Manchester City’s eight point advantage after 11 games is leading to talk of the Premier League title race being over in November, but as Manchester United manager Jose Mourinho noted – English football has a habit of throwing up surprises.It is undeniable that City are currently playing with such a verve, fluency and effectiveness that it is hard to imagine them losing three games and allowing their rivals, whether it be United, Spurs or Chelsea, into the race.But while the form of Pep Guardiola’s team and – second-placed United’s recent losses to Huddersfield and Chelsea – point towards a runaway title win, there is indeed lot of football left to be played.”Eight points in the Premier League is not the same in Portugal, La Liga or the Bundesliga. Yes, it is eight points but there is still a lot of play (to come),” Mourinho said after the loss at Stamford Bridge on Sunday, which followed City’s comfortable 3-1 win over Arsenal.While Mourinho was not explicit in his explanation, the fact is that suspensions and injuries to key players happen and, over the course of a long season, can radically impact a team’s form.And while City certainly have plenty of quality, their strength in depth has not yet been truly tested.Guardiola was already taking about his team being tired after their midweek trip to Naples in the Champions League. How will they be holding up physically after a fixture-congested festive season? How will they cope in February when they will be in knockout action in the Champions League?advertisementCity made a strong start last season but then suffered successive defeats — to Chelsea and Leicester City — at the start of December before ending that month with a loss at Anfield on New Year’s Eve.KEY FIGURESPhoto Credit: Reuters United host City at Old Trafford on December 10 — a game which Mourinho surely has his eye on already as a chance to reign in the leaders and he suggested that his team will be stronger with some key figures set to return.”I hope, feel, think and wish that in the busy period at the end of November, December and January, we’re going to be at maximum strength with (Paul) Pogba, (Zlatan) Ibrahimovic and (Marcus) Rojo back (from injury),” he said.Certainly United’s stumble in form after their excellent start of six wins from seven games, has coincided with the absence of French midfielder Pogba, whose partnership in central midfield with Nemanja Matic was developing so well.Romelu Lukaku’s goal drought has had a bigger impact given the absence of an alternative central striker and the return of Ibrahimovic, who had scored 17 goals in 28 Premier League games before his knee ligament injury, would give Mourinho another option.While the focus is on United’s challenge, it is worth noting that Tottenham are level on points with them and after their crushing of European champions Real Madrid last week, a long winning run from Mauricio Pochettino’s team cannot be ruled out.But while Guardiola is right to play down talk of an inevitable title win, he couldn’t help highlighting one key difference from last season – his team’s performances against top six clubs.”Last season against title contenders, we were able to win just twice. Coming into November, we have already beaten Chelsea, Liverpool, Arsenal,” he said.Six days after December’s clash with United, Guardiola’s side face Tottenham at the Etihad and then on January 14 they are at Anfield, where their title bid unravelled last year.If City can triumph in those games then perhaps talk of a one-horse race can be justified. But as Mourinho says, there is a lot of football left to be played.
news Old Trafford and the Ashes stir great memories – plus one of leaving early The Ashes Share on LinkedIn England have made one change to their side for the fourth Ashes Test at Old Trafford with Craig Overton coming into the side in place of Chris Woakes.The Somerset paceman was drafted into the squad following confirmation that James Anderson would not be able to return in the series due to a calf injury and is brought straight into the team.England captain Joe Root also confirmed the expected switch of positions for Joe Denly and Jason Roy, with the latter moving down to bat at No 4 after struggling as an opener in the series so far. “Jason is a high-quality player, we all know that, and he might be better suited at four,” said Root. “I think to play in an Ashes series is very exciting and he was extremely excited to get the chance to open the batting but I think that he might be better suited for the middle order on the evidence we have seen over the last three games. … we have a small favour to ask. More people are reading and supporting The Guardian’s independent, investigative journalism than ever before. And unlike many new organisations, we have chosen an approach that allows us to keep our journalism accessible to all, regardless of where they live or what they can afford. But we need your ongoing support to keep working as we do.The Guardian will engage with the most critical issues of our time – from the escalating climate catastrophe to widespread inequality to the influence of big tech on our lives. At a time when factual information is a necessity, we believe that each of us, around the world, deserves access to accurate reporting with integrity at its heart.Our editorial independence means we set our own agenda and voice our own opinions. Guardian journalism is free from commercial and political bias and not influenced by billionaire owners or shareholders. This means we can give a voice to those less heard, explore where others turn away, and rigorously challenge those in power.We need your support to keep delivering quality journalism, to maintain our openness and to protect our precious independence. Every reader contribution, big or small, is so valuable. Support The Guardian from as little as $1 – and it only takes a minute. Thank you. Australia sport “It’s a great opportunity for him to make it his own and we have seen him play enough international cricket to know what he can do when he gets himself in so hopefully batting lower down allows him to do that. Joe has played some good cricket throughout the summer, he has got himself in and he was very good in that second innings [at Headingley]. It’s a great opportunity for him to get us off to a good start with Rory [Burns].”Steve Smith has returned to Australia’s squad after being forced to miss out at Headingley following the concussion he suffered when hit by a Jofra Archer bouncer at Lord’s. Root is looking forward to seeing the pair go head-to-head again.“For everyone watching I’m sure it will be an exciting contest between two world class players,” he added. “What that Headingley win has done is make this a very special week this week and a great opportunity for us to build on what was a great win and carry that forward. I thought the way we performed in that second innings was more what we are about as a team and as a batting group. It’s a great opportunity for us to do that in the first innings this time around.” Ashes 2019 Share on Messenger England cricket team Cricket Share on WhatsApp Reuse this content Australia cricket team Share on Pinterest Share on Twitter Topics Share via Email Share on Facebook Since you’re here… Read more Support The Guardian