As we enter the business end of the Premier League season, there is still plenty of football to be played. In fact the title race, Champions League qualification and the relegation battle all remain wide open. In the second of two articles, we decided to run the rule over the top six in the division.
1st – Liverpool
Why they’ll win the league: They have a very kind set of fixtures with stuttering Tottenham and Chelsea their only top six opposition remaining and both of those are at home. Their defence is the best in the league with Virgil Van Dijk probably the finest individual defender in the world at the moment. Additionally, Sadio Mane and Mo Salah have each scored 17 goals, putting them one behind Sergio Aguero in the race for the Golden Boot.
Why they won’t: Because their nerve has gone. Liverpool were nine points clear in December but, after a patchy run, now lead Man City by two points having played a game more. Despite scoring 17 goals, Mo Salah has looked jaded and they still don’t have a top class midfield.
Remaining fixtures: Tottenham (H), Southampton (A), Chelsea (H), Cardiff (A), Huddersfield (H), Newcastle (A), Wolves (H)
2nd – Man City
Why they’ll win the league: They are in fantastic form and have the best first XI, squad and manager. Sergio Aguero is leading the scoring charts and Raheem Sterling is among the most in-form players in the world. Pep Guardiola has crafted a squad that can cope with anything and may be remembered as the finest in the league’s history.
Why they won’t: They’re fighting on too many fronts. With the League Cup in the bag, there is a genuine possibility of an unprecedented quadruple. As such the fixtures are piling up. Although their league fixtures aren’t too bad, add in the Champions League and they will face Tottenham three times in a row before journeying to Old Trafford.
Remaining fixtures: Fulham (A), Cardiff (H), Crystal Palace (A), Tottenham (H), Man United (A), Burnley (A), Leicester (H), Brighton (A)
3rd – Tottenham
Why they’ll finish in the top four: Because everything is going Tottenham’s way at the moment. Their new stadium is finally open for business and Pochettino is going nowhere. Harry Kane has emerged from injury in goal-scoring form and, when they’re all fit, Spurs have one of the strongest line-ups in the league.
Why they won’t: Their lack of investment in the summer is coming back to haunt them. Tottenham had more representatives than any other club in the World Cup semi-finals and many of their squad are on their last legs. What looked like a possible title challenge a couple of months ago is rapidly becoming a desperate bid to cling on to a Champions League place.
Remaining Fixtures: Liverpool (A), Crystal Palace (H), Huddersfield (H), Man City (A), Brighton (H), West Ham (H), Bournemouth (A), Everton (H)
4th – Arsenal
Why they’ll finish in the top four: Because the flaky Arsenal of the Wenger era have been replaced by a team who don’t fade away at pivotal moments. They’re unbeaten in five, including a 2-0 victory over Man United in their last outing, and have scored the third highest number of goals in the league.
Why they won’t: Their defence is still unconvincing, conceding 39 goals this season, one less than Newcastle. Additionally they have the added distraction of the Europa League to deal with, which offers them an alternate route into the Champions League. Will Arsenal put all their eggs in one basket by prioritising one competition, or will they split them and risk blowing their chances in both?
Remaining fixtures: Newcastle (H), Everton (A), Watford (A), Crystal Palace (H), Wolves (A), Leicester (A), Brighton (H), Burnley (A)
5th – Man United
Why they’ll finish in the top four: Because United have been the form team in Europe since Ole got the gig. Their turnaround under the Norwegian has been incredible to behold. His simple management has turned a group of underachieving prima donnas into a side that have steamrolled most of their opponents. Pogba, Rashford and De Gea are players that most sides in Europe would covet.
Why they won’t: The bubble may have burst. Having won Solsjkaer’s first eight games, their form is beginning to stutter and they have now lost two in a row after defeats to Arsenal and Wolves. Bizarrely, with the Champions League places looking unreachable at one point, their expectations have adjusted so much that it will be disappointing if they don’t reach them. Solskjaer could be a victim of his own success.
Remaining fixtures: Watford (H), Wolves (A), West Ham (H), Everton (A), Man City (H), Chelsea (H), Huddersfield (A), Cardiff (H)
6th – Chelsea
Why they’ll finish in the top four: They have arguably the best player in the league (Eden Hazard) and finest defensive midfielder in the world (N’Golo Kante). Their squad is packed with Premier League winning experience and they’re far too good to be playing in the Europa League next season.
Why they won’t: Chelsea are an insane club full of combustible personalities. After Kepa Arrizabalaga’s defiance in the League Cup final, it seemed as though Maurizio Sarri had lost control of the dressing room. They briefly got back on track but after dropping points against Wolves and Everton, Chelsea’s problems are once again bubbling to the surface.
Remaining fixtures: Cardiff (A), Brighton (H), West Ham (H), Liverpool (A), Burnley (H), Man United (A), Watford (H), Leicester (A)