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With Man City, Aston Villa and serial under-achievers Spurs all fighting it out for a place in the top four, who will lose out and change the face of the Big Four for the first time in five years?

Rafa Benitez continues to insist that the top seven teams will lose more matches this year. But after his 2-0 defeat away to Chelsea, a game which Liverpool won 1-0 last season after a deflected goal from Xabi Alonso, his team have already lost more matches in their first eight games than they did the whole of last season.

The one thing his team seem to have worked on, although it is early days yet, seems to be draws to "lesser" teams at home. These look like a thing of the past, but to instead drop points away against your main rivals surely undoes all that good work at home. Having been beaten by Tottenham Hotspur away one the first day of the season, Villa ten days later and now Chelsea, surely the team who would seem to be struggling to retain their place in the top four would now be Liverpool.

Title Race Decided?

Most had written off Arsenal, even from the end of last season when we saw the dream team dreamt up by City's Hughes, a team surely not out of reach of his many disposal millions. But Arsene Wenger's vision seems, after three seasons of trial and error, to be coming together. They are a young side who as yet may lack consistency but it is, after all, the matches against the big teams that matter in any competition, and they look sure to match any side they come up against.
This is something which Benitez, even a matter of months ago, could boast. But they look severely weakened with the loss of Xabi Alonso to Real Madrid, where his playmaking skills in the centre of midfield have taken them to within three points of champions Barcelona. With injuries forcing Liverpool to continuously field second team players such as Lucas and Skrtel they have suffered defeat to three main rivals, two of which would see it as a success jut to steal a place in the top four of the Premier League off Liverpool, and Fiorentina in the Champions League. Chelsea legend Tony Cascarino remarked after the weekend at Stamford Bridge that these two players, along with Insua and Aurelio, are "not fit to wear the shirt". Harsh words, but do fans agree?

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Manchester Utd continue to win matches in unspectacular form, even more so now without Cristiano Ronaldo, who at least brought a little flair to the side. As much as they have been able to grind out points against teams like Stoke and Wolves their dominance seems lacking and a League title won in such a way would be testament to the failings of English football. Chelsea, then, look sure to run away with it, their defensive mistakes at Wigan far behind them. They outplayed Liverpool up front and at the back, taking the game to midfielders Lucas and Mascherano, just waiting for the inevitable mistake, and played the off-form Gerrard, who Cascarino commented was "off the boil", out of the match totally.

It's early days yet and the yearly Chelsea implosion is yet to come, unless one match against Wigan was all the hope their rivals will be given. No team looks as strong and as well formed as Ancelotti's Blues. Champions Man Utd look lacklustre, and none of the other "Big Four" clubs seem able to challenge this year. We hope it doesn't go back to the way things were when Mourinho was around, i.e, a title race between only two teams for the last six months, as last season was one of the most interesting we had seen in years for fans and neutrals. With the three other teams providing somewhat of a collective onslaught on the top four, though, this seems unlikely, but for this to occur someone at the top must suffer and lose their hallowed spot in the Champions League to a "lesser" side.


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