Intense battle for the English Premier title set to evolve

Euro 2016

Although the English Premier League season is only just entering its second quarter, an intense battle for the title is already evolving.

At present Manchester City, Arsenal and Liverpool are level on 23 points at the top of the table after each of the trio brilliantly matched one another to win their most recent away matches by scoring four goals.

Furthermore Tottenham are just three points adrift of first place, with Mauricio Pochettino’s side being the only unbeaten side in the division, following a 1-1 draw with reigning champions Leicester at White Hart Lane.  That result represented Tottenham’s third successive draw, as Ahmed Musa equalised for Leicester in response to a Vincent Janssen penalty.

Nevertheless Tottenham remain in a strong position to stage a sustained title challenge, whilst they will aspire to enhance their prospects of doing so by winning their next English Premier League game, which is the first North London derby of the season against Arsenal.

The Gunners are currently amidst a superb run of form, with Arsene Wenger’s extending their unbeaten run to 14 matches in all competitions following their 4-1 away win over Sunderland.  Both Olivier Giroud and Alexis Sanchez scored twice, as Arsenal delivered an accomplished away performance, which was matched by both Liverpool and Manchester City.

Whilst Liverpool beat Crystal Palace 4-2 at Selhurst Park in a pulsating encounter, Manchester City recorded a 4-0 victory over West Brom to end a six match winless run.  During that period, Sergio Aguero had failed to score.

However the 28-year-old Argentinean striker ended his goal drought by scoring twice, with IIkay Gundogan also achieving that feat, as the German midfielder continues to establish himself as a key member of Pep Guardiola’s side.

In addition to concluding their winless sequence, Manchester City’s emphatic win against West Brom also ended Guardiola’s worst run of results in management.

As such Manchester City now lead the English Premier League on goal difference from both Arsenal and Liverpool, with Jurgen Klopp’s side showing great character, perseverance and resolve to beat Crystal Palace.

After twice taking the lead through Emre Can and Dejan Lovren, only for Palace’s James McArthur to score in reply to both of those goals, Liverpool recovered from that setback to emerge victorious.  Whilst Joel Matip scored just before half time, Roberto Firmino fifth goal of the season secured Liverpool’s third successive away victory.

Their first win of that impressive run was a 2-1 success against Chelsea, who is currently in fifth place, just one point behind Tottenham.  Subsequently Antonio Conte’s side will have the opportunity to leapfrog their London rivals and move to within a point of Manchester City, Arsenal and Liverpool, when they play Southampton at St.Mary’s.

Since losing to Arsenal 3-0 last month, Chelsea have embarked upon a three league game winning run, with them scoring nine goals without conceding in the process.

Therefore on the basis of the first quarter of the season, during which the quintet of Arsenal, Chelsea, Liverpool, Manchester City and Tottenham have performed extremely well, an intense battle for the English Premier League title is set to evolve.  Whether any other clubs, such as Manchester United, can become involved in that battle remains to be seen, although that appears unlikely given Jose Mourinho’s side’s recent struggles.

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Clubs in pursuit of Juventus face important Serie A fixtures

Euro 2016

At present several clubs in Serie A harbour aspirations of challenging Juventus’ domination of the Italian football’s top flight.

Juve engineer the early evolution of a strong title defence

For five successive years, Juve have won the Scudetto, whilst they are currently building a strong title defence.

Of their first ten games, Massimiliano Allegri’s side have won eight and lost two, to establish first place in Serie A two points ahead of Roma, who are amidst a four game winning run.

Whilst Roma are in pursuit of Juventus, so too are Napoli, AC Milan and Lazio, with each of the chasing quartet facing extremely important fixtures, as they aspire to construct sustainable title challenges and prevent La Vecchia Signora from strengthening their lead.

After suffering a 1-0 defeat to AC Milan, Juventus issued an excellent response to that setback by emphatically beating Sampdoria 4-1, as they maintained their 100% home record this season, which the Turin giants will once again aim to defend against third placed Napoli.

Given that they are four points behind Juventus, the game assumes added importance for Napoli’s prospects of establishing themselves as title contenders, since in order to achieve that, they can ill-afford to fall further adrift of the club who have proven to be an indomitable force in Italian football over recent years.

Higuain looks to end four-game goal drought

With a view to maintaining that reputation, Juventus signed Gonzalo Higuain from Napoli for €90m in the summer.  As such the 28-year-old Argentinean striker is set to face his former club for the first time, with Higuain being without a goal in four games since scoring twice in four minutes to help Juventus to a 3-0 away win over Empoli.

Coincidentally it was against the Province of Florence based club that Napoli won their previous Serie A game 2-0, to earn a second successive league victory after beating Crotone 2-1, despite Manolo Gabbiadini being sent off during the first half.  However Partenopei’s victory over Crotone followed a 3-1 home loss to Roma.

Serie A’s most potent attack resides in the Italian capital

That result marked the second game of Roma’s current four game winning run, which they will have the opportunity to extend, when they travel to play Empoli at Stadio Carlo Castellani.  In ten Serie A games this season, Giovanni Martusciello’s side have scored just twice through defenders Giuseppe Bellusci and Andrea Costa.  Whilst Empoli have scored five less goals in Serie A this season than any other side, it is by that same number which Roma are the division’s highest scorers.  Of their 26 goals Edin Dzeko has scored 10.

Although the 30-year-old Bosnian is his club’s leading marksman, Dzeko has not overly burdened the responsibility of scoring Roma’s goals, with that being shared between he and several other players.  Specifically Dzeko’s fellow forwards Diego Perotti and Mohamed Salah have scored three and five Serie A goals respectively, with both Stephen El Shaarawy and Francesco Totti scoring two.

Now in his 25th season with Roma, the 40-year-old Totti remains a key member of the club’s squad, despite being the oldest outfield player in Serie A.

Lazio and Milan:  In a phase of steady progress

Just as Roma are enjoying a fine spell of form, so too are their arch and city rivals Lazio.  Under the guidance of caretaker manager Simone Inzaghi, Lazio have embarked upon a five game unbeaten run to climb from ninth to fifth place.  The last time Lazio were beaten was by fourth placed AC Milan, who suffered a disappointing 3-0 defeat to Genoa in their last Serie A fixture, after impressively beating Juventus 1-0 at the San Siro, courtesy of a pinpoint Manuel Locatelli finish.

That goal propelled Milan to within two points of Juventus and gave I Rossoneri a fifth victory in six Serie A games.  However as a result of losing to Genoa Vicenzo Montella’s side are now five points behind the league leaders.  Therefore in order to remain in relatively close pursuit of Juventus, it is crucial that Milan secure a return to winning ways at home against Pescara.

Since losing to Milan at the San Siro 2-0, of five Serie A games, Lazio have won three and drawn two, with their striker Ciro Immobile playing a vital role for his time during that spell by scoring six goals.  One of those was a 97th minute penalty to earn Lazio a 1-1 against Bologna at the Stadio Olimpico, where the I Biancazzuri will aim to continue their excellent recent run of results when they host Sassuolo.

Quartet aspire to break Juventus’ domination of Serie A

Ultimately although Juventus remain Italy’s strongest team, several other Serie A side are growing in quality and strength, particularly AC Milan, Lazio, Napoli and Roma.  Subsequently each of those clubs face vital fixtures as the quartet aspire to build upon the positive manner in which they have performed during the first quarter of this season to create an intense battle for the Scudetto.

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Los abuelos de la Liga


¿Cuál es el límite para jugar en Primera División? Para algunos futbolistas el tiempo parece no hacerles mella, ya que hay un puñado con 35 años o más que sigue tan fresco como en su debut. Betis, Athletic y Málaga son los que más apuestan por la veteranía; y éstos son, por tanto, los abuelos de las Liga.

Bonera – Villarreal – 35 años

El submarino es un equipo joven, así que un toque de veteranía viene bien para ciertos momentos y para que los nuevos aprendan.

Tiago – Atlético – 35 años

Los últimos meses se ha visto lastrado por una lesión, pero sigue siendo un futbolista que gusta, y mucho, al Cholo Simeone. Acaba contrato en junio y, tanto él como el club, tendrán que hablar sobre su futuro.

Demichelis – Espanyol – 35 años

El argentino conoce bien la Liga española y este año ha recalado en Cornellà para aportar veteranía al equipo.

Manu Herrera – Betis – 35 años

El cancerbero está a la sombra de Adán en el Betis, pero apunta a titular para tratar de llegar lo más lejos en Copa.

Iraizoz – Athletic – 35 años

El guardameta lleva casi una década siendo titular indiscutible en San Mamés. Este año tiene más competencia y ha habido algunas rotaciones en portería, pero sigue contando para Valverde.

Aduriz – Athletic – 35 años

A pesar de su edad, la temporada pasada ganó el trofeo Zarra al máximo goleador español e incluso entró en la lista de la Eurocopa.

Joaquín – Betis – 35 años

La campaña anterior regresó al equipo de sus amores. Y sigue siendo titular en el Betis.

Rubén Castro – Betis – 35 años

El año pasado se quedó a un tanto del Zarra, es la referencia ofensiva del equipo y se ha ganado renovar hasta 2019. Para entonces habrá cumplido 38 años.

Duda – Málaga – 36 años

Su veteranía no es un obstáculo para jugar, más bien todo lo contrario. Es más, ya ha estrenado su casillero como goleador.

Welington – Málaga – 37 años

Es el mayor de todos los futbolistas de la Liga. La mala fortuna ha provocado que haya recaído de su menisco derecho, sino seguiría siendo titular.

La pregunta es, ¿alguno de estos futbolistas logrará superar al más longevo de la historia de la Liga? Por ahora el récord lo ostenta el guardameta Ricardo, que en 2013 se retiró con 41 años.

El puzle de Zizou en el centro del campo


Zinedine Zidane sigue pensando cómo ordenar su centro del campo. Tiene un bendito problema, ya que calidad no le falta. Pero el exceso de jugadores de primer nivel que ansían jugar todo implica que Zizou tenga que hacer un puzle para cuadrar todo con el objetivo de lograr los mejores resultados y de rotar para no desgastar y dar minutos a todos.

Las últimas lesiones, como las de Casemiro o James, se lo han puesto más claro al técnico francés, pero ahora que se recuperan el overbooking regresa. Ellos vuelven y, los que les han sustituido mientras estaban en la enfermería, han cumplido con creces.


Este es el tridente preferido por Zizou. Sin embargo, tanto el croata como el brasileño se lesionaron hace unas semanas. Su vuelta está prevista para finales de octubre, cuando regresen se encontraran con los deberes hechos de su competencia.


En el último partido liguero se reivindicó. Suele jugar todos los partidos, pero nunca completos. Si quiere ganar más protagonismo, debe demostrar más regularidad, porque talento le sobra al malagueño.


James se replanteó su salida este verano pero decidió quedarse en Madrid para triunfar. Su lesión le ha quitado protagonismo esta temporada, pero ya está listo. ¿Qué pasará ahora?


Sin hacer mucho ruido, el croata se ha ganado la confianza del entrenador. Las lesiones le han dado muchos minutos, pero parece complicado que disfrute de tantos cuando Modric y Casemiro reaparezcan.


La joven perla está llamado a ser una estrella. Zizou le está dosificando para exprimir su potencial a corto, medio y largo plazo, pero es evidente que cuando juega deslumbra. ¡Y hasta marca golazos! Zidane pidió expresamente que no cedieran al balear ya que él sería el encargado de darle minutos de máximo nivel. Una apuesta clara.


Un jugador muy polivalente. Este año está disfrutando de menos minutos que en el tramo final de la campaña pasada porque la BBC está en plena ebullición y porque Morata va antes en ataque. Pero cuando se le pone de extremo ofensivo es la pieza clave que le falta al centro del campo.

Zizou tiene demasiada calidad en su plantilla, sobre todo en el centro del campo, lo que implica que todas las estrellas no puedan jugar a la vez y muchas tengan que esperar su oportunidad en el banquillo. Para demostrar el talento, el técnico francés debe saber gestionar el equipo y los jugadores.

Sean Dyche and Burnley have impressed so far


On Sunday, Burnley manager Sean Dyche will celebrate his four-year anniversary with the Turf Moor outfit. He faces a tough trip to Old Trafford this weekend, however that match will hold no fear and maybe now is the best time to be facing an out of sorts Manchester United.

In his first full season as Burnley manager, Sean Dyche led his troops to the Premier League, winning promotion from the Championship and finishing second to Leicester City. They finished eight points ahead of nearest challengers Derby County and as they geared up for life in the Premier League, the gulf in class was to prove just too much.

They opened their season with a 3-1 loss to Chelsea and they would have to wait until the 8th of November to pick up their first win, which came against Hull City. Ashley Barnes got the winner that day as they ran out 1-0 winners and the following week they had a glimmer of hope as they beat Stoke City 2-0. However, it was not to be. They never climbed higher than seventeenth place that season and were relegated on the 19th of May despite winning 1-0. A win for Newcastle on the same day would seal their fate and Championship football the following season.

Back in the Championship they re-grouped and came back in style. They went on an unbeaten run from the 28th of December until the end of the season and came up as Champions. Sam Vokes with sixteen goals and Andre Gray, who returns from a ban this weekend, with twenty-three goals were both terrific in that run.

Now though they face an entirely different proposition. They have already bettered that seventeenth place previously mentioned and are currently fourteenth in the league. They have three Premier League wins against Liverpool, Watford and last weekend against an Everton side who were in great form. Sam Vokes has continued to score and has a decent return of three for the season.

They have suffered a couple of heavy defeats, 3-0 away to Chelsea and 3-0 away to Leicester, but they are a different proposition at home, having picked up a total of ten points of the eighteen available and having only lost to Swansea (on opening day) and Arsenal, who scored a last-minute winner.

Whether or not they will stay up remains to be seen, but they have given themselves the best possible chance with the start they have made.

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Great week for strikers in Serie A

Euro 2016

In the last two rounds of Serie A fixtures, several strikers have been in fine goal-scoring form.

Higuain fails to fire for Juve

Ironically however the most expensive player in the history of Italian football has not been, with Gonzalo Higuain, whom Juventus signed for €90m from Napoli last summer, failing to score on each of his last two appearances for La Vecchia Signora.

Roma’s Dzeko in fine form

In stark contrast to Higuain’s recent fortunes, Edin Dzeko scored three times in his last two games for Roma.

In doing so the 30-year-old Bosnian became the first player to score 10 Serie A goals this season, as Dzeko has established himself as the division’s leading marksman.  As well as scoring in Roma’s 4-1 home win over Palermo, Dzeko finished expertly on two occasions to help his team beat Sassuolo 3-1.

Subsequently so far this season Dzeko has scored a goal for every 80 minutes he has played in Serie A, with him having a total of 46 attempts on goal.  That is significantly more than any other Serie A player, although of the ten top scorers in the league, the best shot-to-goal conversion rate is that of Carlos Bacca.  Specifically Bacca has scored with six of his 13 shots on goal, as the AC Milan striker is currently the joint fourth top scorer in Serie A alongside the trio of Andrea Belotti, Jose Callejon and Higuain.

Belotti’s excellent season continues

Indicative of Belotti’s fine start to the season is that the Torino striker earned a first call-up to Italy’s senior international squad and has featured in three of the Azzuri’s four games since Euro 2016.  Furthermore the 22-year-old striker scored his maiden international goal to help Giampiero Ventura’s side to a 3-2 victory over Macedonia in their previous 2018 World Cup Qualifier.

Icadri and Immobile in pursuit of Dzeko

Since that game however, Belotti has scored just once in three Torino appearances, as Sinisa Mihajlovic’s side lost 2-1 to Inter Milan, for whom Mauro Icardi starred.  The Argentinean striker, whose relationship with Inter’s supporters is fractured and in a state of disrepair due to derogatory comments he made about them, scored twice, with one of his goals resulting from an error by Torino goalkeeper Joe Hart.

Udinese grateful to Thereau

As a result of his double against Torino Icardi is the joint second top scorer in Serie A and in pursuit of Dzeko, along with Lazio’s Ciro Immobile.  The 26-year-old, who has also played in the Bundesliga and La Liga with Borrusia Dortmund and Sevilla respectively, scored three goals in his team’s last two games.  That was a feat also achieved by Udinese’s experienced French striker Cyril Thereau, as the 33-year-old helped his team to successive Serie A victories for the first time this season as Luigi Delneri’s side beat both Palermo and Pescara 3-1.

Kalinic hits hat-trick for Fiorentina

Although several strikers such as Thereau performed outstandingly well during the last two rounds of Serie A fixtures, only one scored a hat-trick, with that being Fiorentina’s Nikola Kalinic, as the Croatian striker inspired his team to a 5-3 away win over Cagliari.

Therefore, despite Kalinic being the only striker to have scored a hat-trick in the ninth and tenth sets of Serie A games of the 2016-2017 season, many more showcased their superb finishing ability.

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Tottenham Hotspur facing crucial spell


Tottenham Hotspur, despite going four games in a row without a win, face a make or break trio of games that could well define their season. First up is reigning Premier League champions Leicester City, followed by Bayer Leverkusen in the Champions League, then a trip to the Emirates stadium to face an in-form Arsenal side.

A strong run of five wins in the trot in the League has put Spurs where they are at the moment, but if they don’t start turning draws into wins, there is a real fear that they will lose crucial ground at the top of the table. Since defeating Manchester City at home with goals from Dele Alli and an own goal from Aleksander Kolarov, they have drawn three and lost one of their last four. The goals have dried up since Harry Kane has been sidelined and his stand in Vincent Janssen, who scored 27 last season for AZ Alkmaar, has yet to find the net for his new club.

They face Leicester on Saturday, and while the visitors have yet to find some consistency, the Champions welcome back Jamie Vardy, and will have no fear from a team that failed to beat them in the league last season (drawing one 1-1 and winning at White Hart Lane 1-0).

After that match, a tricky tie in the Champions League awaits against Bayer Leverkusen. The first match of this double-header finished 0-0 and in such a tight group where only three points separate top and bottom, nothing less than a win here would surely be regarded as a failure, and with an away trip to Monaco (who have already beaten Tottenham) looming, first place in the group may well be out of their grasp.

The trio of high pressure matches finished with the North London derby and theoretically, an Arsenal win could see them move seven points clear of their rivals. and even at this early stage in the season, a seven point gap may well be too much to overcome, especially with the teams above Spurs in the league showing such good form. Both matches in the league last season finished with a share of the points with Harry Kane scoring in both. Tottenham will be hoping that the talismanic striker , who has now returned to training, reaches tip-top condition by then at the latest.

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A spell of continuous improvement for West Ham

Euro 2016

Defensive fragility defines poor start to the season

This season started very disappointingly for West Ham United, whereby Slaven Bilic’s side struggled throughout the months of both August and September.

Specifically, whilst losing their UEFA Europa League qualifying play-off to Astra Giurgiu for a second successive year, West Ham collected just three points from their first six English Premier League games.

In the process of doing so, they conceded 16 goals, with West Ham’s defensive fragility being compounded by a lack of cohesion, creativity and inventiveness in their attacking play.

Whilst goalkeeper Adrian delivered several unconvincing displays, with his decision-making and handling in particularly lacking conviction, the 29-year-old Spaniard was left severely exposed by a back four, who were guilty of haphazard and irresponsible defending.

Payet produces cataclysmic moment

However since witnessing his team lose 3-0 at home to Southampton at the end of September, when they were comprehensively outplayed, Bilic has galvanised his players to embark upon a markedly improved run of form, which began with a sublime solo goal by the mercurially talented Dimitri Payet.

With West Ham 1-0 down at home to Middlesbrough, Payet brilliantly drifted past several defenders, before angling a fine finish beyond Victor Valdes.  Although unable to score a winning goal, West Ham earned a valuable point to end a run of four successive league defeats.

Subsequently Payet’s moment of individual magic has proved to be the catalyst for West Ham’s players to collectively rediscover their belief and confidence, as testified by their last two English Premier League performances.

Successive league wins for the Hammers

After securing their first away win of the season by beating Crystal Palace 1-0 at Selhurst Park, as Manuel Lanzini scored following excellent work undertaken by Aaron Cresswell, West Ham then overcame Sunderland.

In order to do so, they showed great determination, perseverance and resolve, since despite being frustrated by a resolute Sunderland defence for the majority of the game, West Ham once again won 1-0 courtesy of a 94th minute goal by Winston Reid.

The 28-year-old New Zealander scored with a powerful 18-yard shot to inject further momentum into West Ham’s season.

Progression in League Cup

That improved yet further as they progressed to the quarter finals of the English League Cup by thoroughly deservedly beating Chelsea 2-1.

Whilst Cheikou Kouyate gave West Ham the lead with an excellent header, Edmilson Fernandes scored a second goal, before Gary Cahill replied for Chelsea.  Nevertheless by reassuming control of the game, West Ham emerged victorious after producing a cohesive, high-octane and intense performance, which was wonderfully appreciated by their loyal supporters.

Bilic oversees a marked upturn in West Ham’s fortunes

Therefore by winning two and drawing one of their three English Premier League games during October, whilst also reaching the quarter finals of the League cup, West Ham are amidst a spell of continuous improvement, which Slaven Bilic will aspire to mastermind a continuation of against Everton, whom the 48-year-old Croatian served as a player.

It is Ronald Koeman’s side whom West Ham are next due to play in the English Premier League, with the Hammers aim being to end the month of October unbeaten and move towards the top half of the league table, so that they can once challenge to qualify for European competition.

Although West Ham’s outlook for the season was bleak a month ago, it is now far brighter with their prospects of enjoying a strong campaign having greatly improved as a result of a excellent run of results.

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Burnley showing the way


There is not much between the three clubs that came up from the Championship, and although just one of them reside in the relegation zone, a poor run of results for any of them could result in trouble and an immediate return to the Championship.

Burnley were the first club to guarantee Premier League football, having secured their place at the top after finishing top of the Championship. Middlesbrough were to follow after a 1-1 draw with Brighton & Hove Albion meant they could finish no lower than second. The last club to join them had to come through the notoriously difficult and high-pressured play-off route and Hull City, despite finishing fourth in the Championship, celebrated as they defeated Sheffield Wednesday in the play-off final.

Burnley splashed out on Jeff Hendrick, Steven Defour and Charlton Athletic duo Nick Pope and Johan Berg Gudmundsson among others on their return to the Premier League. They are faring best of the newcomers and have accumulated ten points after nine matches and if they keep up that win rate they shouldn’t be too far from safety come the end of the season.

Middlesbrough brough in nine new players upon promotion including Adama Traore, Antonio Barragan and the highly rated Vikto Fischer (from Anderlecht). After a start of three matches unbeaten with two wins and a draw, they are beginning to struggle and plummeting down the table. They sit just outside the relegation zone, but on current form must be among the favourites for the drop unless they start getting some wins under their belts.

Hull City splashed out a rumoured £13 million on Tottenham Hotspur player Ryan Mason as well as securing the services of goalkeeper David Marshall with Jams Weir and Will Keane coming in from Manchester United. They have amassed seven points from their nine games so far, but have been on the receiving end of some heavy defeats, namely a 6-1 thrashing from Bournemouth and a 5-1 beating from title hopefuls Liverpool.

So as the season begins to take shape, it’s looking likely that at least one from the three promoted clubs will be relegated this season. Both Hull City and Middlesbrough are looking vulnerable and the games against each other could be crucial to their survival. Sean Dyche has Burnley carving out some decent results, most notably a 2-0 win over Liver pool and if they keep that up they should have no trouble securing Premier League football for next season.

Chelsea looking to lay down a marker


Chelsea, after nine matches in the Premier League this season, look to be running in to form at the right time. Whether or not they have the capabilities of challenging at the business end of the season remains to be seen, but I am sure we will find out in the coming weeks.

A 2-2 draw with Swansea, followed by a 2-1 defeat at the hands of Liverpool and a 3-0 defeat against Arsenal, fans and pundits alike had Chelsea written off as title contenders, however they are now on a run of 3 wins in a row which culminated last weekend in the 4-0 destruction of Manchester United. With Eden Hazard finding top form and making them tick from the left midfield, he has two goals in his last two league matches, they are now looking like a very threatening team indeed.

Since that 3-0 defeat against Arsenal, their defence has tightened up beyond recognition and have now gone 3 in a row without conceding while scoring nine at the other end. Thibaut Courtois has made the goalkeeping position his own and with a back three of David Luiz, Gary Cahill and Azpilicueta, they look like a difficult unit to break down.

At the other end, Diego Costa is looking like the player signed from Atletico Madrid in 2014, and has weighed in with seven for the season so far, topping the scoring charts in the Premier League. Ably assisted up front with the aforementioned Eden Hazard and Pedro, who has bagged just one, but has had many assists to his name, they look capable of breaking down even the tightest of defences.

The real test is yet to come though as they gear up for a run of games that will make or break their season. First up at the weekend is an away tie at Southampton, who with a defence featuring Virgil Van Dijk have only conceded eight this season. After that comes Everton who sit in sixth place. Six points from those two matches is a big ask but it is more than achievable.

A game against lowly Middlesbrough follows, but after that they will need to be on top of their game as they face Tottenham Hotspur away and Premier League betting favourites Manchester City. Somewhere in the region of 15 points from that run of six would be a terrific return and would surely see them as title contenders.

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