In Depth

Liverpool for the title - but who will finish second in the Premier League?

The champions Man City are suddenly fourth in the table behind Leicester and Chelsea

Jurgen Klopp’s Liverpool side are 2/5 on to win the Premier League after their decisive victory over Manchester City on Sunday and most commentators now agree that the title is theirs to lose.

Sky Sports pundit Jose Mourinho said after the 3-1 win at Anfield: “From my position, I think it's done unless something, something dramatic happens in terms of an injury situation that breaks the team.

“I think this Liverpool team... it's adapted to the quality of the players and the puzzle is complete. City are capable of winning seven, eight, nine in a row, but I can't see how Liverpool can lose this advantage.”

And fellow Sky commentator Gary Neville agrees. “Liverpool are playing Premier League title-winning football and have been for the last 18 months. Yes, they could blow this lead, yes City could come back, yes there could be a shock from Chelsea or Leicester, but it's becoming more unlikely.”

If Liverpool do carry on in their current vein then it seems the title race is done and dusted and battle between the three teams Neville mentions – City, Leicester and Chelsea – will be for second place.

So, will City ­­– at one point title favourites – find themselves looking over their shoulders as Leicester and Chelsea chase them down.

Here’s how the battle for second is shaping up:

Leicester City:

The spirit of 2016 appears to have been rekindled at the King Power Stadium, and after outclassing Arsenal Leicester’s Champions League credentials are “increasingly hard to resist” says Nick Ames in The Guardian.

“Even accounting for the excellence of Liverpool and Manchester City, it is hard to pinpoint a better-balanced unit in the top flight; nor a manager who has been able to instil his vision with such clarity in a time frame this narrow.

“With Wilfred Ndidi and [Youri] Tielemans, [James] Maddison caps the most exciting midfield three in the country. Their snap off the ball and control after winning it… are formidable and the composure with which Leicester pick their passes around the area resembles that of a team far longer in the making.”

And according to website Football Web Pages, it is Leicester who will hold on to finish second this season. It’s predictor tool suggests the Foxes will draw with City and beat Liverpool over the Christmas period and then down City in February as they go the rest of the season unbeaten. It might sound far-fetched but Leicester have done it before...

Chelsea:

Frank Lampard’s Chelsea side have overcome a shaky start to the season and are up to third after a fine run of six straight wins. They are level on points with Leicester and one ahead of City.

Lampard has devised a clever game plan that relies on overloading the wide areas, says JJ Bull in the Daily Telegraph. “Chelsea are great fun to watch when they flow forward like this but whether it will work against teams like Liverpool and Manchester City, their next opponent, is another matter. City will be wise to the wide overloads and built to hit Chelsea in transition,” he says.

Former boss Mourinho is also unsure that they can maintain that momentum and does not believe they have what it takes to win big games. But Lampard’s assistant Jody Morris laughed off his concerns, reports the Daily Mail.

Meanwhile Jermaine Jenas has changed his mind about the top four finishers this season, and has said he believes Chelsea will claim a Champions League spot. “I think what Frank’s [Lampard] got going there is solid. The players are top drawer,” he said.

Man City:

Bruised and battered after yet another horror show at Anfield, can City bounce back? There are worrying signs for Pep Guardiola whose side have twice conceded three goals in defeats this season.

Sky pundit Neville says there was an absence of “toughness and authority” about Guardiola’s side, while the manager failed to come up with a plan to knock Liverpool off their stride.

The City manager’s fury at refereeing decisions was reminiscent of Basil Fawlky, says Matt Dickinson in The Times and speaks of a wider frustration.

“However bright and brilliant these top coaches are, they struggle to keep their sanity on afternoons like this, especially when a league title is slipping away as this one surely has from City,” he says. “Nine points is not insurmountable but there is something more hardened about this Liverpool side and more fragile about City.

“With 25 points from 12 league games, it is the lowest total by a Guardiola side at this stage of a top-flight campaign though this was not a statistic, or a defeat, to extrapolate into any sort of crisis.”

But it does mean that the pressure will now be on City to succeed in Europe and that could perhaps mean less of a focus on the Premier League.

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