1ST: MANCHESTER CITYCITY have kicked on to a whole new level after winning the FA Cup and finishing third in the Premier League last term.
Not even the Carlos Tevez dispute has been able to puncture the tyres of the light blue juggernaut.
Outstanding displays by the likes of Sergio Aguero and David Silva have meant Tevez's absence from the Etihad has had no impact whatsoever. If anything, it looks a happier camp now.
Manager Roberto Mancini no longer has to worry about keeping players happy because he is winning.
Expect a title party in May — provided their bums do not squeak too much before then.
2ND: MANCHESTER UNITED
DESPITE a terrible run of injuries, United are not giving up their title without a fight.
And if City slip up, you can guarantee that Alex Ferguson and his men will be right on hand to take advantage again.
Wednesday's 5-0 win at Fulham showed they are ready to make another New Year assault on the Premier League crown.
Ashley Young, Phil Jones and David de Gea have settled in well at Old Trafford following their arrivals in the summer.
And Wayne Rooney has showed his world-class ability once again.
They will run leaders City close.
HARRY REDKNAPP'S team are the only ones who can stop the title from ending up in Manchester again.
And while I think Spurs are worthy challengers with one of the best squads in the division, I fear for them that the experience and money at City and United will leave the north Londoners just short.
But third — and a finish above Arsenal for the first time since 1995 — would be no mean feat for Redknapp
And it highlights to chairmen what can be achieved when they turn down big-money offers for their stars, like Daniel Levy did when Chelsea came calling for Luka Modric.
THE Gunners made a terrible start to the season and were hovering around the relegation zone after their 8-2 humiliation at Manchester United and even more shattering 4-3 reverse at Blackburn.
But a run of two defeats in 12 Premier League games has fired Arsene Wenger's men up the table. They are also in the last 16 of the Champions League, where they will face AC Milan.
Currently fifth in the Prem, I believe boss Wenger and his side face a battle with Chelsea and Liverpool to finish fourth. It is going to be tight, but if they keep Robin van Persie fit they could do it.
THERE is a club and a manager in transition down at Stamford Bridge.
Rookie boss Andre Villas-Boas is starting to make waves after being thrown in the deep end.
Nicolas Anelka has already been shown the door and Didier Drogba could be next, while Frank Lampard has been reduced to cameos from the bench.
AVB has still not fathomed how to get the best from Fernando Torres, but the emergence of Ramires, Raul Meireles, Juan Mata and Daniel Sturridge should see them challenging for Champions League qualification again.
THE Kop giants, under Kenny Dalglish, are heading in the right direction again.
King Kenny has managed to galvanise a club which was split under the previous owners Tom Hicks and George Gillett.
That means the Reds will be in the shake-up to decide fourth spot and the final Champions League slot. But failing to beat Sunderland, Norwich and Swansea at home could haunt them.
Luis Suarez's impending eight-match suspension could hit Dalglish hard in the New Year, too.
TONY PULIS continues to make progress at the club nobody wants to play. His Potters finished 13th last season — though they would have ended up higher had they not saved themselves for the FA Cup final.
The Europa League, instead of being a hindrance for Pulis, has enhanced his players who have embraced the competition, while still maintaining their reputation and position in the league.
Their current eighth spot is their best placing at Christmas since they were seventh in 1974.
HOW does David Moyes do it? No money or new owners on the horizon and yet he still manages to keep his Everton squad challenging in the Premier League.
Despite losing Mikel Arteta to Arsenal on deadline day, Moyes has the Toffees going into Christmas in 11th place.
As long as they do not lose any more of their players next month, I expect them to finish the season even higher than that.
And even if they do sell another player, Moyes will probably continue to pluck rabbits out of the hat.
IF we were giving out a Manager of the First Half of the Season award then you would have to say Alan Pardew would be right up there.
The Newcastle boss has surpassed everybody's expectations with his side mixing it in the top four instead of the bottom four as was widely predicted.
Pards has his team playing good football and made their ground a tough place to visit. The trick now is to keep that going for the rest of the campaign. And, with injuries starting to kick in, that will not be easy.
10TH: WEST BROM
ROY HODGSON continues to show at The Hawthorns why he is renowned as such a great coach.
Having hauled the Baggies away from relegation danger last season, he has maintained their upwards momentum in a quiet and understated manner.
Albion are in 10th place in the table, despite having achieved back-to-back wins only once all season.
If they can improve on that consistency, which they are more than capable of doing, Hodgson can ensure they keep that top-10 status.
THINGS were looking bleak for the Black Cats under Steve Bruce. But Martin O'Neill's appointment as boss has re-energised the Stadium of Light.
Now after two wins in three matches, Sunderland are looking up the table instead of down.
But the Wearsiders are not out of the woods yet. O'Neill needs to address the form that has seen them win just four home matches in 2011.
But if they can keep coming up with late winners — like they did against Blackburn and QPR — then they should be OK.
12TH: ASTON VILLA
THE jury on the Holte End is still out on manager Alex McLeish after his arrival last summer from neighbours Birmingham.
The departures of Stewart Downing, Ashley Young and Brad Friedel in the close season meant it was always going to be a difficult campaign, and so it is proving.
Villa have just eight points from their last 10 matches — relegation form. While they are looking over their shoulders, I think they will stay up, provided Darren Bent starts scoring again and they improve their defending at set-pieces.
THE Liberty Stadium is starting to appear on many Prem teams' list of places not to visit.
While the Swans have not won a match away in the League this term, at home it is different. All four of their top-flight successes this season have come on their own patch.
A real worry for boss Brendan Rodgers is a lack of goals, with just 16 in the League this season.
But along with Manchester United they have kept the most clean sheets in the division so far — eight. And that will keep them up.
14TH: NORWICH CITY
THE newly-promoted Canaries were many people's tips for a quick return to the Championship after two successive promotions.
But Paul Lambert has underlined his credentials as one of the brightest young coaches in the game by guiding Norwich to ninth in the table.
Their cavalier approach means I do not expect them to finish there.
But with the likes of Steve Morison and Grant Holt up front, they have enough in their locker to secure another season at the top level.
THE Cottagers' exit from the Europa League might be a blessing in disguise for boss Martin Jol.
After a June start in the competition, his men look weary.
But with Thursday nights on Channel Five now out of the way, they can concentrate on staying in the Prem.
It won't be easy. Their 5-0 loss to Manchester United on Wednesday was their heaviest home defeat in the top flight since Leeds thumped them 6-0 in 1968.
And they have the fewest away goals in the Prem this season, four in eight.
BOSS Neil Warnock is going to have to spend well and wisely in the January transfer window to keep his club in the top flight.
I thought compact Loftus Road would be a fortress but, despite some narrow defeats on their own patch, the Rs have won three times as many away games as they have home.
They are also among the lowest scorers, which is a bit of a worry.
But with owner Tony Fernandes promising to splash the cash to retain their Premier League status, I can see my old club beating the drop. Just. Though they will have to be careful.
I AM a huge fan of Mick McCarthy's. The Wolves boss is a straight-talking, no-nonsense, proper passionate football man.
The game — and the Premier League — need more managers like him, and I genuinely hope he can keep his team in the top flight.
But despite the experience of last season — when they escaped relegation on the final day — it is by no means a certainty.
Wolves, despite their continued progress under Big Mick, are one of a number of sides who will be facing a battle for survival.
ROBERTO MARTINEZ is one of the best young coaches in Europe and I have no doubt he will go on to manage a big club one day.
But sadly, he could have a relegation on his C.V.
For a while he has punched above his weight to keep Wigan in the top flight. But I feel it will be touch and go whether or not he can repeat last year's achievement.
The Latics are one of several clubs who could get relegated. I have put them down to finish at 18th, but it could just as easily be Wolves, QPR, Fulham or another club.
I PREDICTED it would be a tough season for Wanderers and, sadly for their fans, it looks like I was right.
Boss Owen Coyle did a terrific job last year, guiding the club to 14th place and the FA Cup semi-finals.
But the departures of strikers Johan Elmander and Daniel Sturridge and serious injuries sustained by Chung-Yong Lee and new buy Tyrone Mears in pre-season meant that was never going to be repeated.
Bolton have the worst defence in the Prem — having conceded 39 goals — and with Gary Cahill tipped to join Chelsea next month, it is difficult to see how it will improve.
YOU have to feel sorry for Steve Kean.
The under-fire Rovers boss strikes me as a decent man, but little has gone right for him or his team since he took over.
His players still appear to be fighting for him, but it appears to be a losing battle. And there is also the problem of the supporters' discontent.
Kean has amassed just 32 points from a possible 114 since taking charge a year ago. That rate needs to improve significantly and sharpish if his Rovers side are to avoid plummeting into the Championship.
Blackburn beat the drop last season on the final day — I cannot see it happening again this time.