Reds and Blues the favourites for the EPL title
Even the race for the White House has got nothing on the battle for English Premier League supremacy.
Chelsea are dominating with three at the back.
Liverpool are thrashing opponents with three up front.
Arsenal tease with glimpses of scintillating football and Tottenham remain unbeaten.
Oh, and there are two clubs from Manchester who - lest we forget - were the pre-season title favourites.
As the EPL pauses for the international break, our writer blows the dust off his crystal ball and tries to make sense of the title challengers...
Liverpool is now a force to be reckon with under Jurgen Klopp. PHOTO: AFP
Only an irredeemable cynic - or a Manchester United supporter - could fail to be invigorated by Liverpool's resurgence under Juergen Klopp.
Sport thrives in its ancient tribalism and the EPL needs Liverpool and Manchester United challenging for the title.
At least the Reds are holding up their end of the bargain. Klopp's boys are evoking warm memories of Barnes and Beardsley, Alonso and Torres, and Gerrard and Suarez. Anfield has never felt more alive.
Strengths: Liverpool's overwhelming edge is the fixture list.
They face no significant title rivals between now and New Year's Day, when Manchester City come calling.
Until then, Southampton, Sunderland, Bournemouth, West Ham, Everton and Stoke present golden tickets, with the trip to Goodison Park the only potential banana skin.
And the absence of Champions League football undoubtedly helps.
The key factor is obviously Klopp. Even a casual glance at the line-up against Watford highlighted a list of familiar names.
Many were Brendan Rodgers' signings. But they have morphed into Klopp's automatons, forever surging and pressing. He's turned half the side into goal-scorers - there were four against Watford - and transformed James Milner into one of the season's most reliable left backs.
If he can do that, the manager with the Midas touch appears capable of anything.
Weaknesses: Liverpool have conceded more goals than anyone else in the top six.
The back four retains a makeshift quality to it, with Milner pulled back out of necessity rather than choice.
While Loris Karius is certainly an improvement on Simon Mignolet, he lacks the imperious stature of the mighty men between the sticks at Manchester United, Chelsea and Arsenal.
If the defence solidifies over the Christmas period, the Reds may enjoy an extended stay at the summit.
Antonio Conte's boys are flying high. PHOTO: REUTERS
Enthusiastic, upbeat and bold in his selections, Antonio Conte has won hearts and minds not only at Stamford Bridge, but across the EPL.
More worryingly for his rivals, his title plans seem to be at least a year or two ahead of schedule.
Strengths: If ever that cliche concerning players being more important than formations held true, it was in the Chelsea-Everton game.
Toffees boss Ronald Koeman also flirted with a back three in a bid to contain Conte's swashbucklers.
As a sea of Blues washed over Everton, Koeman swiftly retreated to a back five and cut his losses.
Chelsea's back three was borne out of desperation, but Conte at least ensured he had the players first.
Victor Moses and Marcos Alonso make the play work. Their workrate is typical of a Blues side willing to run through walls for their new manager.
Eden Hazard and Diego Costa were like wounded animals under Jose Mourinho. Now they play like beasts unleashed. Their new-found freedom has overcome their selfishness.
N'Golo Kante, settled alongside Nemanja Matic, shields the back three beautifully. Chelsea are also benefiting from a European absence.
Weaknesses: There is the obvious lack of pace in central defence. When Gary Cahill came off against Everton, John Terry came on, hardly one speedster replacing another.
The Blues' major concern is a tougher fixture list, which includes Tottenham and Manchester City in consecutive weeks. But Chelsea have little reason to fear either.
3. MANCHESTER CITY
Their season began with a bang, but October turned into a whimper.
The unexpected draw at home to Middlesbrough only added to the sense of unease that Pep Guardiola might just be rushing through a new playing policy without the right personnel in place.
Strengths: Sergio Aguero provided the 150th reason against Middlesbrough why he's a striker who stands alone, untouchable and unstoppable.
His 150th goal underlined that City will always have what others do not - a proven, consistent goal-scoring machine capable of leading the line in any formation or competition.
City's victory against Barcelona in the Champions League last week also demonstrated that Guardiola remains a tactical grandmaster when the mood takes him, capable of locking heads with the game's greatest boffins.
Ilkay Guendogan is also slowly realising his potential in English football as he works on his relationship with Kevin de Bruyne.
Weaknesses: Guardiola still has a basket case of a back four.
The Spaniard has tried back threes, wingbacks, fullbacks and different partners for John Stones, but they can't quite pull up the drawbridge when under attack.
Plus, the final moments of the Boro game typified Guardiola's longstanding dilemma.
He took off Aguero, his only potent goal-scoring threat, in the 90th minute. Boro equalised a minute later.
Perhaps it was just bad luck, but Guardiola's desire to protect Aguero, who'd just been booked, is indicative of a manager who knows he's short of reliable finishers.
City boast the best striker in the business. They just don't have a back-up.
Mesut Oezil is pulling beautifully pulling the strings in Arsenal's midfield. PHOTO: AFP
Gloriously positive in the Champions League, tentative in the North London Derby, there's a fear that the same old Arsenal might be returning.
November is never kind to the Gunners. They must heed the lessons of history quickly. If nothing else, Mesut Oezil deserves a shot at the title.
Strengths: At the 2010 World Cup, an unknown kid turned up against England's so-called Golden Generation and took them to school.
The German wunderkind was expected to shake up the world, but gave it a gentle nudge instead. Now, finally, Oezil appears to be consistently demonstrating his intoxicating artistry for Arsenal. Playing in the hole, he has galvanised both Alexis Sanchez and Theo Walcott, who insists he's fulfilling his potential after 10 years of trying.
Weaknesses: Oezil, Sanchez and Walcott were anonymous against Tottenham. When Sanchez came out wearing gloves, the Gunners faithful probably feared the worst.
Arsenal take on both Manchester clubs before Christmas (with a couple of European games in between).
If their fragile playmakers go into hibernation for the winter, the Gunners could fall away by the New Year.
And Arsene Wenger never did sign that prolific striker, did he?
Can Harry Kan and co sustain the pace to challenge for the title? PHOTO: REUTERS
Mauricio Pochettino won't admit it, but the greatest fillip for Spurs' title chase could be an early exit from the Champions League.
They lack the strength in depth to seriously challenge on two fronts.
Trips to Monaco and Chelsea in the space of four days later this month will give a clearer idea of where their priorities lie.
Strengths: Spurs' unbeaten record - the last in the EPL - is due almost entirely to their defensive fortitude.
Even when Pochettino gambled on a back three at the Emirates, Hugo Lloris was only beaten once - and that was an unfortunate own goal.
Just six goals conceded, Spurs have the most established defence in the league, with a hardy band of veterans able to complement one another.
In Pochettino, Tottenham also have one of the game's coaching giants, willing to revolutionise and then radicalise further when necessary.
Weaknesses: No Harry Kane, no goals. Tottenham didn't really threaten Petr Cech's goal until Kane converted the spot-kick.
Just one goal from open play in the last seven games is hardly title-winning material.
Monaco, Chelsea and Manchester United will go to work on Tottenham's rear-guard between now and Christmas, safe in the knowledge that Spurs' penalty-box threat is often negligible.
Without a goal source beyond Kane, Tottenham won't win anything.
6. MANCHESTER UNITED
Wayne Rooney looks on from the substitute bench. PHOTO: AFP
If Jose Mourinho stopped talking and United started winning on a regular basis, Old Trafford would not be cast in perpetual gloominess.
But neither is likely to happen any time soon.
Strengths: Zlatan Ibrahimovic has started scoring again and Paul Pogba now vaguely resembles that midfield powerhouse at Juventus.
Juan Mata has the odd creative moment, which rather symbolises United's season. They enjoy the odd, creative moment, but nothing more than that.
Weaknesses: As it was in the beginning under Louis van Gaal, United still have no fixed idea of their back four. Despite the hundreds of millions of dollars frittered away, Marouane Fellaini remains a regular starter.
Against Swansea, he featured alongside a 35-year-old Michael Carrick. It was hardly a tactical revolution.
Wayne Rooney looks a lost legend in search of a regular position and Mourinho continues to treat interviews as a chance to castigate his own players.
The title? United will be lucky to make the top four.
HUMPHREYS' TITLE PREDICTIONS
- Manchester City
- Manchester United