Crunch Time at The Top
The remarkable rollercoaster ride that Leicester City have treated football fans to, from near-certain relegation last year, to table-topping euphoria this season, arrived at what many considered the very toughest of three-game acid tests two weeks ago.
Fast-forward to this weekend. Leicester have dispatched both Liverpool (2-0) and Manchester City (1-3) and Claudio Ranieri’s men are primed to take a truly commanding lead in the title race. However, their fate hangs in the balance with the most defining weekend of the Premier League season up next.
This Sunday sees the top four contenders pitted against each other – two fixtures, nine possible outcomes between them. Will they make or break the hopes of the title contenders? Will those knocking on the door of the top four be given a chance to get back in the title mix?
The State of Play
In one of the tightest, and certainly most unexpected seasons we’ve ever known, we see Leicester standing boldly at the Premier League summit with Tottenham clinging to their coat tails – who would ever have thought!? Those few Leicester fans with money on their team at 5000-1, that’s who.
Despite a five point deficit, Arsenal remain the most likely champion as it currently stands – but this could all change with Leicester visiting the Emirates first up on Sunday. Tottenham travel to Manchester City for the late game, with both teams vying to establish themselves at the head of the pack in the race for the title.
It’s all there for the taking this weekend.
The Day Leicester Were Expected to Win the Title
Utilising our league simulation software, Sportcast Live, we’ve plugged in the different match scenarios, run a few million simulations and assessed exactly how important this Sunday is and to whom.
Holding the greatest chances of winning the title, the result between Arsenal and Leicester will have the largest affect on the champion expectation.
Whilst Leicester are exposed to the biggest swing (a range of 30%), this is mostly in the positive with what would be an unexpected win at the Emirates potentially making them more likely than not to win the title – with an expectation just over 50%.
Conversely, Arsenal’s range of outcomes is negatively skewed with the potential to worsen their title chances by more than half, down to 15%.
Tottenham, going into their match as underdog but on a streak of good form, should enjoy the opportunity to push their title chances up from to 15% to 29% by beating Man City and with the right result at Arsenal.
Could There Be Peace in North London?
We’ve broken down all nine possible outcomes between the two matches, and how each would affect the title chances of the teams involved.
An interesting consideration of this big day for the Foxes and other title contenders is whether they should be worrying about the result at the other match being played. The short answer being ‘not so much’ (the maximum impact to a team is only 5% pts), especially when compared to the swing of each team’s own match result. However the favoured result is for the other game played to be a draw, thereby sharing only two points between the competing teams.
One intriguing fact does come to light when considering the other teams’ match. Arsenal and Tottenham are the two teams most impacted by the other’s result – if they were to win their match, they would benefit by 5% pts and 4% pts respectively should their arch rival be able to take a point from their fixture. Might we see Arsenal fans supporting #COYS on Twitter while Spurs fans chant 1-0 to the Arsenal in Haringey? Unlikely.
Is There any Room Left at the Inn?
What of Manchester United – lost but not forgotten in the shadow of the top four, hoping to squeeze back into the title conversation courtesy of Sunday’s matchups. Well, sadly for their 659 million fans and deep pocketed sponsors, it makes little difference. Currently sat on a 1.8% probability of winning the title, even if they were to win and see their favoured result of two draws in Sunday’s key matches, this would still only lift them to a 3.1% title chance – but staying positive, it is better than Leicester were at the start of the season.
Some better news is that the Champions League still loudly beckons for United. A win at Sunderland on Saturday combined with draws on the Sunday would lift their top four probability from 37% to a healthy 43%.
The Fight That Lies Ahead
Whatever happens this Super Sunday, the league will be far from over with all teams still having 12 games to play.
Using Sportcast Live’s algorithmic team ratings (excluding future volatility), we’ve calculated the cumulative points that the current top four will expect to collect, leading them to the finale on the 15th May.
This highlights that with the fixtures ahead and Leicester and Tottenham’s inexperience in such a fight, their hold on the top two positions will be slowly eroded as we reach the latter stages.
An enticing final day looks to be awaiting, with all four teams potentially still vying for the title – particularly so for the Leicester faithful and those with a 5,000 to 1 ticket in their pocket.