CITY WILL BE CHAMPS
1ST: MAN CITY
On paper, no Premiership team can match Manuel Pellegrini's men.
But the Chilean manager is finding the league a tough one to master.
It wasn't so much an inability to perform to their potential that is holding them back.
When everything clicks, City are a notch above everyone else.
But it's their inconsistency that is stopping them from running away with the crown.
Of all the realistic contenders, none perform as badly as City against the struggling teams.
In games against the bottom-seven sides, they have garnered only 17 points from nine matches.
Compare that with Arsenal, who have 11 points more from playing just one additional game.
That statistic may return to haunt the Citizens, looking at their tough run-in.
With games at Anfield, Old Trafford and Emirates Stadium coming up, Pellegrini's side need to deliver when it matters.
Getting top striker Sergio Aguero back from injury as soon as possible, and keeping him fit until the end, may prove to a decisive factor.
Looking at their remaining fixtures, City should win all their games except maybe a slip-up at city rivals Man United and draws at Liverpool and Everton.
That will put them on 86 points with Chelsea, pipping the Blues to the title on their superior goal difference.
Manager Jose Mourinho was quick to play down his side's title chances after moving to the top of the table following their emphatic 3-0 win over Newcastle earlier this month.
But who was he trying to fool?
They may have a slender lead at the summit but there is a clockwork efficiency about them that makes them strong contenders.
Their campaign is built on a formidable home record of 11 wins and two draws from 13 games, which makes them the best home side in the Premiership.
Chelsea's ability to raise their game on the big occasions has served them well, too.
The Blues, the only team to complete the double over Man City this season, have yet to lose a game against the Super Six clubs.
Much has been said about a dearth of firepower in the strikers' department, but the fine form of attacking midfielder Eden Hazard, with 12 league goals so far, has compensated for a jarring deficiency.
Mourinho's experience and a solid defence ensure that Chelsea will be there or thereabouts at the finishing line.
Like City, they should win their remaining games, but I think they will rue dropped points at Liverpool, Aston Villa and Swansea.
The biggest heartbreak would be to finish level on points with Man City, but pipped to the title on goal difference.
Critics believe they have already seen signs of Arsenal buckling under the strain.
A 5-1 away loss to Liverpool, followed by a goalless home draw with Man United, have seen the Gunners lose their spot at the top.
Striker Olivier Giroud has struggled for consistency, midfielder Mesut Oezil's form has been miserable, while injuries to key players Aaron Ramsey and Theo Walcott have weakened their midfield considerably.
A thin squad means that manager Arsene Wenger's options on the bench are limited.
But it's too hasty to write them off.
In truth, detractors have long dismissed their chances, citing their fragile psyche as their biggest weakness.
But, with two-thirds of the campaign gone, they are just one point behind leaders Chelsea.
They are virtually out of the Champions League after losing 2-0 at home to Bayern Munich in midweek, but an early exit could be a blessing in disguise, as they can focus on the Premiership.
Wenger's ability to keep the team's spirits up, especially if Arsenal's blip continues for a couple of weeks more, will be crucial.
Next month will be the litmus test, where they must handle Tottenham Hotspur, Chelsea and Man City in the league, not to mention the second leg of their last-16 clash with Bayern to come.
A draw with Spurs and losses to Chelsea and Man City could prove to be their undoing, as they finish third on 82 points and the title drought continues.
The Reds have continued to defy expectations this season, all thanks to their two prolific strikers.
Luis Suarez, with 23 league goals, has cemented his position as the league's most lethal striker.
Daniel Sturridge, second on the league's goal-scorers' chart with 16 strikes, has been consistently finding the net as well.
The team's strike rate of 66 goals from 26 matches is second only to Man City's 68, and is the reason for their top-four position despite a creaky defence.
Chelsea manager Jose Mourinho has highlighted Liverpool's lack of European football as a big advantage in the title race, and indeed, when compared with the fixture lists of their rivals, the Reds have a slight edge.
Some may read Mourinho's statement as one of his mind games, but the fact that the Portuguese saw Liverpool as a threat said much about the club's progress under Brendan Rodgers.
Liverpool can beat anyone on their day. Just ask Arsenal and Tottenham Hotspur. It must also be said that the Reds have already negotiated past the tougher half of their season. Spurs, Man City and Chelsea have yet to visit Anfield, where Rodgers' side have claimed 34 points out of a possible 39.
The biggest worry is if the wafer-thin squad - the weakest among those in the title hunt - can last the distance unscathed.
The title seems out of their reach, but they are definitely capable of finishing in the top four again.
Suarez dreams of Reds success
Luis Suarez believes he can achieve his "dreams" at Liverpool, one of those being playing in the Champions League.
The Uruguayan forward has enjoyed a wonderful campaign, with 23 goals in his 21 games and 10 assists.
Suarez (right), who last summer had asked for a move from Anfield, insists he could not be happier at the club - who he is determined to lead into the Champions League for the first time since 2010.
The Reds are just four points off leaders Chelsea and Suarez is hopeful they can maintain their form.
He admits that a top-four finish remains their focus as he is unsure they can really compete for the title this term.
"I want to be there with Liverpool. It's an unbelievable competition. It's where we want to be - playing against the top teams in Europe," Suarez told the Liverpool Echo.
"I watched the games on TV this week and when you hear that Champions League music that's motivation in itself.
"Stevie (Gerrard) has told me about Champions League nights at Anfield. He said when you have played Champions League football at Anfield, you will never forget it. I want to try it for myself." - PA Sport.