As the Premier League enjoys its first-ever winter break, it’s a good time to recall some of the great memories and stats so far.
For starters, Liverpool is undefeated in the league. After 25 games, the Reds are entering rarified air. Only Manchester United was able to take points from them drawing 1-1 at Old Trafford.
We have seen plenty of VAR (video assistant referee) controversy. From the highly-talked about penalty attempts to the issuing of red cards, VAR has put its mark on the season.
Scoring is up, and the 691 total goals have been led by Manchester City, with 65 of them. Jamie Vardy of Leicester City leads individually with 17. Arsenal can be considered one of the dirtiest teams as they lead in yellow cards with 57 and are tied for most red cards with three.
The Premier League season has been nothing short of spectacular so far and we expect the greatness to continue. With 13 games to go, we know Liverpool will be the champions, but when? Who claims the other three Champions League spots? What about the Europa League spot? Which clubs will spend next season in the championship? Let’s predict what will inevitably be a great finish.
When Will Liverpool Be Crowned Champs?
Liverpool sits atop the league with 73 points with City next at 51. With 13 games remaining, the most Manchester City can get to is 90. That leaves Liverpool needing 91 if Man City maxes out their points opportunities. The earliest they can achieve their goal is in six games.
March 21 is their sixth game after the winter break against Crystal Palace. With games against Norwich, West Ham, Watford, and Bournemouth before, it’s hard to envision them slipping up. The Merseyside derby is the potential hiccup before Crystal Palace.
However, City would have to go 5-0 in that same stretch and with games against Leicester and Manchester United, both away, I predict Liverpool will be crowned champions in the Merseyside Derby. As if celebrating their first championship in 29 years isn’t great, enough dancing all over Goodison Park will enhance the moment.
Who gets the other three Champions League spots?
Manchester City is too far ahead to worry about slipping out of the top four. Leicester is sitting comfortably with 49 points, with an eight-point edge over fourth place, and with no other competitions to play for, they are a lock.
So who joins Liverpool, City, and Leicester? Chelsea, Tottenham, Manchester United, Sheffield, and Wolves are all contenders. Let’s look at the table and the remaining schedules for each.
Prime Time Games = Remaining games against either Liverpool, City, United, Chelsea, Arsenal, or Tottenham.
Hard Games = Remaining games against clubs in the top half of the table that aren’t the powerhouses.
Soft Games = Remaining games against clubs in the bottom half of the table.
|Club||Prime Time Games||Hard Games||Soft Games|
Additionally, to help in our determination, we must consider other competitions these clubs are competing in. Chelsea, Tottenham, United, and Wolves are all in European action (either champions league or Europa). All but Wolves are still in the FA Cup.
This is how I see it shaping out. Wolves will be undone by the number of games and the grind of traveling through Europe. United are too far back and will soon shift their focus toward winning the Europa League and securing Champions League that way.
Tottenham will continue to suffer from not having Harry Kane. I also think they make the top-eight in the Champions League, further hurting them domestically. Sheffield isn’t ready for the moment, and they’ll make a surprisingly deep run in the FA cup, eventually costing them valuable league points.
In the end, Chelsea will be the one sitting in fourth place. Losing in the next rounds of both Champions League and FA Cup will have them laser-focused on the Premier League.
Who Gets Europa League Spot?
I have it between Tottenham and United. I’ll lean Tottenham for now, given their managerial experience and having more creativity. The wild card is not knowing when Paul Pogba returns from injury. If he can get back on the pitch by March, then I believe United’s talent can rise above.
That scenario isn’t all that bad for Tottenham if my earlier prediction of United winning the Europa League happens. UEFA will drop the Europa League spot down to sixth since United would advance to next season’s champions league.
Who’s Championship League-bound?
Norwich City is a lock to be dropped as they are seven points clear from safety and carrying the league’s worst goal differential. Watford is scoring the third-fewest goals and while they’ll fight until the end, they will end up going down. West Ham will do just enough to save themselves. Aston Villa’s deep Carabao Cup run will boost them out of the drop zone.
Bournemouth is too good and Eddie Howe won’t allow them to be dropped. However, it will be nervous times for them until the end. That leaves Brighton, sitting at 15th in the table. If the other teams are being saved, then I believe it’s the Seagulls falling into the relegation zone and playing next season in the championship.
Follow Jason Mattis on Twitter (@Lockoftheday1) for more great Premier League content.