With more than half the Premier League season now completed, now is an opportune time to make some predictions how the final table will look come May.
One thing that is certain is that, in the short-term at least, there will be more matches cancelled due to Covid, with the World Health Organisation (WHO) warning that more than 50% of the population of Europe can expect to contract the new Omicron strain in the next six to eight weeks. And that could have an impact on where teams end up I they have to play a lot of games in a short period of time towards the end of the season.
However, even at this early stage, it is difficult to see anybody stopping Manchester City defending their crown. They have a ten point lead over their nearest challengers and their (fortunate) win over Arsenal on New Year’s Day was their eleventh in succession.
They have the deepest squad, and have been relatively unaffected by injuries, Covid, or call-ups to the African Cup of Nations (AFCON).
Chelsea’s and Liverpool are their nearest challengers, but the draw between them recently did neither side any favours. A month ago, it looked like it was set to be a here horse title race, but the two clubs have since stumbled. Chelsea have lost key players to injury, and both sides have suffered from Covid outbreaks.
Liverpool have been further weakened by losing their two strikers, Mo Salah and Sadio Mane to AFCON, and they do not have the depth in their squad to adequately replace them. Both will finish in the top four, and Liverpool may just pip their London rivals for second.
The fourth Champions League spot will be the most hotly contested of them all. Arsenal currently occupy it but their challenge may be undermined because their squad is currently looking threadbare, with four layers away at AFCON, injuries and AFCON. Unless they can get in quality replacements fast, they are likely to be overtaken by North London rivals Tottenham Hotspur, with Antonio Conte beginning to exert his influence on the club.
West Ham are also having another strong season under David Moyes, and are also contenders to finish in the top four, although they may have to settle for a Europa League place again, along with Arsenal.
Manchester United would normally expect to finish in the top four, but they are having a difficult season following the sacking of Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, whilst interim manager Ralf Rangnick seems to be struggling with an unhappy and unbalanced squad. Seventh place and spot in the Europa Conference League is not what the club’s fans expect.
At the bottom, Norwich City seem destined for an immediate return to the Championship, a consequence of failing to invest in the team adequately when they were promoted last summer. After Daniel Farke was sacked, there was a brief new manager bounce under Dean Smith, but that optimism has long faded.
They are likely to be joined by another promoted club Watford, who may be regretting the decision to sack the man who brought them up last season Xisco Muñoz, and replace him with Claudio Ranieri. So far, the Italian has had little impact at Vicarage Road, and, although they remain above the relegation places for now, it seems a matter of time only before they drop into them.
That leaves one place to be decided, and there are three candidates to fill it. Leeds United have endured a difficult second season in the Premier League, racked by injury and also by the sense that the Marcelo Bielsa magic is beginning to wear off. Nevertheless, if they can buy wisely in January and get some of their injured players back, they should survive.
Burnley have also been struggling, and they have lost their main striker Chris Wood to rivals Newcastle United, finding an adequate replacement for him will be key, but Sean Dyche is used to operating on a small budget and at the wrong end of the table, and with games in hand on those around them, should just have enough to beat the drop.
Which leaves newly enriched Newcastle United, who have only won one game all season. They are expected to invest substantially in the transfer window, but they are having problems attracting quality players to St. James Park, and anyway, the new signings may take time to gel. They also have a vastly inferior goal difference to all the other team except Norwich, and that ultimately may prove to be the deciding factor.
Summary of Predictions:
Champions: Manchester City
Other Champions League qualifiers; Liverpool, Chelsea, Tottenham Hotspur
Europa League: West ham United, Arsenal
Europa Conference League: Manchester United
Relegation: Norwich City, Watford, Newcastle United
Credit: This article sourced from Sport news section on Vwin99.net
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