Smart money on run­away lead­ers

CITY COULD OPEN 12-POINT GAP ON THEIR RI­VALS Jose’s prob­lem: how to keep out Pep’s ram­pant strik­ers.

The Citizen (KZN) - - SPORT - Lon­don

Premier League lead­ers Manch­ester City can en­sure Manch­ester United’s re­cent re­vival is short-lived by open­ing up a 12-point gap on their lo­cal ri­vals to­mor­row.

The cham­pi­ons hold just a two-point lead over Chelsea and Liver­pool at the top of the ta­ble, but have looked re­lent­less in re­cent weeks and shown no sign of a slip in stan­dards from their record-break­ing 100-point Premier League cam­paign of last sea­son, scor­ing 12 times in their last two out­ings alone.

One of pre­cious few blem­ishes from last term, though, was blow­ing the chance to claim the ti­tle by beat­ing United at the Eti­had as City threw away a 2-0 half-time lead to lose 3-2.

That re­sult only marginally stemmed the tide in the power shift since Sir Alex Fer­gu­son’s re­tire­ment in 2013.

United have failed to fin­ish above City in the league since, and al­ready trail by nine points.

How­ever, Jose Mour­inho’s men were also buoyed by their best re­sult of the sea­son by a dis­tance in win­ning at Ju­ven­tus in dra­matic fash­ion on Wed­nes­day to back up vic­to­ries over Ever­ton and Bournemouth.

De­fen­sive con­cerns re­main for Mour­inho, though, with United keep­ing just one clean sheet in their last 10 matches. Stop­ping a City side av­er­ag­ing four goals a game at the Eti­had in the Premier League this sea­son is a mon­u­men­tal task.

A com­bi­na­tion of Eu­ro­pean and tele­vi­sion com­mit­ments mean that five of the top seven are in ac­tion across four games to­mor­row, of­fer­ing the chance for three dif­fer­ent teams to go top across the course of the day.

Liver­pool are first up as they look to make amends for a ter­ri­ble re­sult in the Cham­pi­ons League in los­ing 2-0 at Red Star Bel­grade in mid­week to jeo­pordise their chances of pro­gress­ing to the last-16.

Fulham are there­fore wel­come op­po­nents to An­field, hav­ing slipped to the bot­tom of the ta­ble with a run of five straight de­feats.

Chelsea then have the chance to take top spot a cou­ple of hours later when Ever­ton are the vis­i­tors to Stam­ford Bridge, hop­ing to in­flict Maurizio Sarri’s first de­feat as Blues boss.

Arsenal are also in ac­tion as they look to ex­tend a 15-game un­beaten run and at worst re­main just out­side the top four at home to a Wolves side who have faded in re­cent weeks af­ter a great start on their re­turn to the top flight.

But top billing is re­served for the bat­tle of Manch­ester’s gi­ants with City likely to need at least a point to end the week­end where they start it – at the top of the ta­ble. – AFP

Pic­ture: Getty Im­ages

GREAT­EST OF EN­E­MIES. Manch­ester United man­ager Jose Mour­inho and his Manch­ester City coun­ter­part Pep Guardiola will con­tinue their ri­valry in the English Premier League to­mor­row.

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