Will Leicester or Tottenham win the Premier League title?
By Patrick Surlis
Last Updated: 17/03/16 7:53am
It is the Premier League title race very few expected, five points separate league leaders Leicester and second place Tottenham with eight games to go.
Leicester's latest win against Newcastle on Monday Night Football saw Arsenal drop 11 points back with Man City a further point behind, leading Sky Sports' Jamie Carragher and MNF guest Ronald Koeman to assert that they now believe it's a two-horse race.
So how do these unlikely title rivals compare? We take a look at their squads, signings, form, fixtures and more...
How do their squads compare?
Despite Tottenham's European commitments, the two sides have used a similar amount of players in the league this season. Twenty three have made Premier League appearances for Leicester, and three - Jamie Vardy, Kasper Schmeichel and Wes Morgan - have started all 30 games so far.
Spurs have used 24 in the league, with Toby Alderweireld and Harry Kane the only ever-presents. To keep things fresh Mauricio Pochettino likes to swap his full-backs. Danny Rose and Ben Davies have featured 17 and 15 times, respectively. Kieran Tripper is their Europa League right-back, with Kyle Walker favoured in the league.
Claudio Ranieri hasn't needed to rotate often, and although he was known as the 'Tinkerman' during his first spell in the Premier League with Chelsea, one of the secrets to Leicester's success has been consistency in selection. They may have used 23 players so far, but Ranieri knows his first-choice XI.
All eleven players from the starting line-up that beat Newcastle 1-0 on Monday Night Football have started at least 21 of their 30 matches this season.
They have 12 internationals to Tottenham's 15, while as expected Pochettino, who has a reputation for youth development, has placed a much greater reliance on his young players.
Tottenham's four U21s, Nabil Bentaleb, Eric Dier, Dele Alli and Josh Onomah, have made a combined 138 career top-flight appearances. In contrast, Leicester have used just two U21 players, Daniel Amartey and Joe Dodoo have made just three appearances between them.
Have their signings impressed?
First-team signings 2015/16 (summer and January windows)
|Shinji Okazaki||Heung-Min Son|
|Robert Huth||Toby Alderweireld|
|N'Golo Kante||Clinton N'Jie|
|Yohan Benalouane||Kevin Wimmer|
|Gokhan Inler||Kieran Trippier|
It' been a mixed bag for Ranieri. The summer additions of Robert Huth, Shinji Okazaki and N'Golo Kante, from Stoke, Mainz and Caen respectively, have proved masterstrokes. So much so that Kante has kept Gokhan Inler out of the team. Yohan Benalouane, meanwhile, has moved on loan to Fiorentina.
In all, Leicester reportedly spent just under £33m in the summer, a figure exceeded by their title rivals. Spurs' biggest purchase was Heung-Min Son from Bayer Leverkusen, but the South Korean has struggled to earn a starting spot with 12 substitute appearances compared to nine starts.
That hasn't been a problem for Alderweireld, signed from Atletico Madrid, and described by Sky Sports' Jamie Redknapp as "one of the signings of the season."
Trippier, Kevin Wimmer and Clinton N'Jie completed their main summer business, but each has been supplemental, rather than key to the squad.
The January transfer window opened with Leicester second and Tottenham fourth as Arsenal topped the table. In an effort to bolster an unexpected push for Champions League qualification, Ranieri spent around £8.7m on two signings - Demarai Gray from Birmingham City and Amartey from FC Copenhagen.
But so far neither has made a significant contribution with Leicester now 11 points better off than the Gunners. Amartey lacked matched fitness when he joined following a Danish Supaliga winter break and has played just twice, while Gray is yet to start a league game.
It's a similar story for Pochettino, who was happy to "keep the balance" as he resisted the urge to spend, and Tottenham ended the month making a profit on departures as Andros Townsend and Emmanuel Adebayor left the club.
Both sides have relied on shrewd summer signings, rather than splashy January purchases.
Who's got the edge in the dugout?
Born two decades apart, neither Ranieri nor Pochettino has won a top-flight league title as a manager.
Now in his 30th year of management, Ranieri is something of a promotion specialist, having taken teams up in France and Italy, and he's won the Coppa Italia, Copa del Rey and UEFA Super Cup.
Leicester are his 14th club, after two spells at Valencia and a brief time in charge of Greece, but he's still looking for that elusive league crown. Despite managing some of Europe's biggest clubs he has finished runner-up four times - with Chelsea, Juventus, Roma and Monaco.
Meanwhile, Pochettino is looking for his first taste of silverware following stints at Espanyol and Southampton.
Can Ranieri finally get over the line? Or will Pochettino make Spurs history? If either happens, it will undoubtedly be their biggest managerial achievement to date.
Who have they got on their staff?
Ranieri didn't change much when he arrived at Leicester in July 2015. Craig Shakespeare and Steve Walsh, who both worked under Nigel Pearson and helped steer the club to League One and Championship promotions, were kept in place as assistant managers. Paolo Benetti, who worked with Ranieri at Juventus, Roma and Monaco, was the main addition as the Foxes boss avoided the temptation to tinker.
"It is to the manager's credit that he did not just come in with all his own people and change absolutely everything," Schmeichel said back in November.
Walsh has arguably been the key figure. He was described by Sir Alex Ferguson as "the most influential person in the Premier League" this month. Before Leicester, he spent time scouting for Chelsea, where he played a part in signing Gianfranco Zola, Didier Drogba and Michael Essien.
His midas touch has continued at the King Power, where he's helped identify Vardy, Kante and Riyad Mahrez.
Pochettino took a different approach upon taking charge at White Hart Lane, bringing in his own team after Tim Sherwood's departure. Miguel D'Agostino, Toni Jimenez and Jesus Perez all assisted Pochettino at Espanyol and Southampton, and are now in place at Tottenham.
Have they been here before?
Surprisingly, the answer is yes - Leicester and Spurs were in this exact position 53 years ago. With eight games to go in the English First Division, league leaders Leicester were one point clear of Tottenham in second.
But the Foxes' title challenge faltered as they won just one of their final eight matches to drop to fourth. Tottenham stayed second as champions Everton came through to finish the 1962/63 campaign top of the table.
If Leicester can hold on this season, they will be top flight champions for the first time in the club's history. Meanwhile, Tottenham are twice winners of the First Division, most recently in 1961, but they've never finished higher than fourth in the Premier League era.
Leicester, who were down in League One as recently as 2009, achieved their best Premier League finish under Martin O'Neill when they finished eighth in 2000, the same year they won the League Cup, their last major trophy.
Who is on the treatment table?
The two clubs are currently the healthiest in the Premier League, according to PhysioRoom.com. Leicester have just one concern at the moment, Matty James, who is nearing a return after missing the entire season with an ACL injury.
Tottenham have two players missing, N'Jie expected back in March and Jan Vertonghen penciled in for an April return.
Spurs have coped well with the Belgian's absence so far, and the title could go to whichever team maintains their impressive injury record over the final few weeks of the season better.
Who is in form?
Premier League form (last seven games)
Leicester and Spurs have posted nearly identical records over their last seven league games, capitalising on Arsenal and Man City's stuttering form to pull away at the top.
Both have won five and lost one, with five goals conceded for each. Tottenham have scored a goal more (12), and Pochettino's side have collected the most points in 2016, so far, to keep the pressure on the Foxes.
But it was Leicester's ability to handle the heat and emerge with six points from February fixtures against Liverpool, Man City and Arsenal that led many to take their title bid seriously.
Since then, they've made a happy habit of winning games 1-0, with victories against Norwich, Watford and most recently Newcastle by a single goal.
Spurs stumbled against West Ham and Arsenal in early March, and have given themselves a mountain to climb in the Europa League after a 3-0 defeat to Borussia Dortmund, but they got back on track with a win over Aston Villa on Sunday.
It all sets up an eight-game race to May 15, which brings us on to their remaining fixtures…
Who has the better run-in?
Ranieri's side are in pole position and will look to put as much distance between themselves and their title rivals before they finish the season with a difficult triple header against Manchester United, Everton and Chelsea.
Before that, they play three of the bottom six - Crystal Palace, Sunderland and Swansea - and Southampton and West Ham at the King Power. That should give them the chance to build on their five-point cushion before things get tough in May.
Tottenham's run-in looks more challenging on paper, with tricky trips to Liverpool, Stoke, Chelsea and Newcastle - potentially needing points to survive - on the final day.
But if it does go down to the wire, many may favour Spurs over Leicester, who face the prospect of needing a result from a visit to Stamford Bridge. Could we get more final-day drama?
It's all set up for a frantic sprint to the finish line. Who do you think will end the season as champions? Leave a comment or tweet us @SkyFootball…