Much like last season, this Premier League campaign was expected to be a two-horse race, and that’s exactly what it is now. And that’s because Manchester City has been knocked out of it.
In losing to Manchester United – and offering very little to convince against the argument they deserved to lose by a lot more than the one goal – the champions from the last two seasons are set to be dethroned.
Liverpool is the champion-in-waiting now. Eight points clear, only dropping two points all season, with the most fearsome attack in the world and a plethora of understudies who know all the lines and stage directions to fill in for the main protagonists.
But now, not so quietly hunting behind, is Leicester City, on a relentless winning run even more impressive than Liverpool’s.
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The Foxes recorded their eighth consecutive victory on Monday morning (AEDT) with the 4-1 thumping of Aston Villa, a team on somewhat of a high after strong performances against Manchester United and Chelsea.
And it was the usual suspects who put Villa to the sword.
James Maddison assisted twice, Jamie Vardy scored twice, Caglar Soyuncu and Jonny Evans controlled the back four (Evans even scored) and Youri Tielemans kept everything ticking in the middle.
Kelechi Iheanacho has even come into the squad in recent weeks and provided key goals and assists in what is increasingly known as the Divock Origi role – a player who effortlessly slots in when a starter is withdrawn and very little changes. The same was evident with Soyuncu and how he has made Harry Maguire’s absence go completely unnoticed.
It’s easy to see why, yet again, Brendan Rodgers finds himself as one of the most coveted managers in the league, and why the Foxes have just tied him down to a fresh five-year deal.
In his 26 Premier League games in charge, Jamie Vardy has scored 25 times himself – 16 of which coming this season – and he has now broken the win record set in the famous 2015/16 season.
“It’s a real historic day for the club,” Rodgers said after the win at Villa Park. “We had all types of goals today, we had a long period of possession for the second one, two counter-attacks, a set-piece and other chances. We kept going until the very end to try and score goals so it was an absolutely outstanding performance.
“The team that were in the Leicester history books [for the longest winning top-flight run] were called the ‘Ice Kings’ and they were a very famous team so to go on and break that record in the top flight is a real historical achievement by the players.
“I thought we had a lot of quality and played with a real hunger. With a few more quality passes in the final third we might have scored more goals, but that would have been greedy. It’s a brilliant win for us and an important three points.”
In total, Rodgers has won 17 games and lost just five since taking over at the end of February to give himself a win percentage of 65.3%.
Only Liverpool and Manchester United – at Anfield and Old Trafford respectfully – have beaten the Foxes, while the King Power Stadium has become a fortress, with only Wolves, on the opening day of the season, stopping them from winning.
They have the best defence in the league and the third best attack and, going into the busiest time of the season, they don’t have European games or an eight-hour flight to Qatar for the Club World Cup to worry about.
While Liverpool has been dodging defeats with Jurgen Klopp’s calculated gambles with his team selection – he has rested Sadio Mane, Mohamed Salah, Roberto Firmino, Jordan Henderson, Georginio Wijnaldum and Trent Alexander-Arnold in the last week – Rodgers has been able to focus on consistency with his starting XIs.
The real acid test come either side of Christmas Day, when Leicester travels to the Etihad to face Manchester City before welcoming Liverpool to the King Power for a Boxing Day bonanza.
That’s when we will know whether Leicester is here for a good time, or for a long time this season. It will be the most defining five days of the title race.