EPL round-up: Is Chelsea running away with the title?

Kabir Ali
Kabir AliJan 03, 2017 | 14:06

EPL round-up: Is Chelsea running away with the title?

Record-equalling Chelsea

Is there any stopping the Chelsea juggernaut? This time it was Mark Hughes' Stoke City asking the questions, and not for the first time in their incredible 13-game winning streak, the champions-elect had the answers.

Ten clean sheets from their last 12, this wasn't a typically assured defensive performance from Chelsea as Peter Crouch-inspired Stoke breached their backline twice, but what was perhaps most pleasing for Antonio Conte was how unfazed his players were as they replied with four goals of their own.

Cesc Fabregas supplied two of Chelsea's goals. (Reuters photo)

Cesc Fabregas supplied two of those goals to only become the fourth player after Giggs, Lampard and Rooney to register 100 Premier League assists, and easily the quickest to that tally. Not a bad night's work for someone who is struggling to nail down a regular place in a side that has now matched the League record for most consecutive wins, joining the Arsenal invincibles.

With such illustrious company, it's hardly a surprise that the Blues are considered the runaway favourites for the ultimate prize with just half the season done.

Liverpool battle to stay in touch

Chelsea may be chalking up one win after another, but Liverpool aren't making it any easier for them as they look to keep the pace. The win at Stamford Bridge meant that Liverpool and their final guests at Anfield for the year, Manchester City, kicked off nine and ten points behind the leaders.

Georginio Wijnaldum's header gave Liverpool the lead. (Reuters photo)

After Wijnaldum's towering header gave Klopp's men an early lead, the hosts dug in to deny City a way back into the game. Like Chelsea, this was far from the vintage Reds who had neither the style nor the goals to match some of their earlier performances this season.


Guardiola's men gave the hosts something to think about, but never really got going. Aguero's return from suspension was far from a happy one, as he was starved for service and kept in check by an unusually resilient backline.

A fitting end to a brilliant year at Anfield for the Reds, who lost just one game in front of the Kop throughout 2016 to firmly re-establish the status of their iconic ground as a fortress.

Relegation candidates not helping themselves

The bottom three of Hull, Sunderland and Swansea did themselves no favours after another round of miserable results that further underlined their status as favourites for the drop.

Hull hosted Everton in the early fixture and surrendered the lead twice, first through an error from goalkeeper David Marshall and then late on, as Ross Barkley took advantage of sorry marking to score from the corner. Mick Phelan could only look on from the sidelines as his team was unable to make their spells of domination count, much like the game against Manchester City.

Sunderland were abject in their 4-1 thrashing at Burnley. Turf Moor has been a tough place to visit for most sides, and the struggling Black Cats were no match for the home side. Keeper Jordan Pickford has been one of the finds of the season and a rare positive for David Moyes, and he was sorely missed as his understudy Vito Mannone failed to step up.


Of course, Mannone wasn't helped by his defenders as they were torn to shreds by the rampant Andre Gray who scored his first Premier League hat-trick. With Liverpool up next, things look bleak for Sunderland as their season edges closer and closer to disaster.

Rock-bottom Swansea, still smarting from the scars of Bob Bradley's unceremonious departure were consigned to a 3-0 defeat at the hands of Bournemouth. It was a horror show from start to end in South Wales for the side that now face Crystal Palace on Tuesday in a massive game for them.

Paul Clement, former assistant to Carlo Ancelotti at Chelsea, PSG, Real Madrid and Bayern, was announced as their third manager of the season, knowing that nothing but a miracle in the second half of the campaign will keep them up.

Around the grounds

Elsewhere, Manchester United just about maintained their excellent run of form with a 2-1 win at home against Middlesbrough. Aitor Karanka, assistant to Mourinho in their time at Real Madrid, was fortunate to see his side go into the break level with United after Ibrahimovic's goal was wrongly disallowed.

There was nothing fortunate about the opener however, as his side silenced Old Trafford with a well-crafted goal from the skipper Grant Leadbitter. Just as frustration began to creep in around the Theatre of Dreams, a stunning 86-second spell yielded goals from Martial and then Pogba to snatch a late, late win that the watching Sir Alex would have been proud of.

A fine birthday present for their greatest manager and a satisfactory end to an otherwise tough year by their standards for the Red Devils.

Leicester were pleased to end the greatest year in their history with a solid 1-0 win at home against West Ham thanks to a trademark Islam Slimani header. Their fairytale may be well and truly over, but the Foxes will look back at 2016 with great fondness as the year in which they shook world football.

A blockbuster end then, to a fantastic year of competition amongst England's football elite. Just when you think you've seen it all - remember, there's still half of the season to go.


Last updated: January 03, 2017 | 14:06
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