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.

 


Embiid returns to help 76ers beat Nets for 3-1 lead

Updated 21 April 2019
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Embiid returns to help 76ers beat Nets for 3-1 lead

  • The 76ers seized a 3-1 lead in the first-round series against the Nets

NEW YORK: Philadelphia’s Joel Embiid returned from injury to score a game-high 31 points and grab 16 rebounds, powering the 76ers to a 112-108 NBA playoff victory at Brooklyn on Saturday.
Despite a third-quarter incident that saw two players ejected, the 76ers seized a 3-1 lead in the first-round series against the Nets and could advance in the Eastern Conference best-of-seven matchup with a home victory Tuesday.
In the other Eastern Conference game, Khris Middleton finished with 20 points and nine rebounds as the top-seeded Milwaukee Bucks put the Detroit Pistons on the brink of elimination with a 119-103 win. The victory give the Bucks a 3-0 lead and they can wrap up the series with a win on the road in the Motor City on Monday.
Philadelphia, down by 10 points early in the third quarter, battled back most of the second half before taking the lead on a run of eight points by Embiid, who missed game three with a sore left knee.
A slam dunk and layup by Embiid gave the 76ers their first late lead at 102-101 but, after an exchange of layups and three-pointers as well as turnovers, fell behind 108-107 on a basket by Brooklyn’s Joe Harris with 25 seconds remaining.
On the next 76er possession, Embiid flipped the last of his seven assists to Mike Scott, whose corner three-pointer put Philadelphia ahead to stay 110-108 with 19 seconds remaining.
Australian Ben Simmons — who added 15 points, eight rebounds and eight assists for the 76ers — stole the ball from Brooklyn’s Jarett Allen and Tobias Harris sank two free throws for the last of his 24 points to clinch the triumph.
Caris LeVert led the Nets with 25 points while Brooklyn had 21 points each from Allen and D’Angelo Russell.
Cameroon star center Embiid was issued a flagrant foul in touching off an altercation 4:18 into the third quarter that saw Philadelphia’s Jimmy Butler Brooklyn’s Jared Dudley ejected. Embiid, who had elbowed Allen in the face in game two, was whistled for a hard foul on Allen that prompted Dudley to rush at Embiid, taking down the Sixers big man. Butler swung his left arm at Dudley, who wound up in the front row seats with Simmons at one stage, to earn his ejection.
In Detroit, Brook Lopez tallied 19 points and had seven rebounds and five blocked shots and Eric Bledsoe scored 19 points for the Bucks.
Giannis Antetokounmpo delivered 14 points and 10 rebounds for his third straight double-double in the series and Nikola Mirotic chipped in 12 points.
Detroit’s hobbled star Blake Griffin had 27 points in 31 minutes after he missed the first two games of the series with a sore knee.
Griffin was cleared with his leg heavily wrapped but it didn’t change the outcome.
The Pistons have now lost 13 straight playoff games dating back to 2008. In the Western Conference, the Denver Nuggets — led by game highs of 29 points, 12 rebounds and eight assists from Serbian playmaker Nikola Jokic — pulled level with San Antonio at 2-2 in their opening series with a 117-103 road triumph over the Spurs.