Manchester City’s lead at the top of the Premier League will worry the chasing pack, but Gary Neville believes the title race is far from over.
City dropped points against Southampton over the weekend, with Liverpool gaining ground thanks to a win at Crystal Palace before Chelsea beat Tottenham in a London derby on Sunday afternoon.
Pep Guardiola’s side are still nine points clear of Liverpool, who have a game in hand, but the Reds will soon be able to welcome back Mohamed Salah, Sadio Mane and Naby Keita after their Africa Cup of Nations exploits.
And former Manchester United captain Neville has poured cold water on suggestions the title has already been secured, predicting a tight finish to the campaign.
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“Little things like [City’s draw] give a little bit of encouragement [to Liverpool and Chelsea ],” Neville said on his Sky Sports podcast
“City are a machine and you don’t expect them to make a lot of mistakes, but they could, and Liverpool and Chelsea have got to believe that.
“I’m not that disappointed in Liverpool, to be honest, because I think they have to be at full pelt all the time to get to City just because they haven’t got the squad that City have got, but I do think Chelsea have [that quality of squad].”
While Liverpool can close to within six points of the summit by winning their game in hand, Chelsea are 10 points behind City having played a game more, thanks to a run of one win in seven league games before the victory over Spurs.
“They’ve talked themselves out of a title race, it seems to me, and I don’t know why, because everything looks so good” Neville said.
“I like to think I can spot a team that have championship quality, usually one that’s won the Champions League and had a big boost in Europe the year before.
“The squad they’ve got, it is the most comparable squad to City, and they shouldn’t be this many points off them.”
City won the title by a 12-point margin last season, and Neville expects things to be a great deal closer this time around even if the league leaders don’t end up getting caught.
“I expect it to get close. I don’t expect this runaway league,” he said.
“Five weeks ago, we expected this three-horse race and we’ve almost been pushed into a feeling that City have won it.
“I don’t think we have got the three-horse race back this weekend through the fact that Chelsea and Liverpool have won and City have drawn, but I don’t think we are going to have that runaway 20-point championship that we’ve had sometimes with City.
‘It [City being caught] can happen,” he said, reflecting on previous instances of his own Manchester United sides being pegged back after a significant lead at the top.
“Liverpool have got it in them if they can keep that 11 together, that strongest 11 and get Sadio Mane and Mo Salah back flying, but
“I think the quality in the Premier League this season is outstanding and it doesn’t deserve to have someone winning it by 15 points, it doesn’t feel that way.”