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Title challenge has already become a one-horse race

Cruise control: Manchester City are firmly in pole position to lift a third English Premier League title in four seasons

Is the English Premier League title race already as good as over?

A 3-1 victory away to Everton secured Manchester City a seventeenth successive win in all competitions and also saw their lead at the top extended to ten points with 14 matches remaining.

Having witnessed their prowess first hand, Toffees manager Carlo Ancelotti conceded it is “almost impossible” for anyone to compete against Pep Guardiola’s champions-elect.

"I think so, it is really difficult to say another name," said the Italian when asked if Everton had lost to the team that will become champions.

"It was hard, almost impossible. At the moment they are the best team, they have quality, power, belief. It is very difficult to compete with them."

The pacesetters head to Arsenal this weekend amid a host of derby-day encounters including on Merseyside, the Midlands, London and the less straightforward encounter on the South Coast between rivals Brighton & Hove Albion and Crystal Palace in the A23 Derby

Today

Wolverhampton Wanderers v Leeds United

4pm

Ahead of a visit from Leeds, Wolves have regained form and will be aiming to extend their unbeaten run to four matches.

Nuno Espírito Santo’s men head into the encounter on the back a 2-1 victory over out-of-sorts Southampton in which they were forced to come from behind, with second-half goals from Ruben Neves and the impressive Pedro Neto completing the turnaround.

However, the hosts will be wary of the threat of the visitors, who sit one place and two points ahead of Wolves, having played a game less.

Marcelo Bielsa’s charges will also be desperate to make amends for a disappointing 4-2 defeat at the hands of Arsenal last time out.

Prediction: 1-1

Tomorrow

Southampton v Chelsea

8.30am

One club in need of a change of fortune more than most are Southampton.

No one’s league form in recent weeks has been as bad as the Saints, who suffered a sixth successive defeat in the loss to Wolves.

They won’t relish a visit from Chelsea, who have enjoyed a stellar start to life under new manager Thomas Tuchel.

Since replacing Frank Lampard at Stamford Bridge in January, the German has remained unbeaten at the helm, drawing his first match before going on to mastermind four successive victories to leave the Blues in fourth place.

Prediction: 1-3

Burnley v West Bromwich Albion

11am

Burnley will be aiming to put more daylight between themselves and the drop zone when they host relegation-threatened West Brom.

Sean Dyche’s men halted a three-match winless run in emphatic style with an impressive 3-0 victory away to Crystal Palace last time out, leaving them in fifteenth place and eight points clear of the bottom three.

The Baggies travel to Turf Moor on the back of an unexpected 1-1 draw against Manchester United last time out; however, they have still failed to pick up a much needed victory in their previous six matches.

Sam Allardyce will be well aware of the need to string a run of wins together sooner rather than later, with his side second bottom and 12 points adrift of safety.

Prediction: 2-1

Liverpool v Everton

1.30pm

Both of these fierce rivals will be desperate for victory, not only for bragging rights in the city but also to get their seasons back on track.

For their standards, defending champions Liverpool find themselves in somewhat of a mini-crisis having suffered three successive defeats in the league.

That run, including a 3-1 defeat away to Leicester last time out, even led to manager Jürgen Klopp facing questions regarding his immediate future and the possible need for a break.

Seventh-placed Everton, one place and three points behind their neighbours, haven’t been faring much better of late and head across the city after back-to-back defeats.

Prediction: 1-1

Fulham v Sheffield United

4pm

Fulham will be aiming to further enhance their chances of securing their Premier League status when they face basement boys Sheffield United.

The home side find themselves in the final relegation place and six points adrift of Newcastle in seventeenth.

However, in recent weeks, Scott Parker’s side have shown they could be capable of hauling themselves out of trouble, remaining unbeaten in their previous three matches.

A victory against their relegation rivals could heap further pressure on Newcastle United by closing the deficit to just three points, a huge incentive for the Cottagers.

The visitors head to Craven Cottage on the back of two successive defeats, including a 3-0 loss to West Ham, leaving them rooted at the foot of the table and 14 points adrift of safety.

Prediction: 2-1

Sunday

West Ham United v Tottenham Hotspur

8am

On present form, West Ham will be considered by many as the favourites ahead of welcoming Tottenham to the London Stadium.

David Moyes has drawn plaudits after guiding the Hammers to fifth place, level on points with Chelsea in fourth, having enjoyed a strong run of form.

The hosts have won four of their previous six matches and face Spurs on the back of a comfortable 3-0 victory over Sheffield United.

Having led the way earlier this season, Spurs’ form has taken a downturn to see them now languishing well off the pace in ninth place and a massive 20 points adrift of the summit.

Prediction: 2-2

Aston Villa v Leicester City

10.05am

An intriguing encounter pits Midlands rivals Aston Villa and Leicester against one another with both enjoying encouraging campaigns.

Leicester further emphasised their outside shot as title challengers after coming from to overcome champions Liverpool in a 3-1 win last weekend.

That left the Foxes in third place, level on points with Man United one above them. While they remain ten points adrift of leaders Man City, manager Brendan Rodgers will be desperate for his side to maintain the pressure on the those above them.

Villa have enjoyed a steady season, finding themselves in comfortably in eighth with games in hand on those around them. Victory in this match could see them move to within one point of Liverpool in sixth.

Prediction: 2-2

Arsenal v Manchester City

12.30pm

Can Arsenal slow down Man City’s charge towards the title?

The league leaders overturned a goal deficit to beat Everton last time out and extend their record-breaking winning sequence to 17 games.

On paper, inconsistent Arsenal don't stand out as a potential stumbling block to Pep Guardiola’s men; however, the Gunners come into the game on the back of a 4-2 thumping of Leeds United.

Despite being unbeaten in their past six home matches, worrying for Mikel Arteta’s men is that they have failed to overcome City in their previous ten attempts.

Prediction: 1-3

Manchester United v Newcastle United

3pm

Ahead of a trip to Old Trafford, Newcastle may be looking over their shoulder, fearful of the threat of being dragged fully into the relegation battle.

Despite not enduring disastrous recent form, the Magpies sit one place above the drop zone and hold a six-point advantage over Fulham in eighteenth.

However, Geordies fans will be well aware of the fragility of their present position, particularly if they suffer defeat and Fulham win, resulting in their advantage being reduced to just three points.

Ominously for Steve Bruce’s side, Man United will be desperate to make amends after being held to a disappointing draw by relegation-threatened West Brom, while the visitors have also failed to claim all three points at Old Trafford in their previous five attempts.

Prediction: 3-0

Monday

Brighton & Hove Albion v Crystal Palace

4pm

Palace fans will be fearing the worse ahead of facing rivals Brighton at the Amex Stadium.

The Eagles suffered a second straight defeat in a woeful 3-0 humbling at home to Burnley on Saturday, leaving supporters once again bemoaning a distinct lack of attacking intent and organisation at the other end of the field.

The defeat again highlighted Palace’s glaring dependence on Wilfried Zaha, with this their eighteenth defeat in the past 20 games the forward has missed. All connected to the club will be desperate for his return to fitness ahead of the trip to the South Coast.

While restlessness is rising in South London, Brighton have enjoyed an upturn in form of late, winning three of their past six games.

And while they find themselves two places and three points below Monday’s visitors, many Seagulls fans will feel confident of gaining three points and the bragging rights.

Prediction: 1-1

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Published February 19, 2021 at 8:00 am (Updated February 18, 2021 at 8:15 pm)

Title challenge has already become a one-horse race

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