Premier League notebook: Manchester City rise to the top with 12th straight win

COVID-19 may have robbed us of a North London Derby this weekend, but we were still treated to a fascinating list of Premier League action. There have been huge moves at both ends of the table, with Manchester City effectively putting the title race out of Chelsea’s reach.

Here are all the key takeaways from another weekend of action.

City become pending champions

Manchester City‘s 1-0 win over Chelsea at the Etihad Stadium gave them their 12and consecutive league victory, as Pep Guardiola’s men continue their seemingly unstoppable march to Premier League glory. Kevin De Bruyne scored the decisive goal – and a beauty too – with 70 minutes on the clock. De Bruyne now has five goals against his former side and came good for punters who were on the tale of revenge this weekend.

This means City now have an 11-point lead at the top of the table, and that could be insurmountable. They’ve moved to -1250 now to retain the title, an incredible change considering two months ago we were in a real three-way title chase. Chelsea and Liverpool have failed to keep pace, however, and City have stepped up a gear as they embark on the hunt for trophies domestically and across Europe.

Chelsea challenge ends in a month of disasters

The defeat to Manchester City is the final nail in Chelsea’s title challenge. Considered the pre-season as one of the main threats to City’s crown after winning the Champions League and signing Romelu Lukaku, it all went wrong for Thomas Tuchel’s side.

They led the league for the first third of the season but have had a nightmarish month of football – winning just one in six league games since December 16. During that period, City collected 18 points, while Chelsea managed to claim just seven.

That leaves the Blues 13 points behind City and likely to find themselves in a top-four battle with Arsenal just eight points (two games down) and Tottenham 10 points (four games down).

Rafa Benitez’ Everton exit

It felt like it was inevitable, but Rafa Benitez and Everton eventually parted ways. The latest humiliation came when bottom-of-the-table Norwich beat the Toffees 2-1, meaning Benitez had won just one league game since the end of September.

His record in that run was 1-9-3 and included notable disappointments including a 5-2 home loss to Watford (a game in which Everton led 2-1 with 12 minutes to go), a 4-1 loss at home to fierce rivals Liverpool, and losses to newly promoted Brentford and struggling Crystal Palace.

Rafa has never been a popular fixture given his links with long-distance rivals Liverpool, and now Everton must seek a manager with the club sitting just six points above the relegation zone. It will be a difficult second half of the year for whoever takes the reins.

Canaries fly to safety?

The 2-1 win was a huge boost for the Canaries, however, as they entered the game on a six-game losing streak, failing to score and conceding 16 in their league matches since start. December. Despite going almost nine-and-a-half hours in the league without scoring, Norwich found the net twice in the first 18 minutes against Everton to ease the nerves of the fans and lift them off the foot of the table.

The victory puts Norwich in 18th place and just one point behind Watford. These two sides face off on Friday night, in what has the potential to be the deciding game in the battle against relegation. Watford are winless in seven games and have lost six of their last seven league home games.

Dean Smith hopes Norwich’s win over Everton can give them the boost of confidence they need to go on and beat Watford and drag themselves out of the drop zone.

Harrison’s hat trick hurts Hammers

Jack Harrison scored a huge Premier League hat-trick in front of a crowd of eager travelers at the London Stadium as Leeds beat West Ham 3-2 in an absolute thriller. David Moyes’ men equalized twice but couldn’t keep Leeds down as Marcelo Bielsa’s side refused to quit.

It was huge for Leeds, who have now won consecutive games and given themselves a cushion of nine points above the relegation zone. It’s also a huge boost for fans who had a tough Christmas watching Leeds lose a series of games 3-2 to Chelsea, 7-0 to Man City and 4-1 to Arsenal.

But for West Ham, it is another blow in the race for the first four. The Hammers overcame a sticky patch in November and December to win three League games in a row, but home defeat to Leeds now leaves West Ham at the mercy of the chasing pack. The Hammers sit fourth with 37 points, but Arsenal, Tottenham and Manchester United are all within reach and have several games in hand.

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