The Premier League Title Race At The One Third Mark

Manchester City left winger Leroy Sané celebrates during City's 2-0 win over Fulham. PICTURE: Getty Images

By Trevor Marks

LONDON: These are the five teams to keep an eye on if you’re tracking the Premier League title hunt, with Manchester City and Liverpool looking like the best of the best so far.

This weekend’s matches in the English Premier League take us into the middle section of the season. With teams playing their 14th matches, the first third of the season is already past, which isn’t a bad time to take stock of how things are shaping up.

Right now, Manchester City remains in the driver’s seat for the Premier League title, which would make for a third championship in six seasons, and a second straight. The club has gone undefeated thus far in 2018/19 with an 11-2-0 record good for 35 points, and star striker Sergio Aguero is once again at the top of the league in scoring, dead even with Arsenal’s Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang as of this moment. Raheem Sterling has arguably been the team’s best player, however, with seven goals and eight assists (which leads the EPL) to date.

Things will get more difficult for City from here on out, however. Two of the club’s next three EPL matches will be at Chelsea and against an impressive Everton squad. City will also host Liverpool, Arsenal, and Chelsea all between now and early February, making this middle portion of the schedule arguably the most difficult.

It is perhaps for this reason that there’s already talk of City pursuing major transfers, most notably for Spanish star Isco. Even without any major moves in the winter transfer window though, Man City has to be considered the favorite.

Nipping at City’s heels, however, is the Liverpool team that so many believed would be in the title mix heading into the season, particularly following its excellent Champions League run last spring. Look to platforms with up-to-date information on football betting, even outside of the English wagering sites, and you’ll see Liverpool with the best odds to win the league almost across the board. At some sites, in fact, they’re not too far from being even with Manchester City, despite being two points back in the standings.

So, what’s gone right for Liverpool? How about a little bit of everything. Following a slow start, 2017/18 breakout star Mohamed Salah is back on top of his game and tied in the top-three in the league in scoring, and others like Xherdan Shaqiri and Sadio Mané have been regular offensive contributors as well.

While Liverpool was expected to score well though, its defense has far exceeded expectations, with the club allowing only five goals in its first 13 contests to match Man City. Simply put, Jurgen Klopp has his club playing unified, polished football, and the results speak for themselves. Liverpool is a true title contender.

Tottenham, Chelsea, and Arsenal round out the rest of what looks like a five-team top tier of the 2018/19 Premier League. One-third of the way into the season is not so far in that nothing can change in this regard, but the five-point gap between fifth place Arsenal and sixth place Everton feels significant already. What remains to be seen is if a true contender exists in this group of three teams.

Right now you could make a legitimate argument for each of the three. Tottenham has played the best football to date, has already defeated Chelsea once, and has Harry Kane playing at close to top form. Chelsea remains the most talented of these three teams, however, and has the best goal differential to show for it.

The Blues have lost just one match to Tottenham’s three, but have underperformed by way of four draws in 13 matches. Arsenal, meanwhile, is unlikely to contend seriously with a larger deficit to make up. However, in its first season under new manager Unai Emery, the club has already shown improvement and thus could have the most potential to get stronger as the season progresses.

The Gunners have scored as many goals as Chelsea, and more than both Tottenham and Liverpool, though as has often been the case, the defense needs a boost.

These are the five teams to keep an eye on if you’re tracking the Premier League title hunt, with Manchester City and Liverpool looking like the best of the best so far

Marks is a freelance writer and blogger. He writes primarily about sports, but also occasionally covers travel and international affairs.