Arsenal are now officially Chelsea’s biggest title rivals – so can they catch them?


As Manchester City’s decline showed no signs of slowing up in the 2-1 defeat to Crystal Palace on Monday night, Arsenal suddenly found themselves in second place on merit alone. City had failed to take advantage of their game in hand and now sit fourth, one place behind rivals Manchester United, who they face at Old Trafford this weekend.

But can the Gunners pull off the most unlikeliest of title challenges and beat Chelsea to the winning post? It’s not inconceivable, but it’s going to take some doing.

Arsenal already trail by seven points, and that’s before you take Chelsea’s game in hand into consideration. Should they win their rearranged match with Leicester, the Blues will lead the way by an intimidating 10 points with just a handful of games remaining.

Chelsea captain John Terry heads in a goal against QPR earlier this seasonChelsea captain John Terry heads in a goal against QPR earlier this seasonArsenal will hope that Chelsea slip-up this weekend, and a victory for the Gunners over Burnley would see the gap closed to four points, before the Gunners turn their attentions to the FA Cup semi-final clash against Reading at Wembley.

All eyes will be on Stamford Bridge at the same time though, as Jose Mourinho’s side welcome a resurgent Manchester United side to London in what will be a pivotal week for the Premier League. United could well upset the champions elect and return to Manchester with three points in the bag, meaning the gap will remain at four points but both Arsenal and Chelsea will have played the same number of games.

Which brings us to the London showdown at the Emirates. Chelsea sealed the bragging rights earlier in the season with a 2-0 victory at the Bridge in a game that will be remembered for the touchline spat between Arsene Wenger and Mourinho rather than anything that happened on the pitch. Victory for the Gunners would close the gap to just one point, but defeat would likely end any faint chances they have of topping the table come the end of the season.

Wenger and Mourinho clash on the sidelines at Stamford Bridge earlier this seasonWenger and Mourinho clash on the sidelines at Stamford Bridge earlier this seasonThe Blues will be back in midweek action in their extra game against Leicester, where anything but a victory against the current basement club would be a shock. We can comfortably expect the Blues to stretch their lead, meaning the gap will be back out to four points with Chelsea having played a game more than Arsenal.

It will be Chelsea in action again the following Sunday as they take on Crystal Palace at Stamford Bridge, and Mourinho will have cause to be wary heading into the game given Palace pulled of a brilliant upset against City. It’s also worth noting that, despite appearances of the famed Selhurst Park atmosphere, Palace have picked up more points away from home this season.

Crystal Palace have drastically improved under Alan PardewCrystal Palace have drastically improved under Alan PardewA shock Palace victory would give Arsenal the chance to close the gap back to a point when they take on Hull in that round’s Monday night fixture, and the Tigers currently find themselves in disarray having endured an alarming fall down the table.

Chelsea then are back in action on Sunday when the host Liverpool, having met in the same fixture at a similar time last season. That day, the title was effectively on the line for the Reds, only for Steven Gerrard’s famous slip and Demba Ba’s ensuing goal to deal the Merseyside club a hammer blow in their unsuccessful title charge.

It would take a miraculous result that day for Arsenal to move ahead on Monday, as a Liverpool victory would give the Gunners the chance to go top of the table should they beat Swansea to build a two-point gap over Chelsea. The problem for the Gunners is that they take on Manchester United the following weekend, while Chelsea travel to West Brom on the Monday in another weekend that could have a major say where the Premier League trophy will end up.

Demba Ba scores against Liverpool at Anfield last yearDemba Ba scores against Liverpool at Anfield last yearTo wrap up the season, Arsenal will host both Sunderland and West Brom while Chelsea will finish the season against the Black Cats, meaning that the two clubs currently keeping their heads above relegation could have a huge say in the title race.

Of course, Arsenal need Chelsea to slip up in at least four of their eight matches remaining this seas, but with two of them against the current top three in the Gunners and United, and London derbies with QPR and Palace, Arsenal fans shouldn’t give up all hope just yet.



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