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Chelsea or Liverpool: Who is Manchester City's biggest threat?

Wednesday 3rd October 2018

Manchester City brushed aside every opponent last season, as a Pep Guardiola masterclass took England by storm. When a club loses just two games in a whole league campaign, wins the league with a record-breaking 100 points, it has to be acknowledged as something spectacular.

But the man's history suggests that may just be the beginning. As demonstrated in both Barcelona and Bayern Munich, the Catalan manager builds his teams to dominate the league season after season. Except for his first year in England when he failed to win a trophy for the first time in his senior coaching career, the ex-Barcelona midfielder has delivered an average of two major honours per season.

In fact, he has won more than 20 trophies in just seven years. Yet, Guardiola has shown no signs of slowing down. But in a league many believe is the most competitive in the world, other clubs are not watching idly by...

Liverpool and Chelsea have looked the most likely challengers to the Cityzens so far. After battling to a 1-1 draw in their last league match, the two teams are finding it difficult to outdo each other as favourites to the title besides Guardiola's team.

Jurgen Klopp went into the transfer market with a vengeance this summer. He has strengthened the weak areas in his team with one goal in mind: to mount a serious challenge for both the Premier League title and the Champions League.

The German has left no one in doubt of his mission, with the club's strong start to the campaign. The Reds are yet to lose a single match. Liverpool had maintained top spot on the league table until last weekend; it was City who took control. But this is only by virtue of goal difference, with both North-West sides sitting on 19 points from a possible 21.

Chelsea, on the other hand, have also stood up to be counted. Maurizio Sarri is implementing a new brand of football at Stamford Bridge that has got the supporters in buoyant mood. The Blues now boast of the best ball possession and passing accuracy rates in the league; after the champions, of course.

Liverpool are not far behind. The Merseysiders equal Chelsea on goals scored in the league so far, 15, and have a better goal spread in the team to suggest they have an advantage over the Londoners.

Klopp's deadly front three of Mohamed Salah, Sadio Mané and Roberto Firmino are all firing. Add Daniel Sturridge and his new found form to the mix and that could make the difference. Together they have netted 11 times with each scoring at least twice.

Although Chelsea has not been short on goals themselves, they have mostly come from one source, Eden Hazard. The Belgian has six strikes to his name in just five starts and two substitute appearances. The only other player with more than a goal in the team is Pedro. He has three.

What that means is the strikers are not living up to expectations. Olivier Giroud is still searching for his first goal of the campaign, while Alvaro Morata has scored only once. That will go a long way to affect the team moving forward. Over-dependence on Hazard will put too much of a burden the winger. That is a recipe for disaster.

Compared to Manchester City, Sergio Aguero is on five goals, Raheem Sterling has scored four times while newcomer Riyad Mahrez also has a couple. Leroy Sane and Gabriel Jesus have too found the back of the net. Goals are coming from anywhere.

In the final analysis, the better goal difference, coupled with the sheer amount of goals scored, puts Liverpool in pole position to push City all the way. The Anfield side is better positioned in terms of squad depth, while their manager is also familiar with Premier League football.

But sure, anything can still happen. It's still early days, after all. Writing off Chelsea so early could be a mistake, especially if City and Liverpool capitulate later in the campaign while Morata and Giroud find their scoring boots. And who says Arsenal, Tottenham or even Manchester United cannot sneak in when Leicester City came from nowhere to surprise us all in 2016...

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Emmanuel Odey

Emmanuel is a freelance journalist who lives and breathes the round leather game. He is a contributor on several platforms. You can follow him on Twitter for more.

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