoming simpler every week for Leicester City.
Last weekend’s win over Sunderland ensured the Foxes could finish no lower than fourth, thus guaranteeing a run at the UEFA Champions League next season.
Now they need only nine points from their remaining five matches to secure the 2015-16 English Premier League title.
Tottenham Hotspur are still the challengers in chief after their three-goal blitz against Manchester United, who saw off West Ham in midweek to progress to the FA Cup semifinals.
Arsenal remain a remote chance at the EPL crown, but they would need a bare minimum of 14 points from their last six games to have any hope at all.
Aston Villa are officially out of the Premier League for the first time, while Newcastle United look the most likely to join them in the drop after suffering their sixth defeat in seven outings.
The Magpies aren’t dead yet, but their rival survival fighters won’t be looking to do them any favours in this week’s curtain-raiser in East Anglia.
Norwich City vs. Sunderland
12:45pm local time on Saturday, April 16, 2016 at Carrow Road
Norwich – $2.40 (Luxbet)
Sunderland – $3.10 (Sportsbet)
Draw – $3.25 (William Hill)
The Canaries had an excellent chance to put breathing space between themselves and the drop zone last weekend, but the defeat to Crystal Palace leaves them only four points ahead of their upcoming opponents. Their form has improved, however, especially at the back. They’ve conceded only three goals in their last four games, having shipped 22 in their previous nine.
Sunderland’s run of four consecutive draws was ended by glory-bound Leicester, who ran out 2-0 winners on Wearside. That means the Mackems are four points shy of Norwich and will remain in the relegation places this weekend no matter what happens. Their hopes rest firmly with veteran striker Jermain Defoe, who is the only Black Cat to score more than three league goals this season.
Besides points on the board, Norwich also have recent history and a hefty home advantage on their side. They’ve won three and drawn two from their last five clashes with Sunderland, who haven’t triumphed in a league fixture at Carrow Road since 1985.
– Norwich to win 2-1 ($10 at CrownBet.com)
– Steven Naismith to score first goal ($8.50 at Sportsbet.com)
Chelsea vs. Manchester City
5:30pm local time on Saturday, April 16, 2016 at Stamford Bridge
Chelsea – $2.62 (Sportsbet)
Man City – $2.80 (William Hill)
Draw – $3.40 (CrownBet)
While they are still an outside chance for Europa League qualification, the Blues are playing for pride alone (if even that) as their disastrous title defence draws to an end. They looked wholly disinterested last weekend as Swansea City dealt them their first league defeat since Guus Hiddink took charge in December, so it’s hard to know what kind of effort to expect for the remainder of the campaign.
Man City can’t turn on the auto pilot just yet, as the likes of United and West Ham could still kick them out of the top four. Although they were hardly inspiring against West Brom last weekend, they should be in excellent spirits after the recent quarterfinal victory in the Champions League. Fit-again Kevin de Bruyne starred against PSG and will be eager to impress against his old club.
The form between these two makes for interesting reading. City triumphed 3-0 at Eastlands in the early weeks of the season, but the Londoners went on a five-goal rampage when they met in the FA Cup in February. However, Chelsea haven’t beaten the Citizens in the Premier League since doing the double over them in 2013-14.
– City to win and both teams to score ($4.50 at Sportsbet.com)
– Kevin de Bruyne to score first goal ($9 at WilliamHill.com)
Leicester City vs. West Ham United
1:30pm local time on Sunday, April 17, 2016 at King Power Stadium
Leicester – $1.95 (Sportsbet)
West Ham – $4 (William Hill)
Draw – $3.50 (William Hill)
Leicester continued their incredible march towards the title last week with an excellent second-half performance against a gutsy Sunderland side. Jamie Vardy was back among the goals, bagging a brace to take his season tally to 21. Perhaps the most impressive thing about the Foxes this season is the transformation of their defence, which has now kept five clean sheets in a row.
The Hammers come into this unlikeliest of blockbusters after three draws in three consecutive London derbies. The last of those was an endlessly watchable goalfest against Arsenal, in which Andy Carroll grabbed a hat-trick to bolster his chances of an England call-up for Euro 2016. Slaven Bilic’s men were booted out of the FA Cup by Man United in midweek, but they are unbeaten in seven leagues games and could yet finish as high as third if things go their way.
These two last met in the League Cup, where Leicester triumphed 2-1 after Andy King broke the deadlock in added extra time. The Foxes have had the better of things in the league of late as well, winning their last two EPL engagements against the Irons.
– Leicester to win 1-0 ($8 at Bet365)
– Jamie Vardy to score first goal ($5 at Sportsbet)
Bet on the Leicester vs. West Ham first goalscorer market at Sportsbet and get up to $50 money back if your player’s team doesn’t score
Stoke City vs. Tottenham Hotspur
8:00pm local time on Monday, April 18, 2016 at Britannia Stadium
Stoke – $4.40 (William Hill)
Tottenham – $1.83 (Sportsbet)
Draw – $3.65 (CrownBet)
Stoke didn’t look anything like a side competing for European qualification last weekend. They were demolished 4-1 at Anfield by a Liverpool B-team, apparently unable to cope with the likes of Kevin Stewart, Sheyi Ojo and Divock Origi. Given that result came after wasting a two-goal lead against Swansea in the round prior, they’re not trending well.
In any other year, Spurs would be the story of the season. The 3-0 win over Man United was a statement of intent: they will push Leicester every step of the way in these final weeks. Harry Kane is in white-hot form, with six goals in his last five EPL games, while Dele Alli, Eric Dier and Danny Rose continue to state strong cases for a spot on England’s roster for the 2016 European Championships.
That being said, Monday’s trip to Staffordshire is a tricky little proposition for the Lilywhites. They’ve lost two of their last three against Stoke, only managing a 2-2 standoff when the Potters visited back in August. Their overall Premier League record stands at five wins to Stoke, seven to Spurs and three draws.
– Draw half-time/Spurs full-time ($4.80 at CrownBet)
– Dele Alli to score first goal ($8 at Sportsbet)
More 2015-16 Premier League betting markets
Everton $2.25 – Draw $3.30 – Southampton $3.20
Man United $1.22 – Draw $5.50 – Aston Villa $17
Newcastle United $2.35 – Draw $3.20 – Swansea City $3.10
West Bromwich Albion $2.30 – Draw $3.20 – Watford $3.20
Bournemouth $3.50 – Draw $3.40 – Liverpool $2.10
Arsenal $1.35 – Draw $4.80 – Crystal Palace $9
Odds provided by www.WilliamHill.com
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