Premier League title, top four race set up perfectly

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This is going to be the most exciting second half of a Premier League season in history. Fact.

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With the halfway point of the season about to arrive, a lot can happen, but the gap between Manchester United in first and West Ham in ninth place is just eight points.

Folks, things are about to get wild, both in the title battle and the top four situation as the standings are so congested.

After Manchester United’s draw away at Liverpool kept them top of the Premier League table, they are only ahead of Manchester City and Leicester City by two points, Liverpool by three and Tottenham by four.

[ VIDEO: Premier League highlights ]

Everton and Chelsea are also in with a shout, while Aston Villa, Southampton, West Ham and maybe even Arsenal could still push for a top four spot, or at the very least top six, too.

I called it in my 2021 predictions, this will be the greatest Premier League title race in history. We know that 2011-12 will be tough to match for final day drama, but that was a two horse race. This could be an eight horse sprint to the finish, with plenty of hurdles and comebacks along the way in the spring.

Let’s break down the Premier League title and top four race, which is perfectly poised.

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Current situation

Here’s the latest table. Yep. This is for real.

Premier League
Premier League

Surging contenders

Leicester City – Five games unbeaten. Maddison on fire. Defenders are back fit. Woah. Surely they can’t do it again!?

Manchester City – Here they come. Nine games unbeaten, with seven wins, since they lost at Spurs. Sergio Aguero has been out, but they are so solid at the back and Kevin de Bruyne is leading the charge.

Manchester United – Top of the table and disappointed with a point at Liverpool. Pogba is playing well and United have got better defensively. Solskjaer’s side can rip anyone apart on the break.

Tottenham – Four games unbeaten and despite failing to hold on to leads, they are just four points off the top. Jose Mourinho is the master at grinding out results and Kane is on fire. A good recipe for success.

Struggling giants

Liverpool – Defensively they have problems and even though they aren’t conceding many, they are struggling to score. That’s because they aren’t building up from the back like they were with Van Dijk in the team. Klopp has admitted that his main target is to finish in the top four and said that this season it will be even tougher than before with such a congested table.

Chelsea – Frank Lampard’s side edged to victory at 10-man Fulham but it wasn’t pretty. They have some huge games coming up and have to beat contenders to get back into the top four race. They have the players to be in the title battle, but have been too inconsistent.

Arsenal – The Gunners are a very streaky team. Very streaky. Mikel Arteta’s side could win 10 games in a row, then lose 10 on the trot. If they can get the balance of their team right, watch out. Somehow, just 10 points off the top four…

Contenders who could sneak into the top four

Everton – The Toffees have been unlucky with injuries but a top four finish is very achievable if Richarlison, James and Calvert-Lewin regain their form.

Aston Villa – See above. Villa have a lot of games to make up, but Grealish and Watkins hold the key to their success. Need to be lucky with injuries, especially at the back.

Southampton – Hit hard by injuries too recently, but Saints have Danny Ings and if they keep clean sheets he will give them a chance to win any game they play. Dangerous.

West Ham – David Moyes has them well-drilled and Antonio is now back fit and the Hammers could easily finish inside the top six. A nasty, horrible team to play against. Just the way Moyes likes it.

Key games on the horizon

In the next month, these are just some of the crunch games to keep an eye on as teams jostle for the title and top four spots. We are getting close to calling these ‘six pointers’ as it is so tight at the top. Heck, we are calling them six pointers. Buckle up.

[ MORE: Full Premier League schedule on NBC Sports ]

January 19: Leicester v Chelsea
January 27: Everton v Leicester
January 28: Tottenham v Liverpool
February 3: Tottenham v Chelsea
February 6: Manchester United v Everton
February 6: Manchester City v Liverpool
February 13: Manchester City v Tottenham
February 13: Leicester v Liverpool
February 20: Liverpool v Everton

Premier League title, top four race set up perfectly originally appeared on NBCSports.com