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Chelsea drop to third as Premier League top-four battle begins to take shape

The fight for the second half of the season

Liverpool v Brentford - Premier League Photo by Michael Regan/Getty Images

Following Chelsea’s narrow defeat to imperious Manchester City yesterday and Liverpool’s easy win against floundering Brentford today, Chelsea have officially dropped to third in the table, two points behind Liverpool in second, who also have a match-in-hand.

Liverpool are, in turn, eleven (11!) points behind the runaway leaders, and while Jürgen Klopp may claim they’re not completely out of the title race just yet, City have, for all intents and purposes, wrapped up their third straight Premier League title, with the rest of us now focusing on a top-four finish (and success in the cups).

And with just one win from our last six in the league (and only four from our last twelve), that top-four finish isn’t looking nearly as comfortable as it might have not too long ago. We’re currently six points ahead of fourth-place West Ham, who contrived to lose to Leeds United at home on Sunday — Lewis Bate making his Premier League debut for the visitors! — but Arsenal are just two points behind them, and with two games in-hand.

The Gunners were able to convince the Premier League to postpone this weekend’s North London Derby — which certainly ruffled plenty of feathers, and justifiably so given that it weren’t positive COVID tests that prompted them to claim they don’t have enough players — which also means that Spurs now have four (4!) games to make up at some point in the future. They’ve only played 18 so far, compared to 22 for us and at least 20-21 for most everyone else in the league. In fact, were the league to end today for some reason, Spurs would finish fourth based on a points-per-game average.

While our top-four ambitions are not currently under threat, our results do have to improve. Fortunately, the schedule for the rest of the season ahead is not the toughest, so we should be able to achieve that minimum aim, while continuing to fight for trophies on four other fronts (League Cup, FA Cup, Club World Cup, Champions League).

Elsewhere this weekend, Conor Gallagher marked his return for Crystal Palace with a goal, his seventh of the season, which has lead to increased comparisons with one Frank Lampard, which the 21-year-old of course laughed off, but which may not be too far off the mark.

A little further down the table, Norwich City got their third win of the season to move off the foot of the table, by beating Everton, 2-1 on Saturday. The day after, Everton, now down to 16th, confirmed the sacking of Rafa Benítez. The one-time Chelsea interim facts-man had lost 9 of his last 12 league games, winning just one. Wayne Rooney has been tipped to replace him.

And speaking of amusing results, Manchester United gave up a 2-0 lead late on against Aston Villa, who got their equalizer from new arrival Philippe Coutinho. United are currently down in 7th, which would equal their lowest ever Premier League finish. They have not won a trophy since 2017.

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