The stage could be set for a race between Arsenal and Manchester City for the English Premier League title by the end of the season. But it depends on each of those teams winning their derby this weekend.
Nor does it seem like an easy mission.
In fact, by Sunday night, ahead of the second half of the campaign, the number of clubs involved in the scepter battle could rise to five.
The Manchester derby is on Saturday. City grow more suspicious as the season progresses and they face a United who are enjoying their best results in four years instead.
Eight consecutive victories in various competitions. Nine consecutive wins at Old Trafford. United can no longer bear the heavy burden of Cristiano Ronaldo, and under the command of Erik ten Haag, confidence grows.
Now he is looking to avenge the humiliating 6-3 defeat City inflicted on him in early October.
The weekend date kicks off with the North London derby on Sunday. Arsenal, who have a five-point lead over City, visit fifth-placed Tottenham and striker Harry Kane has been in fine form, showing glimpses of another record.
Since returning from the World Cup, Kane has scored four times in the same number of games. Just one more goal to equal the late Jimmy Greaves as Tottenham’s top scorer with 266 goals.
No player has scored more in the derby than Kane with 14 goals. In fact, no one has scored more than Kane against Arsenal since 1992, when the English tournament was renamed the Premier League.
If Arsenal and City win, they will leave United and Tottenham far behind. Only Newcastle, which is third and receives Fulham on Sunday, will continue in the fight.
But if the Gunners and the Citizens go down, the top five in the table will suddenly be separated by just eight points.
City must be the scariest team.
Back-to-back wins against Chelsea in the league and FA Cup last week had put Pep Guardiola’s men on the right track. But Wednesday’s defeat to Southampton in the League Cup not only ended the quest for poker trophies but also raised questions about squad variants.
City have dropped points in two of their last four league games – both at home, a 2-1 defeat to Brentford and a 1-1 draw with Everton. At present, Guardiola’s squad doesn’t look like the machine that can mount a long winning streak that allows it to take control of the battle for the scepter, as it has in the past.
What is a matter of concern for City is that despite sending off Kevin De Bruyne and Erling Haaland in the second half, they did not even have a shot on goal against Southampton.
Midfielder Ilkay Gundogan admitted the blow to Faith.
“This combined group is probably stronger than ever, at least in recent times,” Gundogan said. “He is very confident, he will play great football and we will need to do better against Southampton.”