The Premier League Title Race: A Trio of Contenders
(Photo by Michael Regan/Getty Images)

Perhaps it's premature to declare, but it certainly feels as though this season's title race in the Premier League will be a far more close-run affair than in the previous campaign.

In fact, apart from the 2019/20 season, there arguably hasn't been a true title fight, going all the way to the last game of the season, since the 2013/14 season.

Coincidentally, the teams who ended up in the top three places are the very same clubs who now appear to be the runaway favourites for the title this year.

It would take a very bold person to suggest that not one of Chelsea, Manchester City or Liverpool will go on to lift the trophy come May 2022, given the sheer gulf in quality between them and the rest of the league.

As such, with 12 out of the 38 games played, it felt like an appropriate time to analyse the state of play of each side in turn, and what their chances of coming out on top in under six months' time look like.

Chelsea

On the face of it, Thomas Tuchel's team look to be obvious favourites for the Premier League this season, simply based off of their current position in the table and the statistics behind it.

Being in first place at any point will always come as a positive, but being up there for multiple weeks in a row certainly sets a precedent for those below them to follow, if nothing else.

As the current Champions of Europe - defeating domestic rivals Man City in the final in Porto - they have a strong base to build off, and things only seem more optimistic when you consider the fact Tuchel is yet to be in charge for a year.

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The numbers speak for themselves, particularly in defence, with the Blues still only conceding four goals in the league all season, only one of which has been from open play.

Going forwards it hasn't been too bad either, with the West London outfit the second-highest scorers in the division, with the excellence of Reece James being a huge part of both of those records thus far.

However, it's one unfortunate fact which, while seemingly simmering beneath the surface for now, can so easily rear its ugly head and ruin any team's chances of competing at the top.

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Injuries are part of the game, of course, but when they arrive both high in quantity and indeed severity (take Ben Chilwell as an example), plans surrounding team sheets, formations and tactical ideas can go up in flames.

Not only that, but with AFCON to contend with in January, Chelsea will be without goalkeeper Edouard Mendy for a considerable period of time, with no team wanting to lose their first choice in net, regardless of the replacement.

As such, when assessing the hopes of the Blues to go all the way, the message is very simple based off both their current form and potential injury issues: cautious optimism.

Manchester City

For a team who has won three of the last four Premier League seasons, it seems odd to suggest that Manchester City aren't considered the most likely team to finish top of the pile.

After all, despite various unsubstantiated claims around halfway through last season that Pep Guardiola had 'lost his touch', the legendary Spanish boss led his side with ease to the club's eighth major trophy of his reign.

They sit just three points behind the league leaders from London and, importantly, are the only team to have defeated them domestically so far this season.

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On top of that, while Chelsea's defensive acumen has been praised to no end, and rightfully so, it has slightly slipped under the radar that the City back line has only conceded six in the Premier League themselves.

Add in the fact they have secured first place in a Champions League group containing Paris Saint-Germain and their stat-studded team, and you appear to have the blueprint for a title-winning team.

But, as with any contenders, there is always a weakness to be exploited and, while it's not easy to do, City have shown that they can be vulnerable, more so than the teams competing around them.

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A shock 2-0 loss to Crystal Palace may not seem catastrophic, but in a season where it seems near-on perfection will be needed, suffering results such as that could prove hugely costly in the end.

The infamous overthinking of Guardiola when it comes to the biggest games (such as the Champions League final against Chelsea) may also play a big role, especially when it comes to the final few games at the end of the season.

Overall, City will probably be quietly pleased that some attention is being diverted away from them and onto Chelsea - but as the season goes on and the pressure ramps up, it remains to be seen how they cope in the biggest of games.

Liverpool

Moving onto the current third-placed team, and the quality of the team doesn't get any lower, given there is just a four point gap between Liverpool and the top of the table.

Jurgen Klopp, as has been said many times before, has worked miracles in the North West, and while they may have struggled slightly last season, their comeback into the top four given their injury crisis was astonishing.

They were Champions of England just over a year ago, and Champions of the World a little earlier than that, so any proclamations that they shouldn't be considered as title contenders is utterly bemusing.

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When talking about the Reds, there's really only one name to mention and that is of Mohamed Salah, who has been absolutely electrifying so far this season, already amassing 11 goals and seven assists.

Even if the team is playing out a subpar performance, to have the quality of arguably the best player in the world right now in your team means the concept of discounting Liverpool from the title is almost laughable.

But, much like the point made with Chelsea a little earlier, it is that reliance on one individual for their brilliance that could prove to be the downfall of Klopp's side in just over a month's time.

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The aforementioned AFCON tournament will see three Liverpool players fly out to their respective nations and, in the case of Salah in particular, their absence could be fatal to the Reds' title hopes.

Of course, there still remains a large amount of quality in the squad but, going forwards, it's hard to see who can fill void left by the incredible attacking output of the Egyptian in that time.

If they can get past January relatively unscathed, there is a strong argument that Klopp's players have both the ability and mentality to go all the way - but unless a new star emerges in the next few weeks at Liverpool, it's hard to see how they can.

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