English Premiership

Manchester City, United are the teams to beat

2017-10-08 06:02
SPECIAL ONE: José Mourinho has had a brilliant start this season. (Getty Images)

Johannesburg - We’re only seven games in, but after the blistering start the two Manchester clubs have made, it’s not looking too good if you’re a Chelsea, Arsenal, Tottenham or Liverpool supporter.

Score the most goals, concede the least, and the odds of winning the title are pretty high. So far, the two Manchester clubs have conceded only twice in seven league outings, with the arrival of goalkeeper Ederson Moraes seemingly solving City’s previous issues at the back. Up front, the team in blue have blazed in 22 goals already, and United are just behind with 21. Spurs, with 14 goals, are a distant third.

High percentage

Defending champions Chelsea may be found to be wanting for depth up front, and the same can certainly be said of the Harry Kane-powered Spurs. There appears to be no end to Liverpool’s defensive woes, while the ever fragile Arsenal camp is unsettled.

So it may just boil down to a two-horse race between the Manchester teams, and it’s Pep Guardiola’s men who appear to be a nose ahead of their neighbours at present.

United are still having to grind out some of their results, and a fairly high percentage of their goals have come in the final 10 minutes of matches.

The Red Devils are also yet to face any of their title rivals.

City, on the other hand, are absolutely flying – they are ripping opponents apart with their fluent transitions and incisive attacking play; looking like a team very much in the Guardiola mould. They thumped Liverpool 5-0 and completely outplayed champions Chelsea in a recent 1-0 win in London. The superb Kevin De Bruyne is making his enormous transfer fee seem a bargain, Raheem Sterling is back to his best, and, up front, Sergio Agüero and Gabriel Jesus are quickly forming a deadly partnership.

More trepidation

Manchester United legend Ryan Giggs recently told Sky: “I think Chelsea will still be in the mix, but you’ve got to say City and Manchester United have been impressive and are the teams to beat. I think we are seeing the managers imprinting their own visions on their teams. In Pep’s case, with the goals they score and the chances they are creating, it’s exciting for City fans right now".

That said, United manager José Mourinho has brought back a lot of the confidence, swagger and, equally importantly, the tenacity and will to win. The more attack-minded approach has got the supporters on board again. Opposition sides appear to be lining up with more trepidation against United than they have over the past few years.

Nemanja Matic and Romelu Lukaku have given the team an extra edge, although the key could be the contribution from the likes of Marcus Rashford, Anthony Martial and Henrikh Mkhitaryan – if they carry on racking up goals and assists, United could take some stopping.

The next month, with games to come against Spurs, Liverpool and Chelsea, will show just how up-for-it the Old Trafford club is. Of course, there will be twists and turns. Injuries will play a part and so could Champions League football.

But who would bet right now against the title race going down to the wire like it did at the end of the 2011/12 campaign, when Agüero’s 94th-minute winner saw City snatching it from United on goal difference? – TEAMtalk Media

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Friday, 20 October 2017
West Ham United v Brighton & Hove Albion, London Stadium 21:00
Saturday, 21 October 2017
Chelsea v Watford, Stamford Bridge 13:30
Stoke City v AFC Bournemouth, Bet365 Stadium 16:00
Manchester City v Burnley, Etihad Stadium 16:00
Swansea City v Leicester City, Liberty Stadium 16:00
Newcastle United v Crystal Palace, St. James' Park 16:00
Huddersfield Town v Manchester United, The John Smith's Stadium 16:00
Southampton v West Bromwich Albion, St. Mary's Stadium 18:30
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Everton v Arsenal, Goodison Park 14:30
Tottenham Hotspur v Liverpool, Wembley Stadium 17:00
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