Tashreeq Vardien

Premier League title race: Are Leicester and Chelsea in it?

2019-11-12 12:01
Brendan Rodgers and Caglar Soyuncu
Brendan Rodgers and Caglar Soyuncu (Getty Images)

Cape Town - Brendan Rodgers has been there before.

Nearly six years ago, the Northern Irish mentor was managing Liverpool and heading into the final stretch of the Premier League season.

It's match-day 36 and Liverpool welcome Jose Mourinho's plucky Chelsea to Anfield in a top of the table clash.

Liverpool were three games away from glory and 5-points ahead of second-placed Chelsea.

Meanwhile, in third place, Manchester City were 9-points off the Reds with two games in hand and growing in confidence.

Seconds away from the half-time whistle and with the score still goalless, a lapse in concentration from Reds captain Steven Gerrard allowed Chelsea to take an all-important 1-0 lead.

A goal that changed Liverpool's fate.

The legendary midfielder slipped from attempting to receive the ball in the centre of the pitch which allowed Chelsea striker Demba Ba to latch onto it. The former Senegal international made the most of the golden opportunity to put the ball into the back of the net.

The match ended 2-0 with former Reds striker Fernando Torres assisting Willian to hit the final nail into the Liverpool coffin.

City went onto claim the Premier League and Liverpool finished as runners up - again!

After that season, less than 16 months later, Rodgers was sacked and replaced by Jurgen Klopp.

Rodgers, now at Leicester City, finds himself in a familiar position.

After Liverpool dispatched City 3-1 at Anfield on Sunday evening, Leicester are currently second in the log standings with 26 points - 8 points behind leaders Liverpool after 12 matches who have notched 34 points.

In third place, Chelsea have the same number of points as the Foxes after 12 games with only Leicester’s superior goal difference separating the two sides.

Three-time Premier League winner Frank Lampard, who was in the Chelsea starting XI back in 2014 at Anfield, is now experiencing a title chase from a different view, in the dugout as manager.

"To say (we are title contenders) would be a bit naive because we are not even a third of the way through the season," said the 41-year-old said after Chelsea beat Crystal Palace at Stamford Bridge.

"If we can keep replicating the form, keep replicating the results, then we can certainly close the gap and I think that is the first step."

Rodgers shares a similar tone when probed by the media on Leicester's Premier League prospects.

"We're not really thinking about that (Premier League)," said Rodgers after the Foxes 2-0 win over Arsenal on Saturday.

"We are just thinking about developing the team and making them better, that's been the focus since I first came in."

Both are aware of the unpredictability of the Premier League and how quickly things can change in a 38-match long season.

Over the weekend, Chelsea fielded their youngest ever starting XI with an average age of 24 years and 88 days.

Lampard has a special group of young players and in a few more seasons could be lifting the league crown.

Since taking over in 2018, Rodgers has improved Leicester from being a mid-table side to an outfit now competing with the top six (Manchester City, Liverpool, Arsenal, Tottenham, Manchester United and Chelsea).

Under Rogers' guidance 32-year-old Jamie Vardy currently sits at the top of the scoring charts, defender Caglar Soyuncu has impressed in the heart of defence alongside the experienced Jonny Evans while James Maddison and Youri Tielemans have been orchestrating things in the middle of the park.

Despite that being the case, Liverpool and Manchester City are just a cut above the rest at the moment.

With City in fourth place, Pep Guardiola's charges are expected to once again pick themselves up and push Liverpool until the end of the season.

They've done it before.

Liverpool's aura seemed more determined after their Champions League triumph last season and are not looking to repeat last season's lack of focus, especially during the December/January period.

However, Chelsea and Leicester do have a fighter's chance if the 2015/16 season is anything to go by when the Foxes shocked the world in claiming the Premier League title.

 

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