Alex Ferguson famously described the Premier League title run-in as “squeaky-bum time” and leaders Leicester City and second-placed Tottenham Hotspur look best-placed to handle the pressure.
Leicester host West Bromwich Albion on Tuesday with the chance to extend their lead at the top to five points after an inspired substitution by manager Claudio Ranieri secured a vital late win over Norwich City.
Spurs visit West Ham United on Wednesday and Arsenal entertain Swansea City desperate to show they are still genuine contenders following a depressing 3-2 defeat by a patched-up Manchester United side.
Ranieri sent on striker Leonardo Ulloa in place of a defender against Norwich and his last-gasp goal sealed a 1-0 victory that kept Leicester in pole position to win the title for the first time.
“When you change and the change finds the solution it is fantastic,” Ranieri told reporters.
“We took the risk. The manager is hired for this reason.”
Tottenham held their nerve to see off Swansea 2-1 on Sunday and the Welsh side are in north London again to face an Arsenal team under huge pressure.
They failed to take advantage of a callow United side fielding a makeshift central defence. This raised more doubts about their ability to cope with the mental demands of the run-in known so well by the Manchester club’s former manager Ferguson, who used the “squeaky-bum time” phrase in 2003 to describe the tense, final stages of a competition.
“We cannot feel sorry for ourselves,” said manager Arsene Wenger whose team are three points behind Spurs.
“We dropped important points but we have to show we’re up for the fight.”
Arsenal travel to Tottenham on Saturday and their arch-rivals’ manager Mauricio Pochettino was keeping his feet firmly on the ground after late goals by Nacer Chadli and Danny Rose sank Swansea.
“Nobody speaks about the title in our dressing-room,” the Argentine said.
“We believe we can win every game and we’ll see what happens. We need to focus again. We have a strong squad and we will try to manage it in the right way.”
Manchester City, four points behind Arsenal in fourth, travel to Liverpool on Wednesday, three days after beating the same opponents on penalties in the League Cup final.
Fifth-placed Manchester United, on a run of three successive wins, host Watford with 18-year-old striker Marcus Rashford fresh from scoring four goals in two games and champions Chelsea bid to continue their revival at Norwich.