Is the Premier League already a two-horse race?

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It look like the title will be a fight between City and Chelsea this season, even though there is over half a season still to go. (AFP)
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Updated 06 December 2018
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Is the Premier League already a two-horse race?

  • City and Liverpool look like the sides to beat.
  • Wheels come off Sarri's Chelsea after two defeats in 10 days.

After a full pre-festive fixture list in the Premier League, we thought it a good time to step back and see what is happening in the world’s most popular league before the hectic winter schedule.

IS THE TITLE ALREADY A TWO-HORSE RACE?

The Premier League is often accused of being too predictable. That, bar the did-that-really-happen, still-cannot-believe-it shock of Leicester City winning the trophy in 2016, the champions will only come from an ever more detached group of moneybags teams. This season could be the most predictable yet. It's not even Christmas and we are already calling this season’s title race a two-horse affair. Liverpool, in second, are already six points ahead of Tottenham in third and Manchester City, the current leaders, are another two points in front of them.
It is not just the gap, though, that suggests the other teams are playing for Champions League spots — the Reds and City look a class apart.
While the top two were easily — with a healthy mix of fight and flair — picking up three points at tricky away ties at Burnley and Watford, their rivals for the title were looking shaky rather than solid.
Spurs, for all their brilliance in attack, looked brittle at the back against a Southampton team that has won just once this season. Arsenal could not beat the most lackluster Manchester United side we can remember (see below) and Chelsea lost to newly promoted Wolves, their second defeat in the space of 10 days. It may not be what you want to hear, but make no mistake about it, the race for the title is already a two-horse one and we are not even near the back straight.



MANCHESTER UNITED LIFELESS UNDER MOURINHO

It is hard to put into words just how bad Manchester United have become under Jose Mourinho.
The reaction to the 2-2 draw at home to Arsenal said it all. Apparently, having looked devoid of fight during their 2-2 draw at Southampton on Saturday, the fact that United showed some intensity against the Gunners was a sign of progression and of things going the right way. In that one sentence you have proof that under the Portuguese the Old Trafford club have become B-list. Fight and intensity are the very least you expect from a club with the biggest wage bill in the Premier League. But under Mourinho the talk and tone has changed. From being perennial title favorites, the coach now talks in terms of finishing in the top four as a success.
Under Sir Alex Ferguson, United won titles and trophies galore. Under Mourinho — brought over two years ago to bring back the glory days — the fans now are served up dull, defensive football, without hope of silverware. United are eighth, eight points off a Champions League spot, 18 points behind City, and behind Bournemouth.
Mourinho has spent his career sucking the life out of football, and now it seems he is slowly sucking the life out of United.



CHELSEA RUN OUT OF STEAM

Maurizio Sarri enjoyed a great start to life as coach of the Blues. He broke the shackles of Antonio Conte’s regime and brought in a more attacking philosophy. Eden Hazard was playing some of the football of his career, they were unbeaten in their first 12 matches and looking good for a title challenge.
Over the past 10 days the idea that the chain-smoking Italian could turn the Blues from a fifth-placed side to potential champions has been dealt a knee-high tackle.
It took Pep Guardiola a year to impose his will and system on City and it seems the same length of time is needed, at the very least, for Sarri to do the same at Stamford Bridge. Being outclassed by Spurs two weeks ago and outfought at Wolves highlighted the need for N’Golo Kante to play in his favored position as defensive midfielder, but those defeats also laid bare the extent of the job the likeable Sarri has on his hands.
They head into tomorrow’s home clash against City 10-points adrift of the league leaders and it is likely to get worse before it gets better.

 


Virat Kohli savors first India win over Australia Down Under for a decade

Updated 10 December 2018
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Virat Kohli savors first India win over Australia Down Under for a decade

  • India's last triumph on Australian soil at the WACA in Perth in 2008
  • Kohli confident win sets tourists up for a series win.

ADELAIDE: Virat Kohli said it was “very special” to captain India to their first Test win in Australia for a decade and gave his side crucial momentum in their bid for a maiden series victory.
The visitors won a tightly-contested opening Test in Adelaide by 31 runs on the fifth day after setting Australia a target of 323, which would have been a record run chase at the ground.
It was a big breakthrough for Kohli’s men, with their last triumph on Australian soil at the WACA Ground in Perth in 2008. In Adelaide, their sole previous win was in 2003.
“Obviously it’s a great feeling. We’ve never taken a lead in a series in Australia, something that for us is a huge boost,” he said.
“And it’s given us the right momentum that we needed to play a big series like this and it’s something that we’ve had to work hard for.
“Any Test victory is special because you work hard over five days, and then the physical and the mental toil and the emotion of it all comes together in a result is a very special feeling.”
Kohli, who has long led India’s batting charge with admirable consistency across all three formats but failed to fire in Adelaide, said he believed his team collectively were better than Australia and deserved to win.
The victory was built on Cheteshwar Pujara’s first innings 123 and his second innings 71, while wicketkeeper Rishabh Pant took a world record-equalling 11 catches.
“It was priceless from Pujara, we were down and out at lunch on day one. His grit and determination brought us back in it,” said Kohli.
“We always knew that runs on the board would make the home side tentative. Any lead was gold and we got 15. In the second innings again, he and Rahane batted well.”
Asked if thought 323 would be enough to win, Kohli said his middle and lower order could have done better after a five for 25 collapse at the end of the second innings.
“We could have added another 30-35 runs more which could have taken the game totally beyond Australia,” he said.
“So these are things that we have to think about going to Perth, but if someone had told me before the series that I would be 1-0 up as soon we started the series, I would have taken it with both hands.”
The second Test starts on Friday in Perth, with Melbourne and Sydney to follow.