It's often been said in the past that the team on top of the English Premier League table at Christmas can be relied upon to go on and win the league. That's an adage that's been correct far more often than it's been wrong in the past, but we don't believe that will be the case this year. By the time Christmas has been and gone, we'll be just over one-third of the way through the campaign, and it looks unlikely that any team will have established a clear lead.
This has and will continue to be a strange season for many reasons, but even if games weren't being played without fans, it would still be unusual. The winners of the Premier League usually come from a select group of no more than three or four teams. Those three or four teams might change from year to year, but you'll rarely get more than that number of clubs competing for the top prize. The division is wide open, and any one of perhaps five or six clubs could walk away with the trophy in May - including a team or two who've never won it before.
The easy answer to the question of who might win the Premier League is 'anybody,' but not all twenty sides have a realistic prospect of winning. Let's focus on those that do and see where they stand.
At the time of writing, Spurs are on top of the league by virtue of goal difference. Their return to prominence this season has been a validation for coach Jose Mourinho, who was written off by many as being past his best when he took over the reins from Mauricio Pochettino early last season. Mourinho recently dismissed any suggestion that his side are title contenders, memorably describing them as "ponies in a horse race," but the table doesn't lie. Even if he doesn't admit it publicly, he and his players will be dreaming of claiming the title for the first time.
Were it not for an injury crisis of almost farcical proportions, Liverpool might already be on their way to winning the league as convincingly as they did last year. Because of those injuries, they're missing their two first-choice center-backs, and they've been forced to deploy James Milner as a makeshift right-back alongside players from their academy. It's a less than ideal situation, but they're keeping pace with Spurs, and they're very much still in the race. It wouldn't be a shock to see the trophy go to Anfield again - and it would be an even bigger achievement than it was last time if Jurgen Klopp can pull it off.
Nobody seems to Frank Lampard's Chelsea as title contenders, but that won't bother him. His team is sitting pretty in the table, and they're free of the expectations that burden some of the other clubs in the hunt. Inconsistency can be their worst enemy, but recent results suggest that they've found new stability, and they won't be far off by the end of the season. They're an outside bet, but they're still worth a punt.
It would be a shock if Leicester City won the championship, but not as big a shock as it was when they did it in 2016. Manager Brendan Rogers was brought to the King Power Stadium to stop the Foxes from drifting back into mid-table mediocrity, and he's achieved that. They narrowly missed out on Champions League football last time around, and they look even better this time. They'd be light in attack if Jamie Vardy were to be injured, but so long as he stays fit, they've always got goals in them.
It's been years since Manchester City looked this far off the pace ten games or more into a season, and it's hard to understand why. They still have quality in every department, but something isn't clicking for Pep Guardiola's men this time around. Perhaps it's the lingering disappointment of not landing Lionel Messi in the transfer window. City's team has grown old and needs clearing out and rebuilding, but so long as they have money to spend and a world-class coach, they'll remain a threat. If they can string consecutive wins together, they can recover from where they are.
From the negative press coverage that Manchester United and Ole Gunnar Solskjaer get, you'd assume they were battling for survival, but they're ahead of Manchester City in the table and, as we write this article at least, five points off the top with a game in hand. You can't rule out a team that's in that position and has players like Bruno Fernandes, Edinson Cavani, Marcus Rashford, and Mason Greenwood to call upon. They need to solve the "Pogba problem" in January and reinvest the money wisely, but they're in deceptively good form.
The opening weeks of the season, during which Everton looked like title contenders, feel like a long time ago now. Since James Rodriguez got injured, they've struggled to find wins, and as a result, they've dropped out of the top four and drifted six points away from the summit. Their experienced manager Carlo Ancelotti remains confident that his team will soon turn a corner in terms of results, and he never considered them to be in the title hunt anyway, but if they can rediscover their early season form, they could yet become a threat.
With seven teams potentially capable of taking home the trophy, making a prediction is difficult. You usually get low odds on only one or two Premier League clubs becoming champions because there are so few teams who appear to be capable, but the odds on all the teams listed above are short at the moment. That's a far cry from when Leicester won it with odds of 5000/1 - the kind of odds you'd usually get on hitting the jackpot at an online slots website! In fact, trying to make a prediction here feels a little bit like playing an UK slots. We fear that our money would be lost the moment we placed a bet, and if we did win, it would be because we got lucky. If you really pushed us, we'd rule out Everton and Leicester City, we suspect Manchester City will be too inconsistent this time around, and Ole Gunnar Solskjaer isn't capable of leading Manchester United to a title. That leaves Manchester City, Tottenham, and Liverpool - and we'll learn toward Spurs. Don't take that to the bank, though. Sometimes those online slots jackpots can happen out of the blue - and that means anybody could yet be a winner!