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Are Manchester City Still Favourites for This Season's Premier League Crown?

Despite the fact that there is increased uncertainty over which side will be top of the Premier League pile after 38 games have been played, an almost unanimous favourite has emerged - Manchester City. The reasons for this are clear...

It is well documented that this season's Premier League is one of the most competitive in recent memory. This is a fact that becomes increasingly apparent when compared with the Spanish, French and German top divisions. You could certainly argue that the extra competitiveness is due to a lack of strength of the top teams in the league when compared with some of their European rivals, but there are not many football fans in England who would prefer a German or French style duopoly over what we have in the Premier League this season.

Nowadays, the game is a global brand worth more money than most of us could ever imagine and this is one of the factors that has led to the domination of certain clubs. Ultimately, however, football is all about entertainment and having fun - and there is certainly more entertainment to be had from a league where the winner is not decided before Christmas.

I digress... Despite the fact that there is increased uncertainty over which side will be top of the Premier League pile after 38 games have been played, an almost unanimous favourite has emerged - Manchester City.

The reasons for this are clear. They have the strongest squad on paper and have dished out thrashings left, right and centre to teams up and down the Premier League chart. Despite this, there have also been some slip ups. Most notably at the beginning of the season against the likes of Cardiff and more recently the defeat to Chelsea and a draw at Norwich have left the top of the table very tight with Chelsea just out in front.

In fact, despite still being favourites, Manchester City have not been on top of the league for very long at all this season. First it was Arsenal's impressive consistency that kept City at bay and now, perhaps more ominously, it is Jose Mourinho's Chelsea. On paper, the Blues are probably the second strongest side in the league and City's main rivals.

At the beginning of the season, the return of the 'Happy One' to Chelsea did not necessarily have the instant impact that many had hoped. Mourinho's men were not playing badly, but at the same time were not finding the consistency of Arsenal or smashing an average of four goals per game like City.

What they did do, however, was keep pace with the leading pack. It has taken longer than many Chelsea fans had hoped, but Jose Mourinho's side now look the complete package. They possess all the solidity of a trademark Mou team and balanced perfectly on top of this is the intense creativity and flair of their star studded attacking midfield - most notably that of Eden Hazard. Possibly the only asset that Chelsea currently lack is a striker to match the quality of the attacking midfielders who float in, out and around him.

That being said, this season's Premier League is still far from a two-horse race between City and Chelsea. In fact, Arsenal are still above City and behind Chelsea by only a solitary point while Liverpool aren't too far behind either. Even Everton and Tottenham have not fallen so far behind that they can be forgotten about (although it would surely take something superhuman for either of these sides to steal the crown). Nonetheless, for Chelsea, Arsenal, Manchester City or Liverpool, all it takes is a good run of wins or a couple of losses for any of their fates to be decided. Thrilling stuff.

Liverpool are lagging a couple of wins behind the top three, but while every side above them returns to Champions League duty in the not-too-distant future, Brendan Rodgers' men do not. Liverpool's remaining fixtures against top Premier League sides are also spaced out, which may be an advantage when compared to the likes of Arsenal who face Tottenham, Chelsea, Manchester City and Everton consecutively in four games which will surely decide their season.

City have a relatively straightforward run of games in the league apart from consecutive games against Manchester United and Arsenal, although they have the small matter of still being involved in all four competitions to worry about. One would imagine that a competition will have to be sacrificed at some stage, but manager Manuel Pellegrini will be refusing to rule out an historic quadruple for now.

Chelsea's Premier League run-in forces them to face Everton, Spurs and Arsenal within five games. They have already taken the maximum amount of points from Man City and will be hoping that Arsenal and Liverpool, as well as any others, can dent City's shot at a second Premier League title in three years.

Chelsea are top of the league and are only getting better. Liverpool have just destroyed Arsenal 5-1 and do not have to put any resources into this season's Champions League. Arsenal are just a single point behind the leaders and will be looking to put things right after their embarrassment against Liverpool, while Tottenham and Everton simply refuse to lie down and be counted out of the running.

Manchester City may still have the strongest squad and be the favourite for the majority, but they need to push on and soon. Their rivals are only getting stronger and the top spot that many believed they would take with ease has eluded them for almost the entire season.

Although Manchester City are still the favourites of many to win the title, it has become less of a sure thing over the course of the season. After destroying several teams you would expect them to be on top by some distance. Unfortunately for Pellegrini, however, no matter how many goals you win by, you still only win the three points.

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