After 11 games of the 2012/13 Premier League season, the race for the title is shaping up to be a three horse race between the two Manchester clubs and Chelsea FC. As it stands at the moment, Manchester United are top with 27 points from a possible 33, Manchester City are second with 25 points from the same possible total, and Chelsea are third with 24 points.
None of these three teams have looked like running away with the title, and they each have their strengths and weaknesses in different areas. Assessing these is the only way to determine who is most likely to be lifting the Premier League trophy in May.
Head to Head
Only Chelsea and United have played each other this season, and seeing as that ended nine versus 11, it's impossible to assess who was the better side.
However, the top three have played four of the same clubs. Man City and Chelsea both got three points against Tottenham, whereas United left empty handed. Chelsea and United beat Arsenal and Stoke, where City took only a point from each of those games. United are the only team of the top three to beat Liverpool, Chelsea and City both drawing against the Scousers.
Despite losing their first game of the season at Everton and suffering their first defeat against Tottenham Hotspur at Old Trafford in 10 years, United top the table going into November. However, despite their impressive run of wins, they look unconvincing as a unit and have had to come from behind to get several of those wins.
There is a lack of organisation defensively and in midfield. It has been the form of summer signing Robin Van Persie and his eight league goals which have kept them in contention. They also have an additional attacking option in the form of super-sub Javier Hernandez (Chicarito), who has an incredible knack for coming off the bench and scoring the winner.
Being the perennial title contenders that they are, they always have an edge over their rivals. However, if they fail to address the issues in their defence and midfield, their attempt to regain the title from their noisy neighbours could just fall short.
Unlike United, who have already qualified for the knockout stages of the Champions League, Manchester City face an unlikely uphill struggle if they are to progress from the group stage. This could play to their advantage in the league, leaving them able to focus their extensive and expensive resources on retaining the title.
Despite being unbeaten in the league this season, and at home in the league for over two years, City have dropped points in games they were expected to win. Their defending from set pieces has been shocking and will need work, as will Sergio Aguero's studs. However, they have gained 14 points from losing positions and are still buoyed by their miraculous last-gasp win at the end of last season.
Like United, they also have a super-sub in the form of Edin Dzeko, who has scored plenty of game-winning goals from the bench, although he is apparently frustrated at not starting games.
With the lack of distractions from other competitions, if they can beat United when the two teams meet at the Etihad in December, I would give them the edge over the red half of Manchester.
The European Champions finished sixth in the league last season, well off the pace of the two Manchester clubs. Their playing style was criticised as defensive and negative, essentially anti-football.
However, with the summer signings of Oscar and Eden Hazard, they lit up the league in the first few games. The Brazilian and Belgian linked up with Juan Mata to provide some supremely entertaining attacking football and some excellent chances for Fernando Torres.
Unfortunately, too many of the chances created by the trio are squandered, which has led to the Blues drawing their last two games, both of which could have been sewn up long before the opposition equaliser.
They looked completely disorganised without John Terry, who was suspended for four matches and has since suffered a nasty looking knee injury on his return, putting him out for several more weeks.
They also have to factor in a trip to Japan in December for the FIFA Club World Cup, a competition which caused United to withdraw from the FA Cup in 1999/2000. This trip will either be the making or breaking of their season, combined with their activity in the January transfer window.
Chelsea are in desperate need of a clinical striker, as Torres has missed twice as many as he's scored this season and can't seem to keep his head up. Rumours like this one from goal.com have been flying round for a long time now that Radamel Falcao is top of the wish list. If the Blues can snap him up, and get some cohesion through the defence, they should certainly still be contenders come May.
My prediction is that these three will be the only teams challenging for the title and that these will be the final standings:
2) Manchester City
3) Manchester United
What do you think?