|By PAUL GOUGH
With a quarter of the new English Premier League season now nearly complete, Manchester City remain an easing favourite to successfully defend their title this term as Chelsea continue to be the big firmers heading into this week's international break.
With seven of the 38 rounds now played, Chelsea have opened up a four-point lead over both Manchester City and United with the Blues on 19 points and the two Manchester clubs both on 15.
And punters certainly still see the title race as a battle in three even though last year's fourth-placed team in Tottenham Hotspur and early-season surprise packets Everton and West Brom are all just a point further behind on 14 points with perennial contenders Arsenal in seventh spot on 12 points.
In contrast, reigning European champions Chelsea, who finished a disappointing sixth in the league last season, have looked far more impressive winning six and drawing one of their seven league games so far - the latest an impressive 4-1 rout of Norwich.
Betfair's Daniel Bevan said City remain the $2.82 favourites to win the title this season but have drifted out from $2.22, while Chelsea have firmed from as high as $7.40 into $4.20 third favourites with United second favourites at $3.40.
"However, the two Manchester teams still account for more than 70 percent of money matched on title betting so far," Bevan said.
But the big three are all still great value at Betfair given they are shorter elsewhere.
At sportsbet.com.au City are the $2.63 favourites ahead of United at $3.10 and Chelsea at $4 while at Eskander's Betstar it's $2.65 for City, $3.25 for United and $3.85 for Chelsea.
The two Manchester clubs finished a staggering 19 points clear of their nearest rivals - Arsenal - last season but this season is shaping as being much closer.
The Gunners remain the fourth favourites in title betting at Betfair [$12.50] - they are at $12 at sportsbet.com.au and $11 at Betstar - with Spurs next at a massive $48 at Betfair.
However, Spurs are shaping up as great value considering they are now unbeaten since an opening-day loss at Newcastle and have won their past four EPL matches, including beating Manchester United at Old Trafford for the first time since 1989.
|Queens Park Rangers to be relegated this EPL season at $3.35 at Betfair
||Tottenham to win the EPL title this season at $48 at Betfair|
But Spurs are likely to shorten significantly in title betting should they win their next match - at home to leaders Chelsea on October 20.
As far as the relegation battle goes, four clear candidates are emerging for the three spots in Norwich, Reading, Southampton and QPR.
Norwich, who currently sit second last with just three points from seven matches, are the $1.62 favourites to go down at Betfair, with Reading - equal on points with the Canaries but have a game in hand - second favourites at $1.83.
Promoted Southampton, who sit just above the relegation zone on four points, are next in betting at $2.06 but it is QPR - currently last with just two points from seven games - that are the best value in relegation betting at $3.35 at Betfair.*Note prices subject to change