At the halfway point of the Premier League campaign, the race for the title is well and truly on, with various teams in contention to lift the trophy
An early surge of form from Chelsea, tantalising performances for Manchester City and a centre-back crisis on the red half of Merseyside, it’s fair to say that the 2020/21 Premier League campaign hasn’t been without its excitement, even with the absence of fans.
With 21 rounds of fixtures completed, we still have no clear idea as to what colour ribbons will be wrapped around the infamous Premier League trophy. Could it be the piercing red of Manchester United, the sky blue of Manchester City or could Jose Mourinho pull off a major shock and deliver Spurs’ first Premier League title and make it white? All will be revealed in May. These are the teams I believe will make the top four:
As it stands, Pep Guardiola’s Manchester City currently sit at the summit of the table. While it has taken them a while to get there, I expect them to maintain this position for a while longer, with them being the inform team in the league.
City are unbeaten in 11 games in the league, having won nine and scored a total of 25 goals along the way. Their scintillating form has seen them quickly climb the table, leapfrogging their city rivals to first place after an impressive 5-0 win against West Brom last week.
You’d be foolish to bet against a team coached by Guardiola, who is, in my opinion, the best coach in the world, never mind the Premier League. He’s won a total of eight trophies since coming to England, including two league titles. The form City are in, I definitely wouldn’t be surprised to see them make it three in May.
As if having the best manager in the league isn’t enough, they also arguably have the best squad. City have always been extremely dangerous going forward, but in previous seasons their defence has let them down. However, this problem seems to have been solved, thanks to the addition of Ruben Dias from Benfica and a return to form for John Stones in recent weeks.
Predicted finish: 1st
Liverpool have been really below-par this season, partly due to the fact they are enduring a centre-back crisis, with Virgil Van Dijk, Joel Matip and Joe Gomez all spending significant time on the treatment table. However, the root of their problem in recent weeks seems to be in attack, as they have been really struggling for goals.
However, last year’s champions have looked back to their best in their last two games, bagging impressive wins against Spurs and the in-form West Ham. The return of Diogo Jota, who has scored nine goals this season, including four in the Champions League, could also provide a timely boost when the Portuguese attacker is back to full fitness.
Jurgen Klopp knows this squad inside out, and I have no doubt he will get them back to their best. Unfortunately for loyal Kopites, I think the poor run they have been on recently has massively affected their chances of winning their second Premier League title in a row.
Predicted finish: 2nd
The Red Devils find themselves in great form, despite an embarrassing loss at the hands of strugglers Sheffield United on Wednesday and 0-0 snooze-fest at the Emirates on Saturday. Before this, they hadn’t lost a game in the Premier League since 1 November.
Bruno Fernandes has starred for United, scoring 11 and assisting eight in 20 top-flight appearances this season. Marcus Rashford has also contributed seven goals and eight assists, but after that, contributions from other players is scarce. If they are to put in a serious challenge for the title, they need to find a way of getting the best out of Paul Pogba. Everyone knows the ability that the Frenchman possesses, but he needs to start showing it regularly if he’s staying in Manchester. Squad depth also seems to be an issue, with a lack of attacking talent waiting in the wings if one of their star forwards were to pick up an injury.
Personally, I also still question whether Ole Gunnar Solskjaer is a top Premier League manager or not. He certainly doesn’t have the trophy cabinet or experience that the managers around him do.
Predicted finish: 3rd
Spurs currently sit at sixth in the table following a recent dip in form. However, Jose Mourinho has proved countless times that he is an expert on getting the best out of teams, so I’m backing them to finish strongly.
Spurs have arguably the best attacking duo in the league in Heung-Min Son and Harry Kane, who both have 12 goals each to their name. Pierre-Emile Höjberg and Tanguy Ndombele have also starred in the middle of the park. However, with Kane set for a spell of at least two weeks on the sidelines, this will be a big blow for Spurs. But, thanks to an impressive summer transfer window, they now have the likes of Gareth Bale and Carlos Vinícius to call upon if needed.
If Mourinho is to deliver Champions League football to the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium, then he will have to reconsider his tactical approach for certain games. Recently, they have been sitting far too deep and letting teams have the ball and attack them. It is clear they are at their best when they hit teams on the counter, but they aren’t doing this enough currently. However, I believe Mourinho is tactically astute enough to alter this and find the perfect balance.
Predicted finish: 4th
There are so many teams in the running this year, it will be intriguing to see how it concludes.
Leicester City are certainly having a brilliant season under the guidance of Brendan Rodgers, so they will undoubtedly feel like they’ve missed out on a golden opportunity if they don’t make the top four. However, with their talisman Jamie Vardy set to miss the next few matches, they may be without goals for a significant period of the final run-in.
Everton may also feel equally aggrieved if they miss out on a top-four finish, as Carlo Ancelotti has assembled an excellent team since coming to Goodison Park. However, I don’t think they quite yet have the quality and strength in depth to maintain their high position through to the end of the season.
Chelsea are also still in the race for a Champions League spot, but their lengthy poor spell under Frank Lampard’s guidance could make it a tough ask. However, they have now employed a world-class manager in Thomas Tuchel to guide the array of talent they purchased in the summer. It may well take him a while to get his ideas across, but they could be a force to be reckoned with in the second half of the season.