Spring has sprung and when the action springs back to the fore after the international break, it will be the start of the run-in to the end of a fascinating Premier League season.
There are plenty of outstanding issues to be decided at the top and bottom as the games come fast and furious.
One issue that does seem beyond doubt is that Chelsea will be crowned as champions. Such is their lead and consistency that Antonio Conte’s men are strongly odds-on to clinch their fifth Premier League title.
With a ten-point advantage and having only one league defeat since 24 September, it could be that the Blues complete their task before May dawns.
Behind them it will be a case of who can hold their nerve and handle the pressure in the scramble for Champions League places.
Currently on a run of ten consecutive home wins in the same season in the top division for the first time since 1922, Tottenham Hotspur’s outstanding form at White Hart Lane has put them in pole position.
Manchester City and Liverpool are hot on Spurs’ heels and they will be striving for the consistency that has so far largely eluded them this term.
The recent meeting at the Etihad proved that they are both capable of performing to the highest standard with City manager Pep Guardiola clearly thrilled by the pulsating draw: “I am so proud. This is one of the most special days of my life. More than ever I am willing to help the club take the next step forward over the next years if they want to stay with me.”
Manchester United’s further progress may be hindered by their continuing involvement in the Europa League but, with only two defeats in all competitions since 3 November, it could be that Jose Mourinho’s charges could time their run perfectly.
The future of Arsene Wenger has increasingly occupied Arsenal minds and caused an untimely distraction to the job in hand.
Having lost four of their last five Premier League games for the first time in the Frenchman’s long reign, the visit of Manchester City to the Emirates in their next game could prove pivotal to the Gunners’ immediate hopes.
And for an outside bet to crash the Champions League party, how about Everton? On the back of six consecutive home wins and the potent goalscoring exploits of Romelu Lukaku, could the Toffees take advantage if others stumble?
So while the chase for the Champions League is fierce at the top, it is nothing compared to the desperate fight at the bottom to avoid the dreaded relegation trapdoor.
Although nothing is decided yet, Sunderland manager David Moyes’ early season prediction that the Black Cats face a relegation dogfight has proved absolutely correct. Having regularly faced a return to the Championship over the last few seasons, it would seem that time and luck is running out for the Stadium of Light outfit as they have won only one of their last 11 league games since Christmas Day.
North-east rivals Middlesbrough haven’t recorded a Premier League win since 17 December, in a run that has seen Boro slide down the table and cost boss Aitor Karanka his job. Goals are the obvious problem as they have scored a division-low of only 20 in their 28 games.
Away form has blighted Hull City’s on-field season with only five points gathered on the road. The Tigers are unbeaten at the KCOM Stadium since Boxing Day though and they will hope recently appointed manager Marco Silva’s remarkable home record continues. He hasn’t lost a domestic home game since 30 March 2014 when in charge of Estoril.
The arrival of a new manager in the shape of Paul Clement appeared to have eased Swansea City’s concerns. But doubts are back in South Wales and the Swans’ next outing (at home to Middlesbrough) is arguably even more important than the proverbial six-pointer.
In contrast, after a slow start, Sam Allardyce appears to working the oracle at Crystal Palace. Three consecutive wins without reply have set Palace going in the right direction with Big Sam explaining the simple solution:
“No doubt the biggest problem was the amount of goals we were conceding and now we are not conceding those goals.”
Leicester City’s change of manager has seen their amazing return to the supremely confident Foxes of last season so that leaves Watford looking over their shoulder at possible danger.
The Hornets have only won twice in the Premier League since 10 December and murmurings of discontent have increased around Vicarage Road.
What is for certain is that there’ll be plenty of twists and turns, and plenty of odds available at footballbets.tips before all is settled on Sunday 21 May.