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.


Leicester impressive again in 4-2 win over Burnley

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Leicester – Burnley saw Leicester City flex a bit of muscle en route to a mostly comfortable, yet somewhat thrilling, 4-2 victory at the King Power Stadium on Sunday.

[ MORE: How to watch PL in the USA ]

Harvey Barnes, Dennis Praet and James Justin scored the goals for Leicester, plus an own goal from Erik Pieters, as Brendan Rodgers’ side made it two wins from two games to start their 2020-21 Premier League campaign.


3 things we learned: Leicester – Burnley

1. Leicester back for another crack at top-four: It’s only two games, admittedly, but Leicester have the look of a side out to prove that their late-season collapse, which saw them fall from third to fifth in the final five games of the 2019-20 season, was very much an aberration. Rodgers’ men hardly ever looked worried as they cruised to a win against last season’s 10th-place finishers.

2. Foxes firepower: Leicester managed to score four goals without a single one of them coming from Jamie Vardy, who bagged 23 last season. James Maddison only made his return from injury on Sunday as well, lending credence to the notion this is far from a one-man team as has, to a degree, been an issue in the past. They might not actually finish inside the top-four this season, but they have the look of a side with plenty of staying power.

3. Burnley crying out for reinforcements: Sean Dyche had some rather critical thoughts about Burnley’s ongoing inability — or, perhaps, refusal — to move in a more timely manner to sign new players and improve the squad. Until such a change occurs, Dyche’s words are probably worth revisiting regularly.


Wood got the scoring started in Leicester – Burnley after just 10 minutes, with equal parts brute force and delicate touch. Charlie Taylor floated a cross to the back post, where Wood was waiting and battling for positioning with a defender. He managed to create a half-yard of space to allow for chest control and a quick, but difficult, finish from the corner of the six-yard box.

Jamie Vardy was instrumental in Leicester’s equalizer 10 minutes later, though hardly the typical manner in which he contributes to goals scored. Vardy latched onto a forward ball in an attempt to split the center backs, but was ultimately forced wide and to hold the ball up. He cut it back to Castagne, who played it on to Barnes for the far-post finish.

[ VIDEO: Premier League highlights ]

Leicester’s second goal was more a product on constant pressure than exquisite, incisive chance creation, but the ball hitting the back of the net counts all the same. Castagne overlapped down the right flank and hit a cross for Vardy as he streaked past the penalty spot. Erik Pieters wasn’t tight enough to Castagne to deny the cross, only to redirect it past the wrong-footed Nick Pope.

The Foxes’ third goal, however, was the result of a free-flowing attack involving a handful of blue shirts along the way. It ended with Ayoze Perez playing the ball across the penalty area and left back James Justin slotting home for his first PL goal in the 61st minute.

It was Justin who was beaten by Jimmy Dunne as he rose highest to bag a goal on his PL debut 12 minutes later, giving Burnley a brief glimmer of hope. 

It didn’t last long, though, as Dennis Praet bagged a stunning fourth goal for Leicester in the 79th minute. Barnes picked up the assist to go with his earlier goal, but it was Praet’s powerful finish that will get all of the headlines, and deservedly so.

Follow @AndyEdMLS

Klopp reaction on Thiago debut, Fabinho; loved ‘perfect’ Liverpool’s hunger

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The Klopp reaction from Chelsea v. Liverpool was full of smiles and laughs as he called the win ‘perfect’ in every way.

[ MORE: 3 things we learned

Jurgen Klopp is a happy, happy man. He usually is, but his side took care of a much talked about Chelsea with minimal fuss at Stamford Bridge on Sunday to make it two wins from two this season for the reigning Premier League champions.

Sure, Andreas Christensen’s sending off right on half time shaped the game but so too did the hunger of Sadio Mane to strike twice early in the second half to secure the win.

[ MORE: Player ratings

A penalty save from Alisson and a debut for Thiago Alcantara made Klopp even happier and as long as captain Jordan Henderson didn’t suffer a serious injury, he said the trip to Chelsea could not have gone better.

Thiago debut showcases why he was bought?

Speaking to ProSoccerTalk after the game via a Zoom call, we asked for the Klopp reaction on Thiago Alcantara’s debut display and if it underlined exactly why he was signed from Bayern Munich.

Thiago came on at half time and completed 75 passes in 45 minutes, a new Premier League record, as the Spanish international slotted in superbly and allowed Liverpool to dictate the tempo of the game against an opponent which sat back deep and was only focusing on defending.

“We signed Thiago for different reasons and only one of them is against deep defending sides. We improved in that department a lot, I have to say, with all of the players who were already there before. But, yes, it is something that suits him. It is natural to him. I like that. Of course it is good. It is one reason of a lot,” Klopp said.

Fabinho dazzles as a stand-in center back; Jurgen Klopp reaction

ProSoccerTalk also asked Klopp about Fabinho’s display, as the Brazilian switched from his usual position of holding midfield to center back due to injuries to Joe Gomez and Joel Matip.

“Fabinho, yes! If Sadio wouldn’t have scored two goals then I think Fab would have been a proper contender for Man of the Match!” Klopp smiled. “I loved his performance, he played outstandingly well. He helped us a lot, with the ball and in defending as well. A proper performance.”

With Thiago arriving in midfield, Fabinho at center back could be something we see a lot more of this season, especially as Gomez and Matip have a nasty knack of picking up small injuries consistently.

Liverpool send out a message

Klopp admitted that his team are only focused on the three points each week, but when asked about making a statement early in the season by winning at a Chelsea side who has spent over $250 million on new players, the Liverpool boss raved about the performance of his side.

“I liked the performance a lot. We are not playing for two things, for three points and then showing everybody you ‘better be ready when we arrive’ or something. That’s not us,” Klopp said. “The next game will be incredibly difficult for their own reasons because Arsenal is obviously flying since a few months already, it is going to be really tough.

“For ourselves, and that we feel the way we play, with adaptations and improvements, with development, that made us successful and will make us successful if we really throw it consistently on the pitch. This Chelsea game away will, for the next 500 years, be one of the most difficult games you can ever play and it will become even more difficult now when all things things are settled for Chelsea. That is clear. For today, it was difficult enough but we did it and I’m happy enough.”

Chelsea’s Lampard: Happier with play in Liverpool loss than Brighton win

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Like a lot of neutrals, Chelsea manager Frank Lampard feels deprived of what could’ve been a thrilling second half between his new-look Blues and Liverpool on Sunday.

Scoreless heading into first half stoppage time, Andreas Christensen was sent off for a DOGSO tackle on Sadio Mane, who scored twice early in the second half in Liverpool’s 2-0 win at Stamford Bridge.

[ RECAP: Chelsea 0-2 Liverpool | 3 things ]

“For chances the first half was pretty even,” Lampard said after the game. “The red card changes (the game). Makes me go into a reshuffle and against a team of that quality it’s obviously going to be really difficult. I think it could be given or not, Kepa was coming out. If anything I’m surprised it’s a yellow to start and gets changed.”

While Lampard had questions regarding the red card, he didn’t try to make any excuses for Kepa Arrizabalaga’s second-half mistake that gifted Mane his second goal.

Lampard would not be drawn into discussions on Kepa’s status and the heavily-reported arrival of Eduoard Mendy from France, but he says the goalkeeper error and Jorginho’s late penalty miss take away from what could’ve been a point.

“Big mistake, clear mistake,” Lampard groused. “When you reflect on the half, without that mistake and (if we) make the penalty, it’s 1-1. In lots of ways I’m actually happier than I was after Brighton. Lots of individuals showed me lots of good things.”

Chelsea hosts Barnsley in League Cup action on Tuesday before visiting West Brom on Saturday, two prime chances for Lampard to get his players’ heads right without a top four challenger on the fixture list until Manchester United on Oct. 24.

Player ratings: Chelsea v. Liverpool

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Chelsea – Liverpool player ratings: This game ended up being a very straightforward win for the reigning Premier League champions.

[ MORE: 3 things we learned ]

A red card to Andreas Christensen right on half time swung the game in Liverpool’s favor and two goals early in the second half from Sadio Mane sealed a comfortable win for Jurgen Klopp’s side. With big mistakes and star performance, the Chelsea – Liverpool player ratings are extremely mixed.

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Here’s a look Chelsea – Liverpool player ratings as Frank Lampard will be trying to keep things in perspective, while Liverpool and will be keen to keep building momentum.


Chelsea player ratings

Kepa: 3 – Wandering around early on and generally indecisive. Hesitant on the ball over the top which led to Christensen being sent off which forced the decision. Gave the second goal away with a poor mistake. He knows he will not be Chelsea’s goalkeeper with Edouard Mendy coming in soon.

Reece James: 6 – Wasn’t able to showcase his attacking talents from right back and Mane beat him to head home the first goal.

Andreas Christensen: 4 – He was actually playing pretty well until he was sent off right on half time. One long ball over the top set Mane free and Christensen hauled him down with Kepa dallying.

Kurt Zouma: 6 – Steady and tried his best to hold everything together at the back.

Marcos Alonso: 4 – He knows Chilwell is the first-choice left back, and he worked hard but was caught out on a one-two by Firmino and Salah for the first goal.

N’Golo Kante: 6 – One glorious chance to shoot when found in the box but looked for a pass. Struggled to shut Liverpool down.

Jorginho: 4 – A few loose passes, which is unlike him, and the captain struggled to hold down midfield. Missed a penalty kick too.

Mateo Kovacic: 7 – Plenty of mazy dribbles and was the one Chelsea midfield he looked to support the attack.

Mason Mount: 5 – Spent most of his time defending and wasn’t able to impact the game in a positive way.

Kai Havertz: 5 – Some lovely touches and oozes class on the ball, but not involved enough. Subbed off at half time.

Timo Werner: 7 – Always a threat and went close a couple of times in the first half. Caught offside too often. But that’s his game. Won a penalty kick in the second half and never stopped trying.

Substitutes
Fikayo Tomori (on for Havertz, 45′) 6 – Did his best to try and stop Liverpool’s juggernaut and made some decent blocks.
Ross Barkley (on for Jorginho, 79′) N/A
Tammy Abraham (on for Kovacic, 79′) N/A


Liverpool player ratings

Alisson: 7 – Hardly had anything to do throughout the entire game, then he saved a penalty kick superbly. Involved in the red card incident too with his claim and quick throw to turn defense into attack.

Trent Alexander-Arnold: 7 – Always whipping in dangerous balls and a real outlet on the right. Off target with his set pieces.

Fabinho: 8 – Stood in superbly at center back for the injured duo of Joe Gomez and Joel Matip. Could he play at center back now that Thiago is around?

Virgil van Dijk: 7 – Did his job well enough and no uncharacteristic mistakes this week. Almost scored from a set piece situation.

Andy Robertson: 6 – Didn’t see much of him as an attacking threat but worked hard, as always.

Jordan Henderson: 7 – Led by example and a lovely ball over the top which led to Christensen’s red card. Subbed off at half time with a small issue.

Georginio Wijnaldum: 7 – Typically robust display in central midfield. Is he really going to be allowed to leave for Barcelona?

Naby Keita: 6 – Always wants to get on the ball but didn’t really happen for him with Kante and Jorginho around.

Mohamed Salah: 7 – Worked hard to conjure space for himself and teammates. Didn’t score but involved in the first goal.

Roberto Firmino: 7 – The Brazilian forward took a while to get into the game, but created the first goal with a lovely one-two and cross.

Sadio Mane: 9 – Great run to force Christensen to foul him and get sent off. Then headed home the opener in style and scored a second as he chased down Kepa’s pass. Incredible desire.

Substitutes
Thiago Alcantara (on for Henderson, 45′) 6 – Did okay on the ball but did give away a penalty kick on his Liverpool debut for a slight trip on Werner. Not ideal, but not disastrous. Showed his quality in possession.
James Milner (on for Keita, 64′) 6 – Solid as ever and helped Liverpool see out the win.
Takumi Minamino (on for Firmino, 86′) N/A