Leicester and Man City to play out Premier League final day drama
Before the Premier League season began, Iain Macintosh predicted Chelsea would win the title and Leicester would finish 20th. At the end of January, he said that Manchester City would win the title and that Leicester would finish fourth.
So when ESPN FC needed someone to write a (somewhat tongue-in-cheek) game-by-game prediction of the season's remaining weeks, naturally he was the first choice.
Matchday 30 (Mar. 12-14)
In the first game of the weekend, Man City obliterate poor Norwich at Carrow Road with a first-half hat trick from Sergio Aguero. The second half is predominantly an exercise in "keep-ball."
Sunday sees Mauricio Pochettino's fringe players offer a disjointed performance at Villa Park. Tottenham look tired, disorganised and they're at barely 20 percent of their full potential. They beat Aston Villa 4-0. On Monday, Riyad Mahrez misses a penalty as Leicester are held by David Moyes' reinvigorated Newcastle.
1. Leicester: 61 points; 2. Tottenham 58; 3. Man City: 53; 4. Arsenal: 52.
Matchday 31 (Mar. 19-20)
Arsenal gift Everton an early lead but fight back when Joel Robles kicks the ball into the back of John Stones' head and it ricochets into the goal. Aaron Ramsey then scores an injury-time winner while Everton's players sit in the centre circle, discussing the concept of the perfect goal.
Leicester pick up all three points at Crystal Palace, despite the Eagles' dominating the game. Jamie Vardy scores a 78th-minute winner on the break and Alan Pardew punches a police horse. The next day, Tottenham pick off Bournemouth in a routine 2-0 victory and Man City sneak by 1-0 aginst a decidedly un-horny Man United.
1. Leicester: 64; 2. Tottenham: 61; 3. Man City: 56; 4. Arsenal: 55.
Matchday 32 (Apr. 2-3)
Man City power past Bournemouth, but there's a suspicion that the now-safe Cherries aren't taking it as seriously as they should. Eddie Howe is charged by the FA for allowing his players to take to the field in flip flops.
Arsenal beat Watford 2-0, but Tottenham lose at Liverpool when Christian Benteke hears a noise that startles him and falls over, thus winning a penalty that he coolly converts. Claudio Ranieri's Leicester beat Southampton after Wes Morgan scores a stunning solo effort, charging up the field and rifling the ball past a frankly baffled Fraser Forster.
1. Leicester: 67; 2. Tottenham: 61; 3. Man City: 59; 4. Arsenal 58.
Matchday 33 (Apr. 9-10)
Arsenal become the latest big side to fall to West Ham at an electric Upton Park, losing 1-0 to a thunderous Andy Carroll header. Carroll is injured in the process and will not return until December.
Manchester City make hard work of West Brom but get there in the end with an Aguero goal. Tottenham can only draw with Manchester United at White Hart Lane, but the headlines are made on a hideously cold and windy day in the Northeast when Leicester are beaten 1-0 by a rugged Sunderland.
1. Leicester: 67; 2. Tottenham: 62; 3. Man City: 62; 4. Arsenal: 58.
Matchday 34 (Apr. 16-18)
Man City strive to beat Chelsea but cannot find a way through Guus Hiddink's massed ranks. To make matters worse, Aguero limps off with a sore back after carrying his team all season. But that's not the only 0-0 of the weekend, as Leicester are held by West Ham at home.
With everything to play for, Arsenal beat Crystal Palace with a last-minute Olivier Giroud header that appears to be profoundly offside. Tottenham, with a chance to gain ground on Leicester, draw 1-1 with Stoke.
1. Leicester: 68; 2. Tottenham: 63; 3. Man City: 63; 4. Arsenal: 61.
Matchday 35 (Apr. 23-25)
Stoke manager Mark Hughes returns to Man City and it's just like old times as the game ends in a draw. Sunderland then take a huge step to survival by beating Arsenal 1-0 on a hideously windy day in the Northeast.
After two games without a victory, Leicester get back to winning ways with a morale-boosting, nerve-settling 2-0 victory against Swansea. But Tottenham keep the pressure on, seeing off West Bromwich Albion 1-0 in a game noted more for Saido Berahino's decision to sit with the Spurs' substitutes.
1. Leicester: 71; 2. Tottenham: 66; 3. Man City: 64; 4. Arsenal: 61.
Matchday 36 (Apr. 30-May 2)
Arsenal fans stage a pre-match protest before their side faces Norwich, begging for Arsene Wenger to resign, but a Giroud hat trick soon brings scenes of jubilation to North London. That night's radio phone-ins are filled with furious Arsenal fans, lashing out at the pundits who wrote Wenger off.
Leicester travel to Old Trafford knowing that a win could almost deliver the title. But they lose to Man United and Vardy is sent off for violent conduct. Later the same day, Man City close the gap with a 3-0 win at Southampton. The following night, Tottenham go to Chelsea and lose to a single Diego Costa goal, effectively ending their title hopes.
1. Leicester: 71; 2. Man City: 67; 3. Tottenham: 66; 4. Arsenal: 64.
Matchday 37 (May 7)
High drama! Leicester beat Everton at home after the visitors leave themselves open from the first minute to the last, regardless of the context of the game. Southampton present no serious obstacle for Tottenham, who win 2-0, but it doesn't help them.
Man City take on Arsenal in what must surely be the Gunners' last chance to get back into the title race. Aguero, back from injury, scores twice in the first half and Manuel Pellegrini is happy to let the game fizzle out.
1. Leicester: 74; 2. Man City: 70; 3. Tottenham: 69; 4. Arsenal: 64.
Man City's matchday 28 / Arsenal's matchday 30 (May 11, we're guessing)
Moyes may have stabilised Newcastle and put some points on the board but he can't keep out Man City, who win 1-0 at St James' Park. Now we've got a title race.
Elsewhere, Arsenal are held at home by West Bromwich Albion and Tony Pulis doesn't stop laughing for days.
1. Leicester 74; 2. Man City 73; 3. Tottenham 69; 4. Arsenal 65.
Matchday 38 (May 15)
Wenger announces his intention to stay on for the 2016-17 campaign and Arsenal see out their season by losing 1-0 at home to Aston Villa. These are sour times in North London as a heartbroken Tottenham lose away to Moyes' Newcastle, a win that confirms the Magpies safety but condemns Crystal Palace to the Championship. Moyes never has to buy a drink on Tyneside again.
Over at the Liberty Stadium, Man City make short work of Swansea but they're left to hope, wait and pray for a miracle. Their players keep running with the ball to the byline just to ask the fans for the latest from Stamford Bridge where Leicester, who need three points to win the league, are piling on the pressure.
And then it happens. Mahrez cuts in, leaves Gary Cahill sprawled on the ground, looks up... and cannons a shot off the crossbar. The ball falls to Cesar Azpilicueta, who takes advantage of Leicester's shock and plays a quick ball onto the flank. Willian latches on to it and nutmegs Danny Simpson before tearing in on goal. Kasper Schmeichel races out and thrusts himself into the line of fire, arms and legs spread like a giant, bearded starfish fired out of a cannon.
It is to no avail. Willian slips the ball between his legs, Chelsea win 1-0 to claim the last Europa League place and Claudio Ranieri can only stare hopelessly from the touchline as the greatest story in the Premier League's 24-year history is torn up, page by page, and hurled into the fire.
This is how the universe works. There are no happy endings. Football is cruel and capricious and it stinks and I hate it. Enjoy your summer.
1. Man City: 76; 2. Leicester: 74; 3. Tottenham: 69; 4. Arsenal 65.
Iain Macintosh covers the Premier League and Champions League for ESPN FC. Follow him on Twitter @IainMacintosh.