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Thursday, 13 December, 2018

Spurs have the quality to secure top-four finish

Defensive errors remain a major concern for Liverpool

Harry Kane could guide Tottenham to a Champions League spot
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The Premier League once prided itself on being the most competitive domestic championship in the world - but that was before Pep Guardiola got to grips with it.

Guardiola's first campaign at Manchester City was a disappointment but this term has been much more like the domination he once enjoyed with Barcelona and Bayern Munich as the leaders have turned the title race into a procession.

City, 11 points clear and 1-33 for the title, have dropped just two points all season and that draw with Everton came early in August when Kyle Walker suffered a first-half red card. They have won a record-breaking 16 straight league games and matching Arsenal's Invincibles is becoming a realistic target.

Betfred followed Paddy Power's lead by paying out on City and only a remarkable collapse combined with a sizzling run from one of their rivals can deny Guardiola a first Premier League crown.

City have already overcome injuries so that can't be seen as a potential weakness. 

John Stones and Vincent Kompany have spent time on the sidelines, while ace left-back Benjamin Mendy has been ruled out until April and yet has not been overly missed with Fabian Delph a surprise revelation in the role.

Ilkay Gundogan, Yaya Toure and Bernardo Silva are in reserve should anything happen to Fernandinho, Kevin De Bruyne or David Silva, while Guardiola has the dream job of rotating Gabriel Jesus and Sergio Aguero up front.

Ther pace of Raheem Sterling and Leroy Sane stretches opponents, they are tactically flexible and have already been away to their two nearest challengers, Manchester United and Chelsea.

Goalkeeper Ederson is another weapon unique to City. He has the spring of Michael Jordan and the long-range passing ability of Glenn Hoddle. It has been an absolute pleasure to watch their masterclass. Fraudiola eh?

Punters looking for a bet are left with two realistic options - betting without City or the top-four market - and the battle for the Champions League spots makes more sense as there is no incentive for teams to push for second. Four teams will directly qualify for next season's Champions League so that will be the only target.

United have not been particularly impressive for much of the season, although Paul Pogba's injury and suspension have not helped Jose Mourinho's men.

Despite that, United are still more consistent than ArsenalLiverpool and Tottenham which should be enough for a top-four finish, just as the market predicts.

Chelsea's squad looked thin in the summer and that has been the case with Antonio Conte unable to juggle the demands of European football, a problem which they did not have in last season's title success.

They are odds-on to exit the Champions League to Barcelona at the last-16 stage so that may help the Blues in their top-four quest, but they cannot be considered certainties at a short price.

There remains no proper back-up for N'Golo Kante and Alvaro Morata and the defence looks less secure after a changing of the guard. Gary Cahill is out of form and David Luiz out of favour with Andreas Christensen becoming an increasingly influential figure in Chelsea's back three.

On their day Liverpool are the closest side to City with Mo Salah, Philippe Coutinho, Roberto Firmino and Sadio Mane capable of running riot.

However, their defensive errors remain a major concern, as is the future of Coutinho with talk of a switch to Barcelona resurfacing in time for January.

Arsenal also face a nervous window with Alexis Sanchez and Mesut Ozil out of contract in the summer. Arsene Wenger publically states the duo will stay but Sanchez was extremely close to a transfer to City in the summer so the champions-elect could easily test the Gunners' resolve.

Two away wins is not encouraging either and the home festive double-header with Liverpool and Chelsea needs to go well otherwise the Wenger out brigade will return in force.

That leaves Tottenham, on the ropes after recent defeats at United, Arsenal and City, but until recently regarded by many as the second-best side in the league.

Toby Alderweireld being out until February is not ideal but Davinson Sanchez, Erik Lamela and Victor Wanyama have returned, or will do so in the coming matches, and that's a real boost to Mauricio Pochettino's squad.

Pochettino has not become a bad manager overnight, nor have Harry Kane, Christian Eriksen and Dele Alli become bad players. It was not that long ago they were stuffing Real Madrid at Wembley and with the national stadium now feeling more like home, expect a strong finish.

Tottenham top-four finish
1pt 15-8 Betfair, Sky Bet

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Pochettino has not become a bad manager overnight, nor have Harry Kane, Christian Eriksen and Dele Alli become bad players
E.W. Terms
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