EPL: Manchester City is running away with it at the top, but the squabble for the Premier League’s Champions League qualification places is fierce. Here, Gistdigest24 looks into the remaining 10 matches for each of the top six teams and predicts how they’ll finish.
1. Manchester City
EPL: What is left to say? Pep Guardiola’s side has been rampant in the 2017-18 season, surrendering just one league defeat and netting 82 times in the process. The second-highest number in the goals column belongs to Liverpool, the outfit that beat City in January, which has scored 65 times.
Benjamin Mendy’s return – potentially in mid-April – will be important for the Champions League push, but will also alleviate some pressure from the previously susceptible muscles of ersatz left-back Fabian Delph in league play.
A potential hiccup will come in a three-game spell beginning at the end of March, when a trip to former bogey team Everton is followed by marquee tussles with Manchester United and Tottenham Hotspur. The matches against the Red Devils and Spurs may require squad rotation, with Champions League quarter-finals shoehorned into that period.
|March 4||Chelsea (h)||3|
|March 12||Stoke City (a)||3|
|March 31||Everton (a)||1|
|April 7||Manchester United (h)||1|
|April 14||Tottenham (a)||0|
|April 21||Swansea City (h)||3|
|April 28||West Ham (a)||3|
|May 5||Huddersfield (h)||3|
|May 13||Southampton (a)||3|
Total points = 99
2. Manchester United
The two-point advantage over third-placed Liverpool may eventually be the difference between finishing runner-up and being a top-four also-ran for Manchester United, and the final 10 matches are kind to Jose Mourinho’s side.
Travelling to Manchester City is the likeliest stumble, especially when you consider there could be Champions League quarter-finals either side of that derby. And United should reach the final eight: the 0-0 draw at Sevilla was a good (if extremely dull) start, and the Red Devils are odds-on to see off the low-scoring Andalusians in the round-of-16 second leg at Old Trafford.
Another potential reason for United dropping points could come if Mourinho picks up the scent of silverware. If a top-four finish is practically or officially wrapped up, Mourinho will save his most devastating ammunition for assaults in either or both the FA Cup and Champions League, consigning the Premier League to the backseat.
|March 5||Crystal Palace (a)||3|
|March 10||Liverpool (h)||1|
|?||West Ham (a)||3|
|March 31||Swansea City (h)||3|
|April 7||Manchester City (a)||1|
|April 15||West Brom (h)||3|
|April 21||Bournemouth (a)||3|
|April 29||Arsenal (h)||3|
|May 5||Brighton (a)||3|
|May 13||Watford (h)||3|
Total points = 85
Battering FC Porto in the first leg of their round-of-16 tilt has given Jurgen Klopp the opportunity to unleash some rested stars on Manchester United four days after the second leg. The Liverpudlians were frustrated by October’s goalless draw at Anfield, and will be desperate to get one over their northwest rival this time around.
However, like Manchester United, the Champions League quarter-final dates are problematic for Liverpool, with the two legs straddling a trip to Merseyside foe Everton.
Otherwise, a place in the Premier League’s leading quartet is Liverpool’s to lose. There are four points between the Reds and fifth-placed Chelsea, and Antonio Conte’s uncertain Stamford Bridge future contrasts with an overriding feel-good atmosphere at Liverpool.
|March 3||Newcastle United (h)||3|
|March 10||Manchester United (a)||1|
|March 17||Watford (h)||3|
|March 31||Crystal Palace (a)||3|
|April 8||Everton (a)||1|
|April 14||Bournemouth (h)||3|
|April 22||West Brom (a)||3|
|April 28||Stoke City (h)||3|
|May 5||Chelsea (a)||1|
|May 13||Brighton (h)||3|
Total points = 81
4. Tottenham Hotspur
It’s getting towards the period of the season when strange results occur, and they are especially prevalent when a team has half an eye on continental matters. Tottenham’s short trip to Bournemouth should be fairly innocuous – the Cherries have beaten Spurs just once, when they were called Bournemouth and Boscombe Athletic in 1957 – but it is just four days after its rematch with Juventus. Following an impressive 2-2 draw in Turin, Wednesday’s second leg doesn’t seem to be treated with enough caution, and that could prove ruinous.
Out of the 10 remaining matches this season, Spurs are in the best position to become just the second team to top Manchester City in the 2017-18 Premier League campaign. Mauricio Pochettino has only surrendered six competitive defeats to Pep Guardiola in 12 meetings – an esteemed record given Pochettino was in charge of Espanyol and Guardiola was overseeing a historic generation at Barcelona for three-quarters of those tilts.
Even if three points aren’t taken off City, it isn’t out of the question to expect 10 or more points from Spurs’ last four outings.
|March 3||Huddersfield (h)||3|
|March 11||Bournemouth (a)||0|
|March 16||Newcastle United (h)||3|
|April 1||Chelsea (a)||1|
|April 7||Stoke City (a)||3|
|April 14||Manchester City (h)||3|
|April 20||Brighton (a)||3|
|April 30||Watford (h)||3|
|May 5||West Brom (a)||3|
|May 13||Leicester City (h)||3|
Total points = 80
Antonio Conte isn’t a happy man. The Italian’s complaints about the club’s transfer policy and general ambition have resulted in rumours that he’ll return to the Italy post – a strange development given he missed the day-to-day rigours of club management in his previous gig – or will simply leave at the end of the season.
And Chelsea’s season is on a knife’s edge. The two-point gap behind fourth-placed Tottenham threatens to widen. The Champions League round-of-16 second leg against Barcelona is on March 14; Chelsea put in a promising performance in the opening fixture, but plucking a win from Camp Nou is a big ask. Leicester City is also having an impressive FA Cup dash, so that quarter-final, four days after the Catalan jaunt, could also leave the Blues empty-handed.
With games against three of the current top four and late-season away trips to clubs fighting for their lives at the other end of the division, Chelsea has its work cut out to finish in the top four.
|March 4||Manchester City (a)||0|
|March 10||Crystal Palace (h)||3|
|April 1||Tottenham (h)||1|
|April 8||West Ham (h)||3|
|April 14||Southampton (a)||1|
|April 21||Huddersfield (h)||3|
|April 28||Swansea City (a)||3|
|May 5||Liverpool (h)||1|
|May 13||Newcastle United (a)||0|
Total points = 71
Yes, Arsene Wenger’s refusal to make a substitution in Thursday’s second 3-0 loss to Manchester City in a matter of days felt like a new low, but European football and sixth place doesn’t constitute a crisis. At least Portsmouth, Doncaster Rovers, Hartlepool United, and Leyton Orientwouldn’t say so.
Nevertheless, Arsenal’s irritating trait is that it tends to up its game when all seems lost, and it has a decent string of fixtures to round off a disappointing term.
There are the customary wobbles in these predictions – a draw at Brighton & Hove Albion on Sunday, a sobering loss at Manchester United after four wins on the trot – but otherwise Arsenal can put together some good performances until mid-May.
Unfortunately for Arsenal fans, sixth place is an inevitability.
|March 4||Brighton (a)||1|
|March 11||Watford (h)||3|
|?||Leicester City (a)||1|
|April 1||Stoke City (h)||3|
|April 9||Southampton (h)||3|
|April 15||Newcastle (a)||3|
|April 23||West Ham (h)||3|
|April 29||Manchester United (a)||0|
|May 5||Burnley (h)||3|
|May 13||Huddersfield (a)||3|
Total points = 69