Label volunteer writer Michael Haddad discusses the 2020/21 Premier League season and enlighten us on who he thinks will secure the Top 4, Champions League spots.
Sports have always reflected society and this year is no different. We are living in the most unprecedented times in centuries and this year’s Premier League has been just as unpredictable. From the early title race between Aston Villa and Everton, to score lines that included Liverpool losing 7-2, Manchester City losing 5-2, Manchester United losing 6-1 and winning 9-0. By mid-February, the race for those Champions League are now finally starting to take shape.
After a 4-1 win at Anfield, Manchester City are looking unstoppable and find themselves five points clear at the top with a game in hand as they look to run away with their third title in four years. With three spots remaining, this could potentially be the closest race for the Champions League places of all time as 4th place and 9th place are only separated by 5 points (with various teams having games in hand due to coronavirus caused postponement). The question on everyone’s minds remains, when the dust settles, which three teams will be competing in next year’s elite European competition?
Are Chelsea back in the running?
A new Thomas Tuchel resurgence has catapulted Chelsea back into the top four race. After two wins in nine, Lampard’s Chelsea seemed down and out, but a managerial change and four games unbeaten (with three clean sheets) has given The Blues a new lease on life. If Chelsea are to have any chance of competing in next year’s Champions League, they must score more goals and new signings Werner, Havertz and Ziyech need to start firing on all cylinders. Tuchel’s introduction has seen Werner play with a newfound energy, creating chances and getting in behind defences, but the other signings have struggled to get going under both managers.
On paper, Chelsea’s attack is potentially one of the most dangerous in the world and if they start clicking there is no reason why they cannot make the Champions League. It is paramount that Chelsea deliver now rather than later and truly cement themselves in the top four race, as their final four games are against the potential champions to be and three teams fighting for the top four (Manchester City, Arsenal, Leicester and Aston Villa).
Manchester United – Too Inconsistent?
A short-lived title surge seemed to guarantee Manchester United’s place in next year’s Champions League, but this season has demonstrated that while a good run of form can send you climbing up the table, a poor run of games can send you spiralling down the table just as fast. A poor run of games (including a loss to bottom placed Sheffield United at Old Trafford) has left United only six points in front of Chelsea in fifth. It is vital that Ole picks his team up and return to winning ways if they want to compete with Europe’s best next season. Manchester United are blessed with some of the best young talent in the world, and if Rashford, Fernandes and company can string a run of consistent results, there is no reason why Ole would not steer them to a top four finish.
The Title Defenders – Where do they fit in?
Despite their poor run of form, Liverpool still remain favourites for one of these spots. This is the same Liverpool team that went to the Champions League final in 2018 with Lorius Karius and Dejan Lovern as regular starters, and although Fabinho and Henderson have turned into makeshift centre backs, Klopp still has the firepower to ensure Liverpool’s place in next year’s tournament. With Leipzig and Everton in the next week, this week could set the foundation for a resurgence and getting results in these games will be crucial. However, after this difficult run, the schedule loosens up for the reigning champions and their final three games of the season are all against bottom six sides, meaning that Liverpool should remain confident of their Champions League hopes.
Third in the table, eight points clear of fifth place with nine games to go would leave most teams confident of finishing in the top four. This was the position Leicester City were in before the sporting world came to a halt last season in March. When football eventually restarted, Leicester were a shell of their former selves and a late season capitulation saw them plummet to fifth place and miss out on a second fairy-tale trip to Europe’s Elite. This season Leicester has shown that they can consistently sweep the big six aside, beating Chelsea 2-0, Manchester City 5-2 and more recently Liverpool 3-1. This may come in handy as their last three games of the season are against the Blues, the Red Devils and Spurs. However, results this season suggest that Leicester are susceptible to struggle against teams they should beat with relative ease, losing to Leeds and relegation-threatened Fulham. If Leicester want to make their mark in next year’s Champions League, they cannot lose concentration for a split second and if last year’s late season form is anything to go by, Leicester may find themselves struggling when the going really gets tough in May.
Every year a surprise act comes in and dazzles Premier League fans all over the world and threaten the dominance of the ‘Big Six’. This season with have been blessed with three teams still in the race for Champions League qualifications. Everton, West Ham and Aston Villa have shocked pundits and supporters alike with brilliant performances; however, it is unlikely that these teams will have what it takes to still be fighting come the end of the season, nevertheless, we are in for a tight race for those final Europa League places.
North London rivals Tottenham and Arsenal are the only ‘Traditional Big Six’ teams unlikely to finish in the top four due to major slumps in form however, both teams, alongside Leicester, can join the top four in next year’s Champions League by winning the Europa League and making a legitimate push for this trophy may be the only legitimate option for the North London outfits.
Premier League Top 4 Prediction:
- Manchester City (C)
- Manchester United
Header by: Christos Alamaniotis
Edited by: Lois George