Pundits, journalists and football fans alike have been calling this season the most open as far as the Premier League title race goes.
Arsenal have stepped up from pre-season fourth favourites to lead the league after 20 matches. Liverpool have surprised a few of us in competing for a top four spot. And Manchester United have dropped from pre-season third favourites to 33/1 long shots now.
When was the last time Manchester United were 33/1 to win the Premier League in January? If ever?
The bookmakers have it right in my opinion in making Manchester City and Chelsea the two favourites, even if Arsenal are leading the Premier League currently.
Manchester City are as short as 1/1, Chelsea 10/3 and Arsenal just behind at 4/1. Any other team winning the league now really would be a surprise. Football betting fans looking at the stats will know that Manchester City are scoring for fun and that Chelsea are starting to keep their clean sheets now in a very José Mourinho-like manor. Oh, and Arsenal have lost Theo Walcott for the rest of the season.
Despite an injury to Sergio Agüero during the 6-3 thrashing of Arsenal last month, Manchester City are 4 wins from 4 in the Premier League without their star player. Manuel Pellegrini’s side won 4-2 at Fulham, 2-1 against Liverpool, 1-0 over Crystal Palace and 3-2 at Swansea City.
Sure, the defending needs to be better at Manchester City; they may not be able to outscore every team this season (ie losing 3-2 at Cardiff and Aston Villa earlier this season). In truth, I was expecting Pellegrini to have this fixed by now.
City’s defensive problems can of course be related to injuries to captain Vincent Kompany and Matija Nastasić throughout the season. The pair have only partnered up for 4 full games in the Premier League so far this season. But that includes the last two – so perhaps now is when Manchester City’s defence gets tighter?
The goal threat in the team is quite unreal – Sergio Agüero has 13 goals in 15 appearances, Álvaro Negredo 8 goals in 19 appearances (5 as a substitute), Edin Džeko only has 4 goals in 14 appearances (6 as a substitute) but the Bosnian striker often gets in the right positions!
Yaya Touré has 10 goals in 19 starts from midfield, Samir Nasri 4 in 20 (5 as substitute) and Fernandinho and Jesús Navas have 3 each.
Chelsea may have their problems up front (Fernando Torres 3 goals in 15 appearances, Samuel Eto’o 3 goals in 11 appearances and Demba Ba 1 goal in 8 appearances) but they are the fourth highest-scoring team through 20 Premier League matches.
13 different players have found the back of the net for Chelsea this season (excluding own goals) – 8 of those have scored at least two.
Eden Hazard leads the club from the left forward position with 8 goals. Oscar, playing behind the striker has 6 and Frank Lampard has chipped in with 4 himself.
Chelsea’s midfield is certainly their strength – they are blessed with a whole host of playmakers in Hazard, Oscar, Willian and Juan Mata. Most of these know where the back of the net are too. Ramires is a bundle of energy that has had some success bursting forward too.
The defence is becoming more solid too after a shaky start – just 1 goal conceded in their last four Premier League games. That came courtesy of an early set free kick from Liverpool. Only Arsenal (18) have conceded fewer goals than Chelsea (19) through 20 games.
Trips to Manchester City (February) and Liverpool (April) are still to come for Mourinho’s side, but fans must be confident of picking up maximum points from their other away fixtures – Hull City, West Bromwich Albion, Fulham, Aston Villa, Crystal Palace, Swansea and Cardiff.
That means the big clubs, or the other title contenders are all coming to Stamford Bridge between now and the end of the season. Manchester United visit in under a fortnight – Tottenham and Arsenal follow in March.
Who’s going to write Mourinho off winning his third Premier League title in his fourth full season right now?
Chelsea kick off the Premier League this weekend when they travel to Hull City for Saturday’s lunchtime game. They will go top of the league, at least temporarily with a victory.
The Blues are 4/7 favourites with Paddy Power and having comfortably put away both Southampton and Derby County in the second half of their last two away games (both in 2013) I expect 3 points for Mourinho’s side.
Manchester City have it slightly tougher on Sunday when they travel to Newcastle. Slightly tougher at least according to Paddy Power, who are offering 4/6 for an away win.
Newcastle have a couple of defenders missing in Fabricio Coloccini and Mathieu Debuchy and have lost their last three matches in all competitions, including the 2-1 home loss to Cardiff City in the FA Cup last weekend.
Perhaps some cautious in-play betting from me but you’ve got to expect City are good enough with the form they are in to pick up 3 points from this game.
Who do you think will win the 2013-14 Premier League?