After Manchester City’s win against Aston Villa, they need only eight points to win the Premier League title.
City came from 1-0 down to win at Villa Park and with Pep Guardiola reiterating that the Premier League is the most important trophy, even the dual cup distractions of the EFL Cup final and the Champions League semi-final shouldn’t take City’s laser-like focus off the league.
They need only three wins (or two wins and as many draws) to mathematically secure the title but in truth beating Villa was enough to dispel any hope that they might collapse following their mini-blip of two defeats in three games, one of which wasn’t even in the league.
But even if City are shoo-ins for the title, there is still plenty of drama unfolding (or ready to unfold) this Premier League season. Below are our five end-of-2020/21 predictions as to what shape said drama will take.
1. The top four
With all the noise generated by the ‘Big Six’ sides and their attempts to form their own Champions League with blackjack and… well, anyway, with all that noise it’s worth recognising that the reason for the specific timing of the announcement (i.e. why now and not in the summer?) is perhaps because as things stand only three of the ‘Big Six’ will be in next season’s Champions League!
Leicester are currently third, with Liverpool, Spurs and Arsenal all out of the top four (with the Gunners being miles back). Meanwhile Chelsea are only in ahead of West Ham on goal difference. So, how will things end this season?
Well, without wanting to be excessively predictable, things might not end that well for our surprise entrants in the top four. Leicester’s run-in is brutal and includes games against Manchester United and Chelsea as well as Spurs. Plus with an FA Cup final to think about, the risk that the Foxes fall below the level they need to maintain seems greater.
West Ham have been a great story, but they’re on borrowed time. With no Declan Rice, they’re relying on Mark Noble to play lights out for the rest of the season, and they’re riding the wave of Jesse Lingard’s genius right now so if he gets injured, which he already might be, it’s over.
City will be champions and then Manchester United are out of sight in second, but Chelsea can push forward and end the season in third. So the Foxes will, just like last season, fall away into the Europa League spots right at the end of the campaign with their place being taken by hilarious disaster-club of the current moment, Liverpool.
The defending champions have been awful this season but now they’re out of everything bar the league, their second- and third-most important attacking players (Trent Alexander-Arnold and Sadio Mané) are finally hitting form and with a squad galvanised by this Super League malarkey, the Reds will just about slip in there right at the end.
Spurs have an easier run-in but will be more than likely be coming off the back of a demoralising EFL Cup final defeat with Harry Kane again facing injury problems ahead of an international tournament. Plus with Gareth Bale’s openly admitting he primarily joined Spurs so he could be fit in time for the Euros, it’s unlikely we will see Spurs at full speed in the run-in (a win in the EFL Cup changes everything, mind you).
Predicted final season standings:
- Manchester City
- Manchester United
- Chelsea (11/10 to make top four with Sky Bet*)
- Liverpool (5/6 to make top four)
18+ only. All odds featured within this article are correct at time of publication (15:30, 23/04/21). T&Cs apply. BeGambleAware.
2. The relegation battle
Sheffield United have already been relegated (shockingly, sacking their brilliant manager who would have surely brought them straight back up changed absolutely nothing) which leaves just two spots left and, roughly, six clubs to contest them.
Crystal Palace are 11 points clear of the drop zone and have games in hand on those below them, so should feel safe.
Fulham haven’t won in five and they still have to play Chelsea and Manchester United. They have two six-pointers against Southampton and Newcastle but they’ve played a game more than everyone else and are still in the bottom three. It doesn’t look good.
It would be a stretch to predict they stay up after Thursday night, but West Brom may feel a little more confident than the table suggests. In addition to the Big Sam factor, before being beaten 3-0 by Leicester their last two games were hilariously dominant wins over Chelsea and Southampton with an aggregate score of 8-2 (no, really!) They’re currently 19th but have a game in hand on Fulham and while they have to travel to Arsenal as well as host Liverpool, if they can stick five past Chelsea surely anything is possible?
Looking at their own squad, Newcastle should be fine; Callum Wilson is fit again, Saint-Maximin, too (barring a bit of swelling which may force him to miss one game at most) and they’ve just won twice in a row for the first time since December. But here’s the problem: Newcastle’s next four games are against Liverpool, Arsenal, Leicester and Man City.
Brighton are brilliant. They just need to find goals. If they can do that, they will stay up easily. Trust the process. Similarly Burnley, who are right in the thick of it, should just about survive. Sean Dyche is a warrior who has been here before and they play both Fulham and Sheffield United, which should be enough to see them survive.
In the end, Fulham look certain to go down. West Brom are most likely to join them but there is one team we haven’t mentioned yet they could conceivably have traded places with by May 23.
Southampton’s recent form is so wretched (they have gone on to lose 12 of their last 15 league games since beating Liverpool in January) that even though they’re six points clear, you can’t rule them out from the drop, especially with Danny Ings injured. Without him, it’s hard to see them even scoring. And when attacking teams can’t score, they tend to get picked apart at the back.
Predicted final season standings:
18. West Brom (No market)
19. Fulham (1/8)
20. Sheffield United (No market)
3. Golden Boot winner
The Golden Boot race is currently fairly tight between Harry Kane on 21 goals and Mohamed Salah on 19. Bruno Fernandes is a casual outsider on 16, and probably not going to make a late push.
So, Kane or Salah? Well, as previously mentioned, Kane isn’t fully fit at the time of writing and the Euros are around the corner. Meanwhile, Salah is playing for a Liverpool side that is remembering how to attack and, with the resurgence of Trent Alexander-Arnold, should grab the goals he needs to win his third golden boot award (his second solo).
𝐌𝐨𝐬𝐭 𝐜𝐡𝐚𝐧𝐜𝐞𝐬 𝐜𝐫𝐞𝐚𝐭𝐞𝐝
The Premier League stat leaders would have looked a lot different without those six clubs. 👀 pic.twitter.com/JJuzt2l53K
— Squawka Football (@Squawka) April 20, 2021
4. Player of the year
This is going to go to be a four-way battle between Harry Kane, Bruno Fernandes and then Manchester City pair Ilkay Gundogan and Ruben Dias. Now, Dias has been sublime but lacks the phenomenal stature of a Virgil van Dijk, so even though he’s had a similar effect on the City defence, he won’t have enough love to win the award. Gundogan has been absolutely electric in the middle of the park, organising City’s play and even scoring a relative avalanche of goals (he is City’s top scorer with 12). He probably deserves it more than anyone, but City as a team have been so good it’s easy to see the their vote getting diluted.
Kane is ridiculous and his top-line output of goals and assists is bonkers. In terms of the best overall performer this season it’s hard to look beyond him, but Spurs are on the whole pretty average. So in the end it has to be Bruno Fernandes. The Portuguese midfielder has been absolutely lights-out since he came to the Premier League a year-and-a-half ago and honestly Manchester United’s renewed relevance at the top of the table is almost wholly down to him. Remember when they were top for like a week and everyone lost their minds?
Most chances created in the Premier League this season:
◎ Bruno Fernandes (87)
◉ Jack Grealish (75)
◎ Mason Mount (73)
◎ KDB (72)
Highest Expected Assists:
◎ Bruno Fernandes (8.6)
◉ Jack Grealish (6.2)
◎ KDB (6.0)
◎ Raphinha (5.9)
We're not joking. 😏 https://t.co/lbOCyMfAd9
— Squawka Football (@Squawka) April 21, 2021
He was overlooked last year, but this year he will get his reward.
5. Young player of the year
Marcus Rashford has been reliably brilliant all season, sure. Mason Greenwood is coming on strong at the end of the season, reminding everyone how good a finisher he is, of course. Bukayo Saka has been Arsenal’s best player this season, yes indeed.
But it’s Phil Foden.
Well, it should be.
Foden has been an absolute revelation this season, benching Raheem Sterling and making himself an absolutely essential part of the Manchester City side. And at 20 years old he is very obviously also a young player. But here’s the thing: his best exploits have been in the cups, not the league, where he’s only just clocked in over 1,400 minutes.
And here’s the other thing: young player of the year is weird. If you’re 23 at the start of the season you can win it. In 2018/19, Raheem Sterling won it even though he was halfway to being 25 when given the trophy. There’s been a tendency to give the award to players closer to Sterling in age, which means the actual winner this year will be: Marcus Rashford.
Yes, Marcus Rashford is nearly 24 so probably shouldn’t even be nominated, but he will be, and so is a safe pick to win it. And in fairness to him he has been excellent this season. 10 goals doesn’t really reflect the impact he has on Manchester United (second only to Bruno Fernandes) but almost more than football, you can see them awarding Rashford because he’s the only player who has also been taking on and defeating the UK government this season.
Combining his top-class football career with an absolute relentless campaigning to ensure poor children around the country are fed good, healthy food during a pandemic, and doing so with such ferocity that he has legitimately forced a change in government policy, is some dyed-in-the-wool hero stuff. Marvel should make a film about Marcus Rashford. He’s been that heroic.