Predictions for Premier League run-in

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With the run-in now here, the next few weeks are going to be incredibly exciting across the Premier League.

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With that in mind, we asked our writers a series of questions about how they think things will shake out across the Premier League, FA Cup, European competitions and the promotion picture.

Here’s a look at what they believe will happen in the frantic race to the finish line.


Who will win the Premier League title? Have you changed your mind from your original pick?

Joe Prince-Wright: Nope. I said Man City at the start, and I am sticking with them. But this is going to be one heck of a title race. I can see this going into the final minutes on the final day of the season, and goal difference or a single point will likely decide the title. I’m going with City, just, to win the title.

Nick Mendola: I haven’t changed my mind from my original pick of Manchester City, but obviously I’m very close to thinking Liverpool can do this given schedule congestion. The last obstacle seems to be whether the Reds can get through the first Porto match with a decent lead and be able to focus on defeating Chelsea and navigating the 2nd leg.

Andy Edwards: Everybody in the world picked Man City at the start of the season, and for good reason. Now, though, Liverpool’s “easier” run-in has me leaning their way, for the simple fact they showed last year they’re more than happy to punt one competition to chase another, and I’m not sure that concept exists within Pep Guardiola‘s DNA. Obviously it’s a massive gamble to look past a Champions League quarterfinal, but if Jurgen Klopp really wants to win the league…

Dan Karell: I still think Manchester City will do it. Ultimately, Manchester City has the title-winning and big game experience that should just set them apart from Liverpool. I think it will come down to a 2-3 point difference in the table at the end.

Kyle Bonn: Manchester City. That’s who I originally picked, and based on current form, Pep Guardiola’s squad is still the most equipped to finish the season strong. With the 1 point lead, they would need to slip and Liverpool would need to be near-perfect the rest of the way to capitalize. Liverpool’s a likable team, and it’s hard not to root for them to get over the hump, but the struggles a few weeks ago severely cost them.


Which teams finish in the top 4, and why?

(AP Photo/Rui Vieira)

JPW: Man, this is very tough. Man City and Liverpool will be the top two, obvs., but then I’d go with Tottenham and Arsenal to finish in third and fourth respectively. With a tougher schedule and having the Europa League to fall back on, I think Chelsea will just miss out, while Man United have run out of steam in a big way.

NM: Man City, Liverpool, Arsenal, Spurs. There’s definitely enough quality in Chelsea and Manchester United to slip into third and fourth, but the way the fixtures fall and who is home makes me think their paths have more obstacles than Arsenal and Spurs.

AE: Liverpool, Man City, Arsenal, Tottenham. Why that particular order, you ask? Have you looked at Arsenal’s schedule to finish the season?

KB: The Champions League race is going to be FUN! Four teams fighting for two spots, all within three points. I think Spurs will make it as they limp to the finish line, and I like Chelsea to pip Arsenal for the last spot. All these teams have flaws, but I think Chelsea has slightly better players, and Eden Hazard will finish his Blues career strong.


How far do each of the six Premier League teams still in the Champions League and Europa League advance?

JPW:
Man City – lose to Barcelona in the final
Liverpool – lose to Barcelona in the semifinal
Man United – lose to Barcelona in the quarterfinals
Spurs – lose to Man City in the quarterfinals
Arsenal – lose to Chelsea in the Europa League final
Chelsea – beat Arsenal in the Europa League final

NM:
Man City – champions unless they hit Barcelona
Liverpool – out in semis
Man United – lose to Barca in quarters
Spurs – lose to Man City in quarters
Arsenal – lose to Napoli in UEL quarters
Chelsea – defeat Napoli in UEL Final

AE:
Spurs – lose to Man City in quarters
Man United: lose to Barca in quarters
Liverpool and Man City: out in whichever round they face Barcelona.
If Arsenal get by Napoli in the quarterfinals, it’ll be Arsenal v. Chelsea in the final.

KB:
If you asked me a week ago I liked Manchester United’s chances to go far, but given their struggles of late, Solskjaer isn’t exactly equipped to lead them out of the pit quickly enough. However, there’s no better time to match up with Barcelona than now as the Catalan giants are in a bit of a defensive rut. I like Liverpool’s chances to reach the final, and Manchester City too.

Man United: lose to Barca in quarters
Spurs: lose to Man City in quarters
Liverpool: to reach the final
Manchester City: to reach the final
Imagine a Man City/Liverpool final with one looking for revenge on missing the PL title? Goodness me that would be fun. In the Europa League, given the teams remaining, if Arsenal can get by Napoli they can get by anyone, but I don’t think that will happen. Chelsea is poised to make the final, however, with little standing in their way.

DK: I think Manchester City can go all the way in the UEFA Champions League. Liverpool hasn’t seemed as good, but should at least make the semifinal, and who knows, maybe Man United will as well. Tottenham would do amazing to get past Man City. Chelsea should make the semifinal of the Europa League but the quarterfinals may be the end of the line for Arsenal against Napoli.


Which team finishes in 7th and grabs the Europa League spot?

JPW: I expect the April 27 showdown between Watford and Wolves to decide who finishes seventh, and I fancy Watford to just knick it. Wolves have a tougher run-in, and I think they will beat Watford in the FA Cup semifinal this weekend meaning their focus will be on an FA Cup final in the final weeks of the campaign. Four of Watford’s last six games are at home, where they have been very good this season. Don’t rule out Leicester for a late charge though…

NM: Wolves. The fixtures are more forgiving to them than others. It’s going to be particularly interesting to see how Leicester fares considering their fixtures should have them in seventh ahead of their final four matches: at West Ham, home Arsenal, at Man City, home Chelsea. Poor Brendan.

KB: I still think Wolves is the easy pick here, and as long as they can avoid any more Burnley or Huddersfield-sized slips, they’ll snag that spot.

DK: Leicester City. The Brog effect leads Leicester back into Europe with a late-season surge.

AE: Wolves finish the season at Anfield. All I’m saying is, if the want the Europa League spot they had better lock it up before then.


Fill in the blanks: ____ will join Huddersfield and Fulham in the bottom three because ____.

JPW: Cardiff City will join Huddersfield and Fulham in the bottom three because of their tough schedule and injuries to Sol Bamba and Callum Paterson.

NM: Cardiff City will join Huddersfield and Fulham in the bottom three because of referees.

KB: Cardiff City will join Huddersfield and Fulham in the bottom three because five points is far too much to overcome this late, especially with Liverpool and Manchester United still on the docket.

DK: Cardiff City will join Fulham and Huddersfield in the bottom 3 because they haven’t found a consistent goal scorer. Emiliano Sala might have solved that but tragically we never got to see him for the Bluebirds. Rest In Peace.

AE: Cardiff City will join Huddersfield and Fulham in the bottom three because they have the second-worst number in both the goals scored and goals conceded columns. Put simply, that’s a recipe for relegation.


Name one team that will make a late charge up the table and into the top 10. There’s always one…

(Owen Humphreys/PA via AP)

JPW: Crystal Palace’s tough schedule rules them out. Buoyed by a late-season surge and with a favorable schedule, I could see Newcastle or Southampton steaming up the table to at least finish 11th.

NM: Bournemouth were it not for inconsistency. I’ll choose Newcastle United for the second year in-a-row and regret it immediately.

KB: Give me Bournemouth. They’re a scrappy group and their run-in includes Fulham, Burnley, Brighton, and Saints.

DK: Newcastle. They’ve looked a different team since Miguel Almiron joined and they could see them getting 12-15 out of a possible 18 points in their last 6 games of the season.

AE: West Ham United have “screw around and waste 80 percent of the season but finish strongly this season before another expensive summer of transfers and renewed expectations under which they’ll screw around next season” written all over them.


If you had to pick 3 teams to be promoted to the Premier League right now, who would you pick?

JPW: Norwich City and Sheffield United for the automatic spots, as I think the pressure is starting to get to Leeds United. Aston Villa and West Brom would be the obvious picks via the playoffs, but beware of the form team: Bristol City to go up after a glorious win at Wembley.

NM: Norwich City, Sheffield United, Aston Villa.

KB: Leeds would be a fun group to see in the Premier League, and it appears nobody’s stopping Norwich City at the top of the table. Aston Villa fans have waited for their return with baited breath, and it would be fun to see them win the playoff, having won each of their last six.

AE: Norwich City and Leeds United are the obvious choices, because they’ve paced the Championship all season and appear to have squads that are close to PL-ready. As for the third spot, West Bromwich Albion probably best fits that same mold from the seven or eight sides headed for or chasing the playoffs.

DK: Leeds United, Sheffield United, Aston Villa. While Man United and Man City are big clubs in the north of England, it’s nice to see other traditional soccer hotspots such as Sheffield, Birmingham and Leeds get to be showcased in the Premier League.


Who will be the Premier League top goalscorer?

(AP Photo/Tim Ireland)

JPW: Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang.
NM: Sergio Aguero.
AE: If Liverpool pull off the title, it’ll be because Mohamed Salah returned to his 2017-18 form for a few weeks and willed them there.
KB: Sadio Mane.
DK: Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang. Arsenal stays hot late thanks to a flurry of goals from the French-born Gabon international.


Which team will win the FA Cup?

JPW: Wolves.
NM: Manchester City.
AE: While it’s great that clubs like Wolves, Watford and Brighton & Hove Albion got to the semifinals, it also sets up the most predictable outcome for the final three games that could be imagined. It’ll be Man City, at a trot.
KB: Wolves. Because, why not?
DK: Manchester City. Pep Guardiola is on a mission for the quadruple and nothing will stop them on the path to the FA Cup title. Wolves would be my second choice.


River Plate to sponsor car in Indy 500

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There will be a soccer presence at the Greatest Spectacle in Racing, the Indianapolis 500.

On Thursday, Club Atletico River Plate announced, along with car owner Juncos Racing that Kyle Kaiser’s No. 32 car will feature a River Plate logo on the front of the vehicle. Juncos Racing is named after founder Ricardo Juncos, an Argentine native and clearly a big River fan.

Per a press release from River Plate, it’s the first time a soccer team is sponsoring a car in the Indy 500, which takes place this Sunday, May 26.

[READ: Pochettino hopeful Kane will be ready to make an impact in UCL final]

“As a River fan, I always wanted to have the logo of the Club in the car,” Juncos said in a press release.
“This race is very important for me. I am very happy and I believe that in the goal of River to expand into the Indy 500. From here to there will come positive things for both.”

Kaiser, just 23, is one of the new guys on the main IndyCar scene, especially after winning the IndyCar Lights title in 2017. It’s the racing equivalent of winning the Europa League. Unlike River’s reputation as one of the biggest clubs in South America, Kaiser just barely made it into the field all together, bumping former Formula 1 champion Fernando Alonso out of the field by about one hundredth of a second.

While it’s cool to see a soccer team get involved in the Indy 500, a worldwide viewing event that’s also akin to a religious holiday throughout the state of Indiana, it’s another Buenos Aires club that really should have been the first to sponsor a car.

Racing Club, defending Argentine league champs, would have been terrific, Racing in Uruguay, or Racing de Santander in Spain. Perhaps one day in the future the three clubs can combine forces to sponsor an IndyCar event or a car competing in a race.

USSF, Relevant Sports clash in court over international matches

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NEW YORK (AP) A lawyer for a promoter asked a judge to order the U.S. Soccer Federation to sanction international league matches in the United States.

The USSF last month denied an application by Relevent Sports, a company partly owned by Miami Dolphins owner Stephen Ross, to have Ecuador’s Barcelona and Guayaquil clubs play on May 5 at Miami Gardens, Florida. The USSF cited an Oct. 26 announcement by FIFA that its ruling council “emphasized the sporting principle that official league matches must be played within the territory of the respective member association.”

During a half-hour hearing Thursday before New York Supreme Court Justice W. Franc Perry, a lawyer for the USSF argued the court should not hear the dispute and it should be sent to arbitration.

Blair G. Connelly, the lawyer representing the USSF, said because Relevent’s application included its executive chairman, Charlie Stillitano, as the FIFA-licensed match agent requesting approval to stage the game, Relevent was bound by a provision in FIFA’s match agent regulations requiring any dispute with a national association be submitted to arbitration. FIFA’s rules specify such a case be heard by its player status committee, whose decision could be appealed to the Court of Arbitration for Sport in Switzerland.

“What they’re trying to do is outsource the court’s authority … to two bodies in Switzerland that don’t follow New York law and have nothing to do with it,” said Marc Litt, a lawyer for Relevent.

Connelly said the USSF’s decision could be overruled only if the court found it to be irrational. He also cited a 2007 decision by U.S. District Judge Harry D. Leinenweber in Illinois, who ordered a suit against the USSF by ChampionsWorld, a previous Stillitano-affiliated company, be stayed pending FIFA’s arbitration procedure.

“They are bound by the contracts their agent enters into on their behalf,” Connelly said.

Litt said FIFA never issued a formal regulation against international club matches in different countries and the USSF cited only a news release.

“Was U.S. Soccer irrational when it concluded that something that FIFA itself called a decision by its decision-making body was in fact a decision? We’re we crazy to think that? Was U.S. Soccer just in outer space?” Connelly said.

Litt claimed the USSF made its decision to protect Soccer United Marketing, an affiliate of the USSF and Major League Soccer.

“We believe that the only reason that they don’t want professional league matches that count in the United States is because that would damage Major League Soccer,” Litt said.

Relevent also attempted to stage the first Spanish La Liga match in the U.S., between Barcelona and Girona, at Miami Gardens on Jan. 26. That effort fell through following opposition from the governing body of Spanish soccer, the Real Federacion Espanola de Futbol, and the players’ union, the Asociacion de Futbolistas Espanoles.

Perry did not announce any decision.

Wenger hints he may be retired from management

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It’s been a year since Arsene Wenger‘s Arsenal departure was announced, and the legendary manager remains on the sidelines.

Whether by his choice or not, Wenger has spent the year away from soccer, instead vacationing and being a studio TV pundit in France. In his latest public comments, Wenger hinted that while he still plans to return to a role in soccer, he likely won’t be a club manager anymore.

“I thought I will come back into management very quickly, but I enjoyed taking a little distance,” Wenger told the BBC. Now I’m at a crossroads.”

Per the BBC, Wenger later added: “You will see me again in football. As a manager… I don’t know.”

In the weeks and months after Wenger was effectively forced out of Arsenal after 22 seasons, Wenger repeatedly said that he had many offers to return to management, and it was only a matter of time before he’d accept one of these offers. And yet, it’s been a year and Wenger remains on the outside, perhaps a clear sign that today’s soccer has passed him by, and unless he wants to move to the Middle East or another soccer outpost, he won’t be able to get a top job in Western Europe.

Despite his acrimonious exit, Wenger still supports the Gunners and had some thoughts on the team’s season, as well as the club’s run to the Europa League final.

“I miss competition and I miss Arsenal because I left my heart in there,” Wenger said. “I gave my life to this club for 22 years. Every minute of my life was dedicated to this club and I miss the values we developed inside the club.

“I support Arsenal. It will be forever my club.”

Pochettino hopeful Kane can “give us a hand” in UCL final

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Harry Kane returned to training this week as Tottenham continues preparations for the UEFA Champions League final.

The England and Tottenham captain has been out with yet another ankle injury since April 9. Initially feared he would be out for the rest of the season, Kane now looks set to play in the final match of the season, and his manager Mauricio Pochettino is hopeful he can make an impact.

“He’s training and has entered the final stage of his recovery, Pochettino told a conference in Bilbao, via video link, per AS. “We’re hoping he’ll be able to give us a hand – either from the start, from the bench or if not, then by giving us moral support in the dressing room. But we are optimistic that he’ll be able to help us on the pitch.”

Pochettino completed a magnificent feat guiding Tottenham to the Champions League final, but he may have one of the most difficult decisions he has to make in his managerial career ahead.

Should Kane be available to start, Pochettino has to decide whether he should break from the lineup that came back from a 3-0 deficit to Ajax, and potentially put Lucas Moura on the bench. If Tottenham loses, Pochettino is probably darned if he does, darned if he doesn’t with Kane.

Either Kane wasn’t fit enough to play and make a big impact, or he clearly was and he didn’t have enough time in the match.

Regardless, Pochettino will hope to have a full squad available, with Kane able to make a difference should be needed.