Manchester City reminded everyone why they are the team to beat in the Premier League with their emphatic derby success over Manchester United on Sunday.
Original article published 5 September 2022
Pep Guardiola's side went into the contest at the Etihad Stadium having seen their lead at the top of the standings trimmed to three points, but they underlined their 1/4 odds to win the title with a 4-1 demolition of their near neighbours.
The pressure was certainly on City heading into the 187th Manchester derby, with Liverpool having moved to within three points of the league leaders following their 1-0 win over West Ham 24 hours earlier - that was the Reds' seventh league victory on the spin.
The narrative over recent weeks had certainly been regarding whether Liverpool, at odds of 11/4, could chase down City at the top of the standings, with many feeling the Citizens would be in for a difficult afternoon against top-four hopefuls United.
However, Guardiola's men had other ideas, as they delivered what the Spaniard described as one of the "best performances he's seen for years under his tenure" to claim the local bragging rights and re-establish their six-point advantage at the top of the standings.
Kevin De Bruyne and Riyad Mahrez were the star performers on the day for City, as both players grabbed braces, with the former taking his tally for career Premier League goals beyond the 50 mark, while the latter is now on 21 for the season across all competitions.
The gap between City and Liverpool could be reduced back down to three points by the time the Citizens next take to the field in the Premier League, as they will face a trip to Crystal Palace next Monday, two days after their title rivals have travelled to the Amex to take on Brighton.
For United the defeat could prove a costly one, with the Red Devils having slipped down to fifth in the standings, a point behind fourth-placed Arsenal, but notably having played three games more than the Gunners.
Ralf Rangnick's side are 7/2 to end the season in the top four, but their interim boss had to fend off several hard-hitting questions after their latest defeat, including regarding the absence of Cristiano Ronaldo, who missed the match due to a hip flexor injury.
Edinson Cavani had also been ruled out, which meant United went without a recognised centre-forward at the Etihad, and Rangnick was pleased with his side's first-half display, during which time they briefly restored parity at 1-1 by virtue of a finely taken Jadon Sancho strike.
However, perhaps most worryingly for United in both the short and long term is that Rangnick conceded his side still "have a long way to go to close that gap" between themselves and City in terms of both points and quality.
United started the weekend in fourth position, but by the time they kicked off against City they had already dropped down to fifth following Arsenal's 3-2 victory at Watford earlier in the day.
The Gunners were not at their best at Vicarage Road, with boss Mikel Arteta criticising their defensive display after the match, but they have now won eight of their previous 10 league fixtures, an impressive tally for a side that lost their opening three games of the campaign.
It was a good weekend for Arsenal all round, with top-four rivals United, West Ham and Wolves all losing, and the Gunners also boast at least two games in hand on all three of those teams.
Supporters at the Emirates Stadium have not witnessed Champions League football since the 2016/17 campaign, but Arsenal are 8/15 to end that wait by finishing in the top four this season. They are certainly the team to beat.
Newcastle United were being written off as almost relegation certainties at the turn of the year, but fast forward a matter of weeks and the Magpies have pulled seven points clear of the relegation zone following five wins in six and an unbeaten eight-match sequence in the top-flight.
The latest of those successes came at St James' Park on Saturday, as Eddie Howe's side claimed a 2-1 victory over Brighton thanks to goals from Ryan Fraser and Fabian Schar.
Finishing in the top half now appears a realistic possibility for the Magpies at 10/1, as they are only five points behind Crystal Palace in 10th, while relegation fears appear a thing of the past, or they will be if they claim another victory when they visit Southampton in their next league fixture on Thursday.
While Newcastle's relegation fears have all but disappeared, Leeds United remain firmly in the survival battle, as Jesse Marsch's first match in charge ended in a 1-0 defeat at Leicester City in Saturday's lunchtime kick-off.
That was Leeds' fifth successive league defeat and left them just two points above the relegation zone having played a game more than a Burnley side that currently occupy 18th position.
Leeds are 13/8 to be relegated, but there were at least signs of encouragement for the Whites against the Foxes, not least as they only let in one goal compared to the record 20 they shipped in the Premier League during February - the most any team has ever conceded in the competition over a single-month period.
The Whites also managed more shots than their hosts during the match, but they will need to turn that improved display into points sooner rather than later, perhaps starting with Thursday's home clash against Aston Villa at Elland Road.
The good news for Leeds is that all three sides currently in the bottom three also lost at the weekend, with Burnley (1/1), Watford (2/11) and Norwich City (1/25) all still facing an uphill battle to survive.