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Friday, 18 January, 2019

Odds-on Blues still face massive test to win Premier League

City capable of launching comeback title triumph

Pep Guardiola and Sergio Aguero can help Man City win the title
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The 2016-17 Premier League season promised to be a thriller and it has not disappointed with the 17 rounds of matches producing 478 goals at an average of 2.81 per match.

Four teams - Chelsea, Liverpool, Manchester City and Arsenal - have hit the summit at some stage, while in late October the top five (add Tottenham to the above quartet) were separated by one point.

However, what threatened to be an epic title race has been somewhat taken off course by Chelsea's current 11-match winning run which sees them head into Christmas with a six-point advantage and odds-on to be crowned champions.

It's all a long way from the 25-1 being offered after the 3-0 thrashing Antonio Conte's side received at the Emirates.

That result saw Conte ditch a back four and switch to a 3-4-3 formation and Chelsea have won their last 11 matches by an aggregate 25-2.

Diego Costa leads the goalscoring charts, Eden Hazard has returned to something like his best and summer arrivals N'Golo Kante and David Luiz have made positive impacts on the starting 11. 

The good news for Racing Post Sport followers is that Chelsea were the ante-post selection; the bad news is they no longer look value.

Chelsea's consistent results have been helped by a consistency in team selection with Conte able to select the same team for six consecutive matches and it has just been minor tinkering in December to manage the packed schedule.

How will Chelsea cope if they are forced to make significant changes, something that has already damaged all of their rivals?

There is no natural replacement for Kante nor Luiz. The same could be said for left wing-back Marcos Alonso and Costa has already played 1,501 minutes, the most of any Premier League forward.

As quickly as Chelsea have opened up this six-point advantage it could just as easily slip away and City will still be wondering how they managed to lose 3-1 at home to the leaders earlier this month.

Kevin De Bruyne's open-goal miss that would have put them two up could be the most decisive moment of the campaign come May but there is enough time for the ante-post favourites to launch a comeback.

When Sergio Aguero returns from his latest suspension the City hotshot will have spent six league matches banned this season but he has still scored ten goals, an average of one every 101 minutes.

Aguero, De Bruyne and the rest helped City start the campaign with ten straight wins so they can put a string of victories together, while Gabriel Jesus's arrival next month only adds to the attacking options.

The obsessive Guardiola is fancied to eventually get his defensive ideas across and the superior squad at his disposal is why City get the nod over second-placed Liverpool.

Jurgen Klopp's side are the Premier League's leading scorers with the mobile front three of Sadio Mane, Sadio Mane and Philippe Coutinho causing carnage in opposition defences.

Liverpool have not looked anywhere near as slick during Coutinho's recent absence and five points have been collected in the four matches missed by Adam Lallana.

Fourth-placed Arsenal started last week eyeing the title but begin this one looking over their shoulders with Tottenham and Manchester United putting pressure on their Champions League spot.

Nothing seems to have changed for Arsenal, who are without a title since 2004 and are unlikely to claw back nine points on Chelsea.

Spurs, one point behind their north London neighbours, have rarely played with the intensity which dazzled in last season's title near- miss and struggled to successfully rotate the starting 11.

Bookmakers are celebrating United's demise after they were all the rage in the ante-post betting markets following the arrivals of Jose Mourinho, Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Paul Pogba.

United's slow start sees them 13 points behind Chelsea and with too much to do. The same cannot be said across Manchester.

New recommendation
Man City to win Premier League
1pt 5-1 bet365

Already advised
Chelsea to win Premier League
1pt each-way (three places) 11-2 bet365

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How will Chelsea cope if they are forced to make significant changes, something that has already damaged all of their rivals?
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