Christmas congestion is one tough test of a Premier League club and unfortunately for Leicester City, they picked up back-to-back losses against Manchester City and Liverpool – for the first time since February. What’s the perfect response?
Wins. Two of them, back-to-back.
The Foxes’ strolled to victories against West Ham United and Newcastle United. As we just pass the halfway mark, Leicester sit comfortably above fifth-placed Chelsea, so let’s break down the likeliness of a top four finish.
Firstly, let’s look at the teams currently competing for a top four finish. Manchester City, Chelsea, Manchester United, Tottenham Hotspur and Wolverhampton Wanderers all seem to be in the race.
Forget about Liverpool. Their win against Sheffield United has given them a thirteen-point lead at the top of the table with 58 points out of a possible 60. Given that the past five seasons have required an average of 71.6 points to qualify, Liverpool only need thirteen points from their remaining eighteen games. That’s one UCL spot virtually confirmed.
Leicester City currently sit on 45 points and will finish on approximately 78 points – bearing in mind their remaining fixtures. City are currently on 44 points and with their expected trajectory, they will leapfrog Leicester and finish second on 87 points.
That would mean Leicester finishing the season in third place, with Chelsea finishing the season in fourth with 73 points. These are just bold approximations without much explanation, so let’s break down the numbers and see why this is the most likely outcome to the season.
Leicester are one of the only three teams to have be averaging over two points per match. They average 2.14 points per game, while City are just behind with 2.1. Then, of course, Liverpool, who are averaging 2.9 points per game – unparalleled at this stage of a top flight season, ever.
The remainder of the chasing pack’s average isn’t anywhere close to the top three. Chelsea are currently averaging 1.71 points per game and United have managed an average of 1.48 points per game. Spurs and Wolves are level on points, with both averaging 1.43 points a game.
Average points per game is a good parameter to judge where a club is heading, as it’s taking into consideration the entire first-half of the season, not just the peaks and troughs.
Leicester’s tremendous start will be difficult to emulate for another 17 games. They are likely to experience a drop, with their average points-per-game tally expected to fall to1.94 points per game.
City have been fairly underwhelming this season but they’re still only a point behind Leicester. Pep Guardiola’s men will be looking to rectify this. Their average of points-per-game is estimated to be an impressive 2.53 for the remainder of the season’s fixtures. Chelsea are another team expected to improve during the second-half as they become increasingly familiar to Frank Lampard’s ideologies and expectations.
Their current average of 1.71 points per game has been calculated to rise to an average of 2.18 points per game. This improvement combined with Leicester’s slight drop in form still doesn’t impact the overall league table too much. The Blues take up the last of the Champions League spots and Leicester remain in third place.
Tottenham, meanwhile, are expected to finish fifth on 63 points – a massive 15 points behind Brendan Rodgers’ side. The final European spot is expected to go to Wolves, even though they find themselves in seventh place.
Out of the top six, Leicester and Tottenham also have the most favourable set of fixtures remaining. In the games against the top eight, they play at home four times and only twice away. It’s drastically different for Guardiola’s City – the Citizens play away from home five times in their six remaining games against the top eight.
This could all be wrong but it really is going to take a catastrophic decline in Leicester’s performances and, of course, a monumental improvement from the underperforming chasing pack to see Leicester slip out of the top four.
Even if they do, then, do not forget, the Europa League was deemed the more realistic target for the season.