1) It’s Leicester City’s title to lose

Obvious statement alert. Eight points clear; seven games remaining. As a rousing rendition of “we’re going to win the league” boomed around Selhurst Park, it was hard to not get swept along by the Leicester City fairy tale. Surely they won’t blow it from here?

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Claudio Ranieri’s side have one great advantage over previous title hopefuls: deep down, everyone wants them to triumph. The net result? Opposition fans are less vocal when the Foxes arrive in town; us media folk refuse to pile on the pressure; even opposition players don’t want to dent the dream. Football’s greatest underdog story is aligning – but that doesn’t mean we can crown them champions just yet…

Riyad Mahrez, Leicester

Image credit: AFP

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2) Arsenal out of the title race? Behave.

It’s still peculiar how adamant many fans are: the Premier League is going to Leicester. End of story. Why? Leicester (and Tottenham) are entering unknown territory – we still can’t rule out an implosion. It’s only March. The Foxes have played phenomenally in recent weeks, but their next three games are trickier than some are making out: an in-form Southampton (h), relegation-haunted Sunderland (a), Champions League-chasing West Ham (h).

Sure, it would require near-perfect runs from Arsenal (11 points behind, one game in hand) and Manchester City (15 points behind, two games in hand), but why rule it out? There’s a bit more mileage to come before we can officially declare it a one-horse race.

Alexis Sanchez and Arsenal after Alex Iwobi's goal v Everton - 2016

Image credit: AFP

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3) The Gunners may have stumbled upon an answer to Giroud-Walcott woe

Olivier Giroud or Theo Walcott? Arsenal fans were torn between which oft-slated forward they wanted to lead their attack in 2015-16. But, as the season reaches its conclusion, it appears they may have stumbled upon a better formula: none of the above.

Danny Welbeck and Alex Iwobi stepped up magnificently in the 2-0 win over Everton. It’s only one game – and Everton aren’t exactly the most resistant force at Goodison Park – but in a season where Arsenal have struggled for consistency, they may as well go for broke with this final combination. Arsene Wenger’s side have nothing to lose at this stage – all is already lost, supposedly – so the Frenchman may as well plump for the unlikely duo until the season’s end. It might just be the fresh approach Arsenal need to get back into the title picture. They live in hope, and hope can be the greatest of things.

Alex Iwobi

Image credit: Reuters

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4) Time to salute Schmeichel and the Leicester defence

Three Leicester players have been repeatedly loaded with praise: Jamie Vardy, Riyad Mahrez and N’Golo Kante. The rest of the squad? Not so much. After their fourth 1-0 victory in their last five outings, it’s time to salute Kasper Schmeichel and his defence.

The Dane – hoping to emulate father Peter by lifting the Premier League – has been supreme in the Foxes goal. It was his fine one-handed save that maintained Leicester’s lead in the first-half. Wes Morgan, often wheeled out as the reason Leicester’s title challenge is absurd, made an expert tackle when one-on-one with Yannick Bolasie inside the penalty area. Danny Simpson and Christian Fuchs have thrived at full-back, while Robert Huth is gluing it all together. For all their ‘lack of experience’, the German has two Premier League winners’ medals from his Chelsea days. He may have been a bit-part player, but he was in a winning dressing room. And that matters.

Leicester City's Kasper Schmeichel looks on as a Crystal Palace effort hits the cross bar

Image credit: Reuters

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5) Crystal Palace need a win..and quickly

Crystal Palace need two more wins to ensure their top-flight status for 2016-17. And that’s a problem. They haven’t won in the Premier League since December, a period that has seen them amass just four points from a possible 39. Perhaps most alarmingly, Alan Pardew's unit didn’t even play badly in the 1-0 defeat to Leicester. It was the same story in their previous outing against Liverpool. Another solid performance; another haul of zero.

At this stage of the season, that is hugely worrying. The eight-point gap between them and the relegation zone is scant consolation – 33 points is not enough for survival. Palace’s next five games don’t offer much hope, either: West Ham (a), Norwich (h), Arsenal (a), Manchester United (a), Newcastle (a). Four of five on the road, so where are the wins coming from? The match with Norwich is absolutely huge. Lose it, and Alan Pardew can turn his attention to the Championship..

Crystal Palace's Wilfried Zaha reacts

Image credit: Reuters

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6) Chelsea’s fight is impressive..and long overdue

If Guus Hiddink had overseen Chelsea from the season’s dawn, there is every chance they would be in the frame at the summit. They remain unbeaten in the league since the Dutchman’s arrival – even if they have bowed out of the Champions League and FA Cup – and showed unexpected heart to battle back twice against West Ham for a 2-2 draw.

Where was this desire earlier in the season? Their point at Stamford Bridge may have come via a dubious penalty – Ruben Loftus-Cheek tripped himself up, and outside the box too – but it was encouraging for Chelsea ahead of the new season. If a relatively disinterested bunch can reel off a 14-game unbeaten streak, there is room for optimism at Stamford Bridge.

Tempers flare as West Ham draw at Chelsea: Chelsea's Cesc Fabregas clashes with West Ham's Emmanuel Emenike

Image credit: Reuters

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7) Sunday’s Tyne-Wear derby is bigger than normal because one of the sides is destined for the drop

Norwich and Swansea’s victories practically confirmed one thing: at least one of Newcastle and Sunderland is going down. Which is good news for the neutral. It means Sunday’s Tyne-Wear derby – often one high on passion, low on quality – will carry bonus gravitas.

Everything points towards a Sunderland triumph given they’ve won the last six showdowns, but the Black Cats won’t be getting too carried away. For once, it’s a must-watch encounter. Let’s just hope the action is as engaging as the significance. It's the biggest ever derby between the two rivals. We think.

Sunderland's Yann M'Vila in action against Newcastle's Cheick Tiote

Image credit: Reuters

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