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.
Manchester United 2 Chelsea 0 player ratings
Manchester United 2 Chelsea 0 player ratings
1/22 David de Gea - 6 out of 10
Rarely tested. Impressive under the high balls and in his distribution.
2/22 Antonio Valencia - 7
Solid all round performance from him. Strong going forward and assured on the back foot. Physically impressive too.
3/22 Eric Bailly - 7
COmposed under pressure, read the game brilliantly and made all the right decisions. Excellent defensive display.
4/22 Marcos Rojo - 6
A gritty and fiesty display. Battled hard against Costa and largely kept his cool while the Spaniard repeatedly lost his.
5/22 Matteo Darmian - 6
Kept Pedro under wraps and limited the wingers' influence for much of the game.
6/22 Ander Herrera - 8
Demonstrated fantastic vision to play in Rashford for United's goal. Hard-working as ever. Shame about the yellow card but completely ran the game today.
7/22 Marouane Fellaini - 7
United's battering ram. Strong in the air, firm in his challenges and excellent at breaking up play. Dominated against Kante too.
8/22 Paul Pogba - 7
A rounded, mature performance from the Frenchman. May not have threatened as others did but kept the United midfield ticking over with his constant passing and movement. Still missing that 'wow' factor though.
9/22 Ashley Young - 7
Another hard worker who dug deep to give 100 per cent today. Made some encouraging runs going forward and was vital in the build-up to United's second.
10/22 Marcus Rashford - 8
FUll of confidence and energy. Used his pace to devasting effect and proved to be too much for the visiting defence at times. Showed today what he's truly capable of.
11/22 Jesse Lingard - 7
Complimented Rashford to a tee. Excelled at getting in behind United's backline and provided a reliable outlet throughout.
12/22 Asmir Begović - 6
Could have maybe done more for the first goal but unlucky about the second. Made some important saves to keep the score down.
13/22 Kurt Zouma - 5
Stepped in to replace Marcos Alonso which subsequently disrupted the balance to Antonio Conte's team. Looked out of place.
14/22 David Luiz - 5
Guilty of costly mistakes and, rather surprisingly, was overpowered at times by Rashford. A shadow of the player he has been this season.
15/22 Gary Cahill - 4
Completely dropped his guard for United's second. Struggled to match Rashford for his pace and made multiple sloppy mistakes. An afternoon to forget for him.
16/22 Victor Moses - 4
Anonymous and largely ineffective. Hauled off around the hour mark for Cesc Fabregas.
17/22 N'Golo Kanté - 6
Showcased his ability to drive into space on a number of occasions but was overwhelmed physically throughout the match by Fellaini.
18/22 Nemanja Matic - 5
Struggled defensively and seemed out of his depth. Couldn't deal with the United set-up.
19/22 Cesar Azpilicueta - 6
Pushed forward down the flank and provided his team-mates with a reliable source of deliveries. Defensively, he enjoyed a better display than the rest of the Chelsea back line.
20/22 Pedro - 5
Enjoyed a few half-chances but was subdued and lacked any real dynamism.
21/22 Eden Hazard - 6
Missed that magic touch today. Was played out of the game by Herrera. Occasionally threatened with his quick feet but it wasn't to be.
22/22 Diego Costa - 5
Bullish but another disappointing performance. His quality on the ball and in front of goal deteriorated as his composure faded throughout the game.
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)Reuse content