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Race to English glory

With half of the English Premier League already over, Patriot takes a look at where the top six teams stand and what the possible outcome might be

The English Premier League which began way back in August is now past its halfway mark as each of the 20 teams have played 23 of their 38 designated matches.

After a riveting first half, the table is a little bit clear, though it is difficult to determine the Champions, and who among the top six will land a spot in the top four, thus earning a Champions League spot.

Here’s a look at some of the top teams in the EPL, how they have performed through the first 23 games and where they are likely to finish at the end of May 2019, when the League comes to a close.

Liverpool
The reds from Merseyside are enjoying their best League run in seasons. Under German mastermind Jurgenn Klopp, Liverpool have amassed a total of 60 points with 19 wins. They have been beaten just once by Manchester City and have drawn against Chelsea, Arsenal and Manchester City. They are unbeaten at home, scoring a huge 54 goals and conceding just 13, the lowest in the Premier League.

While Mohammed Salah still leads the goal-scoring pack in the league with 16 goals so far, players like Roberto Firmino and Sadio Mane have too chipped in with brilliant performances. The attack has rubbished claims that it would crumble post the departure of Philippe Coutinho.

But the difference this season for Liverpool has been their defence, especially the presence of Virgil Van Dijk. Now considered the best centreback in the world, the 6’5” Dutchman has been a rock at the defence with a number of key passes, timely tackles and solid clearances. Goalkeeper Alisson Becker too is statistically the best keeper in the league with 13 clean sheets.

Liverpool are most likely en route to their maiden Premier League title, with four points ahead of 2nd placed Manchester City.

Probable finish : 1st
Key Players: Mohammed Salah, Virgil Van Dijk, James Milner

Manchester City
Last season’s champions too are undergoing a dream run under Pep Guardiola. The former Barcelona gaffer’s brand of possession football has made the Citizens assert dominance over all teams in the Premier League. They currently sit second on the table with 56 points, just four behind leaders Liverpool.

Their attack is currently the best in the league, scoring 100 goals overall in all competitions, the first club in Europe to do so this season. In the Premier League they have scored 62 goals, the most for any club. Veteran striker Sergio Aguero and Raheem Stirling lead the pack with 10 goals each.

However, it has been the attacking midfield which has been superb this year — a trait that is common for a Guardiola managed side. The midfield, even without star player Kevin De Bruyne who was out due to injury, never looked weak. Ably supported by veteran David Silva and Bernardo Silva, and with Riyad Mahrez at the wings, the lineup is feared among opponents.

The defence, led by Aymeric Laporte, too has been in good form throughout the season.
The thing that has deterred City is their lack of consistency like Liverpool, and that may be just the factor that keeps them inches behind the reds.They recently lost to Leicester City, a team much below them.

Probable Finish: 2nd
Key Players: Sergio Aguero, Raheem Stirling, Bernardo Silva

Manchester United
The Red Devils had a torrid first few months at the Premier League, with Mourinho completely losing control of the squad, and the team losing one important match after another. With a series of unsatisfactory results, and the team 12 points adrift of the top four, United finally sacked Jose Mourinho, and brought in club legend Ole Gunner Solksjaer as interim manager for the rest of the season.

Since then, the team has undergone a resurgence of sorts, with seven victories on the trot, including a 1-0 win against in-form Tottenham away. Under Solksjaer and his support staff, the team have looked unstoppable with players coming to form. They are currently playing a very attacking brand of fiery football, something that was missing during Mourinho’s tenure.

Players like Paul Pogba and Marcus Rashford seem to have found a new lease of life, and now the team stands just three points adrift from the top four with 47 points. With this run of form, United are bound to secure a Champions League place.

Probable Finish: 4th
Key Players: Paul Pogba, Marcus Rashford, David De Gea

Arsenal
The Gunners under manager Unai Emery is currently undergoing a transition, and are sitting 5th on the league with 44 points.

Arsenal have been prolific in attack with 48 goals, the third highest in the Premier League. Gabon striker Pierre Emerick Aubemeyang, has been in tremendous form this season scoring 14 goals, and currently standing 2nd in the goalscorer list. Alexandre Lacazette is second with 9 goals.

The problem with Arsenal lies in their defence. They have leaked 32 goals — the most among the top five teams, and they lack a solid defender. Even goalkeepers Bernd Leno and Petr Cech haven’t been that good this season.

Probable finish: 5th or 6th
Key Players: Pierre Emerick Aubameyang, Alexandre Lacazette, Granit Xhaka

Tottenham Hotspurs
Under manager Mauricio Pochettino, Tottenham are the most improved bunch of players in England at the moment. With their home stadium currently under renovation, they had to shift their base to Wembley, and many people believed this change would hamper their playing style, but it has not been so. The men in white have been in exceptional form this season, especially in attack. With 14 goals, striker Harry Kane continues his prolific form since the last three years.

In addition to this the midfield, led by the likes of Christian Eriksen and Delle Alli, have been pretty instrumental in the Spurs’ season. Another plus for the north London side is that Son Heung Min is in sensational form scoring goals and providing assists.

Even the shift from a four man to three man defence has worked wonders for Spurs. With the trio of Toby Alderwireld, Jan Vertonghen and Davinson Sanchez, ably supported by the full backs and Hugo Lloris at goal, Spurs have one of the best defences in the league.

Probable Finish: 3rd
Key Players: Harry Kane, Son Heung Min, Kieran Trippier

Chelsea
The Blues are perhaps the side with the most headaches in the top six. They have suffered a slump in form, and manager Maurizio Sarri has had quite a public fallout with the players, when addressing this concern in recent post-match press conferences.

In addition to this player vs manager public dispute, Chelsea have been suffering a slump in form at all positions. With premier striker Alvaro Morata completely out of form, they have brought in Gonzalo Higuain in the January transfer window, with pundits predicting little change in the attacking flair. Even wingers Pedro and Willian look out of touch.

Even at the back Chelsea are out of form, with their main man David Luiz marching more upfront than staying back and protecting goal. The only silver lining has been the form of their star Eden Hazard, who too is heavily rumoured to move out of the club at the end of the season.

The departure of Cesc Fabregas too didn’t help the cause.
Probable Finish: 5th or 6th
Key Players: Gonzalo Higuain, Eden Hazard, N’golo Kante