United's Wayne Rooney applauds supporters as hail
begins to fall after his team's 3-0 win in the
English Premier League soccer match between
Manchester United and Stoke at Old Trafford Stadium,
Manchester, England, Tuesday, Feb. 2, 2016.
MANCHESTER, England — It
sums up the erratic nature of this season's Premier League
that a match between Chelsea and Manchester United has
been relegated to a mere sideshow just as the title race
is getting interesting.
Instead, this weekend is
all about whether Leicester can pull off its biggest shock
yet and finally be recognized as a genuine title
Leicester, which battled
relegation all of last season, takes a three-point lead to
Manchester City on Saturday in a match between the top two
sides in the league. A victory would guarantee Leicester
at least a five-point lead with 13 matches remaining.
Surely that would make the
team favorites for the title and set up one of the most
unlikely story lines in English soccer history.
"It's not a
coincidence we're top of the table," Leicester
midfielder Danny Drinkwater said. "This is team
spirit at its highest. We won't stop believing.
Kasper Schmeichel, right, celebrates with teammate
Robert Huth after Leicester beat Liverpool 2-0
during the English Premier League soccer match
between Leicester City and Liverpool at the King
Power Stadium in Leicester, England, Tuesday, Feb.
"We're staying on the
ground but if we carry on the way we are, then why not
have the belief (to win the league)? It would go down in
Even a draw would be fine
for Leicester, which visits another title challenger in
Arsenal the following weekend before a benign run of
City, though, will want to
send a message to Leicester's upstarts and collect a
fourth straight win in all competitions to take over in
first place on goal difference.
Seeking a third league
title in five years, City has extra motivation for the
run-in — giving departing coach Manuel Pellegrini a
successful send-off after it was announced this week that
Pep Guardiola would the club's manager from next season.
Chelsea — the defending
champion — and Man United — a record 20-time champion
— already are also-rans in the title race, although
United will boost its ambitions of qualifying for the
Champions League with a win at Stamford Bridge on Sunday.
United is in fifth place, five points off the Champions
League qualification spots and 10 points behind Leicester.
City's manager Manuel Pellegrini awaits the start of
the English Premier League soccer match between
Sunderland and Manchester City at the Stadium of
Light, Sunderland, England, Tuesday, Feb. 2, 2016.
Chelsea is 13th and can
probably forget about making up ground to the European
positions in the top five.
Arsenal is winless in its
last four league games and has dropped to fourth, behind
Tottenham on goal difference, ahead of a visit to
Bournemouth on Sunday.
Also Saturday, it's:
Liverpool vs. Sunderland; Aston Villa vs. Norwich;
Newcastle vs. West Bromwich Albion; Swansea vs. Crystal
Palace; and Southampton vs. West Ham.
Here are some things to
know about this weekend's games:
Wayne Rooney often scores
goals in bursts and the Manchester United striker is in
the middle of another hot streak.
He has scored seven goals
in seven games after his latest strike, in a 3-0 win over
Stoke on Tuesday that relieved pressure on manager Louis
"He has his
momentum," Van Gaal said about Rooney, "but also
the team is now playing more for him, I think. We have to
wait and see where he goes with this rhythm of making
goals, with this then he is a fantastic striker."
The way he is going, Rooney
could get the six goals he needs to break Bobby Charlton's
all-time United scoring record by the end of this season.
ALLI VS. BARKLEY
Thoughts are starting to
turn to the European Championship in June and July, and
many of England's likely players are in strong form.
As well as Rooney, striker
Harry Kane has scored in his last three league games to
move to 20 goals for the season, while Leicester striker
Jamie Vardy's double — including a stunning long-range
effort — against Liverpool on Tuesday moved him to 18
Dele Alli and Ross Barkley
could be fighting for the attacking midfielder slot in
England's team and both youngsters are in superb form,
scoring again in midweek.
Alli is battling illness to
be involved in third-place Tottenham's home match against
Watford and Barkley will look to score for Everton for the
fourth straight game in a trip to Stoke.