Unlikely race for Europe?

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Sheffield United are the surprise side in the early jostling for European football but can they really sustain it and who else looks best placed in the hunt? We assess the battle for Champions League and Europa League spots with the halfway stage looming.
Liverpool appear irrepressible while some of their traditional ‘big six’ rivals are toiling in transition, their lead 10 points after Leicester’s draw with Norwich.Premier League table | fixtures | resultsNEW: Latest live Premier League gamesCharlie’s predictionsThe Foxes and Manchester City meet in front of the Sky Sports cameras on Saturday evening, but a compact top half below Pep Guardiola’s third-placed side makes for intriguing reading; just four points separate Tottenham in fifth place and beleaguered Arsenal in 10th. Who else looks best placed to book a Champions League spot? Can incoming Mikel Arteta and Carlo Ancelotti inspire respective Arsenal and Everton surges? And can the Blades follow in Wolves’ footsteps this season? Read on for our analysis and then use our interactive table predictor below… Sky Bet’s top six odds (at Dec 20) Leicester 1/100 Chelsea 1/9 Tottenham 1/6 Man Utd 8/15 Arsenal 9/4 Wolves 10/3 Sheff Utd 15/2 Everton 11/1 Can the Blades sustain surprise challenge? John Lundstram and John Fleck have provided goals from midfield for Sheffield United “I don’t want to look at the table!” Chris Wilder grinned following a 2-0 win over Aston Villa – one that lifted his side up to fifth, temporarily at least. “I’ve looked at the points that we’ve got after 17 games and it’s quite healthy. We’ve just got to keep adding to it.”Survival was the simple pre-season aim for a side that spent less than half of Aston Villa’s summer outlay and that are unfashionably stocked with players who have risen together from the lower leagues. Yet victory at Brighton on Saturday would take them to within a point of the top four – until Sunday at least. Not bad for the team widely tipped to be marooned at the bottom of the table.There have been backs-to-the-wall halves early in the season against Leicester and Chelsea and toils against deep-sitting Watford and Newcastle sides but the Blades have been impressively consistent. In fact, it was striking against Villa that the level of performance now feels like the norm.”It’s incredible, a great story,” said Sky Sports’ Gary Neville on his latest podcast. “Some clubs come up and you just feel they’re doing it right. They’re believing in the players who’ve got them here and it’s working. They’re a great watch; the organisation, the defensive quality, the goal threat. I was at Bramall Lane for the Manchester United game and for 70 minutes they were so dominant. They should have won that game.”Jamie Carragher highlighted their wide attacking play on Monday Night Football – the well-documented overlapping centre-backs just one element of a system brimming with positional rotation – and yet even he admitted to being bamboozled by an approach Premier League sides are still grappling with. 4:29 On Monday Night Football, Jamie Ca

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