Even after suffering their first defeat of the Premier League season, Manchester City still sit atop the Premier League table, but archrivals and reigning league champions Manchester United are only two points behind and ready to pounce, and Tottenham, Chelsea, and Arsenal can‘t be dismissed at this juncture.
Right now, it’d appear that the title is destined for Manchester, but a couple of key matches over the final few weeks of 2011 will determine which side looks like the favorite heading into the new year, and which of the London sides enters 2012 best positioned to seriously threaten Manchester‘s monopoly on the top two spots in the table.
Manchester City v Arsenal
Arsenal take on table toppers Man City in the big game of the weekend at the Etihad Stadium on Sunday, and bookmakers look to have underestimated their chances by offering a tasty 5.5 about them causing an upset.
That really does look a massive price with Betfred, Boylesports and Paddy Power for the Gunners as they have been in terrific form in recent weeks and currently sit in fifth place – just nine points behind the league leaders.
Chelsea proved on Monday when coming from one down to beat City 2-1 that Roberto Mancini’s men are far from invincible, and Arsene Wenger will have taken plenty of encouragement from that result.
The stats certainly give Arsenal a better chance than what the bookies think, as City have lost at home to the Gunners 10 times in the Premier League and 20 times in all competitions.
The home side also really struggled in last month’s Carling Cup clash between the two sides, winning 1-0 with their only shot on target.
I really do think Arsenal are capable of serving it up to City especially given the goal scoring exploits of Robin van Persie.
The Dutchman has simply proved just too hot to handle this season and has now netted 33 goals in 32 Premier League games in 2011.
He has also scored an incredible 18 goals in his last 16 PL away appearances, so at 3 with Boylesports to score anytime during the 90 minutes he look incredible value.
Aston Villa v Liverpool
Liverpool look outstanding value at even money (2) to notch an away victory over Aston Villa.
The home side have won just one of the last 13 Premier League games at home against Liverpool and quite frankly are a negative side who find goal scoring a chore.
Since Kenny Dalglish returned to take over at Anfield the progress has been there for all to see and they are seven points better off than at this stage last season having developed into a sidet hat opponents once gain fear playing.
What is frustrating though is that they could be closer to the leaders as they have been creating plenty of chances which they have failed to convert.
They have also hit the woodwork on 15 occasions and would be sitting in third place in the table if those shots had all gone in.
With the likes of Suarez, Carroll, Bellamy, Adam and Kuyt at their disposal the Reds should really be scoring with far more fluency, but it’s surely only a matter of time before things change. If they do then the charge for the top four will certainly be on as they have the the best defensive record in the league.
What is good, as far as this match is concerned, is that Liverpool have a terrific record against the Villans.
They have taken more Premier League points off Villa than any other club so why they can be backed at 2 with Betfred is totally beyond me.
It looks like an early Christmas present and should be snapped up.
Wigan v Chelsea
Chelsea are a top priced 1.4 to beat Wigan at the DW Stadium , and given their current form another three points looks a formality.
Andre Villas-Boas has turned things round in recent weeks and the Blues come into this in red-hot form having come from 1-0 down and put in a superb performance to to beat table toppers Man City 2-1 earlier in the week.
They have scored 15 goals without reply in the last three matches against the Latics, who have won just one and lost 10 of the 12 Premier League meetings between the two sides.
The home side are really struggling and have taken just one point from the last 15 on their own patch. OK they have managed to win two out of their last three games, but those wins came against Sunderland and West Brom and sandwiched in between was a 4-0 tonking at the hands of Arsenal.
It really does look a case of how many Chelsea will put past them as they have also failed to keep a clean sheet in their last 12 PL games.
QPR v Manchester United
They have won eight and lost none of the last 11 meetings with the Hoops in all competitions and come into the game on the back of thrashing Wolves 4-1 to extend their unbeaten run in the league to eight (won 5, Drawn 3).
Sir Alex Ferguson’s young guns have also won five of their last six games and conceded just two goals in the process despite having their squad stretched.
This game really should hold no fears for them, and with Rooney and Nani back among the goals a comfortable victory looks on the cards.
Rooney ended his barren spell with two against Wolves and those goals will have have given his confidence a tremendous boost.
He is a top priced 4.33 with bet365 to open the scoring on Sunday, and that looks terrific value given that many firms go just 3.75.
Given that QPR have now lost four of their last six and are best with injuries it really is difficult to see them being able to trouble United, and the 2.37 with Paddy Power about us winning to nil looks a huge price and definitely worth a wager.