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The alternative Premier League table, do Chelsea top the pile?

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With May having drawn to a close, clubs are reflecting on the season just passed, and as always some are looking back with far greater satisfaction than others. The final table of any league which is played out over nine months and where each side plays the other home and away is the most accurate indicator of a team’s true worth – the best sides will inevitably be at the top, with those suffering relegation knowing they didn’t do enough to merit staying in the division.

However, success is relative and it can happen that a team which finished 17th and just beat the drop will be much happier with their lot, and will be viewed to have done far better, than a second-placed finisher who had their eyes on top spot but missed it by a distance. Here, I take the risky step of power ranking each Premier League club’s 2014/15 campaign to produce an alternative final table. I ask you to consider that the ranking of each team (accompanied by a rating out of 10) reflects a combination of pre-season expectation, performance from August through to May and their ultimate final position.

 

1. Chelsea (9)

In winning the 2013/14 Premier League, Man City topped the table for a mere 14 days throughout the season. In stark contrast this term, Chelsea led from week one and never relinquished their grip on first place, ultimately winning the title a full 21 days before the final day. Jose Mourinho’s side were criticised for being “boring” at times but in reality they had impressive strength in every sector of the field, more so than any other team in the league. Eden Hazard was outstanding while the summer arrivals of Thibaut Courtois, Cesc Fabregas and Diego Costa all played key roles in the Blues’ fourth Premier League triumph. Chelsea lost just four games in all competitions this season, one of those when the title was already sewn up, and their only home defeat in 2014/15 was the FA Cup shock inflicted by Bradford. Mourinho may have moaned a lot this season but even he ought to be thrilled with how it turned out.

2. Southampton (8.5)

After last summer’s mass exodus, the forecast was bleak for Southampton, but clearly nobody told Ronald Koeman. The ever-cheerful Dutchman shrewdly reinvested the transfer war chest and Saints went into December second in the league. A four-game losing spell before Christmas could have totally derailed their season but then came magnificent wins over Arsenal and Man Utd to reignite their unlikely push for Champions League football. They couldn’t quite keep the chase up towards the final weeks, the injury to Fraser Forster not helping, but not even their own supporters could have envisaged them finishing seventh after the key figures from last year’s campaign departed. Koeman is manager of the year in my book.

3. Swansea (8.5)

A steep learning curve awaited Garry Monk ahead of his first full season in management, but didn’t he handle it so effortlessly? Victory at Old Trafford on the opening day set the tone for another excellent season for the Swans, who might have been expected to linger in lower mid-table but instead spent the entirety of the campaign nicely in the top 10. The sale of Wilfried Bony could have left them badly lacking for goals, but instead Bafetimbi Gomis picked up where the Ivorian left off and there were also impressive contributions in this department from Jonjo Shelvey, Ki Sung-yeung and Gylfi Sigurdsson. Swansea even had their eyes on a possible Europa League place going into the final couple of weeks and have not compromised on the enterprising approach which previous managers favoured and which made them so admired in the first place. Doubles over Man Utd and Arsenal encapsulated a fine season for Monk and his players.

4. Stoke (8)

Much like Swansea, the Potters have made a habit of cosying themselves in mid-table ever since arriving in the Premier League and, while clubs of superior resources and history were left scrapping to stay up, Stoke dutifully earned another top-half finish. They caused one of the early shocks of the season when winning at Man City and Mark Hughes’ men also sent Arsenal and Liverpool packing with their tails between their legs in later months. The mid-season injury to ex-Barcelona wonderkid Bojan Krkic could have left a massive void, but fellow strikers Peter Crouch, Mame Biram Diouf and Marko Arnautovic all compensated for the Spaniard’s absence. All in all, another more than satisfactory season at the Britannia Stadium.

5. Arsenal (7.5)

Until their mid-January meeting with Man City, the 2014/15 season was threatening to be a disastrous one for Arsenal. Far from competing for the title, the Gunners had a battle on their hands to preserve their long-standing place in the top four, but then a tactically outstanding 2-0 win on the defending champions’ turf changed the course of their season and the vocal doubters of Arsene Wenger retreated into their shells. A superb run in the Premier League pushed them into the top three, notably sending them directly into the Champions League group stage rather than necessitating a fourth play-off in five years. Their successful retention of the FA Cup ensured that the season ended on a high, but Arsenal fans may well have a sense of regret that they began the campaign so poorly. In a similar vein, the kamikaze Champions League round of 16 first leg against Monaco meant that an admirable attempt at a rescue act in the return fixture in the French Riviera was in vain.

6. Leicester (7.5)

On Good Friday, Leicester had just 19 points on the board and, having won just two of their previous 26 league games, looked certainties for relegation. Nigel Pearson’s tiffs with his own fans, James McArthur and a few journalists hadn’t helped their cause, either, but the Foxes had been unlucky on a few occasions throughout the season and last-gasp wins over West Ham and West Brom triggered a sensational run-in. They won seven of their last nine matches to more than double their pre-Easter points tally and even ensured their survival on the penultimate weekend of the season. The Premier League has seen some remarkable escape acts over the years, but Leicester’s successful battle against the drop in 2014/15 surely ranks among the top of that list.

7. Manchester Utd (7)

After a slow start to the season, Man United hit form in late 2014 and rediscovered a knack for scoring crucial late goals, a hallmark of Sir Alex Ferguson’s reign at the club. Louis van Gaal left many people’s heads scratching with some of his tactical decisions and press conference quips, but his United was a distinct improvement on the team overseen by David Moyes a year earlier and a fantastic run in March and April even led some fans to believe in an outside chance of pushing Chelsea for the title. Three consecutive defeats put pay to that notion, but the pre-season target was a return to the Champions League and, assuming they get the business done in the play-off round in August, it is mission accomplished on that score.

8. Crystal Palace (7)

The shock departure of Tony Pulis two days before the start of the season rocked Palace and the reappointment of Neil Warnock did not have the desired effect, with the Eagles’ presence in the relegation zone halfway through the season prompting a third managerial change in just 15 months. That left a void for Selhurst Park hero Alan Pardew to try and keep the club in the top flight and he made an immediate impact, getting the best out of roving midfielders Yannick Bolasie, Jason Puncheon and Wilfried Zaha. Despite having the worst home record of any team in the division, Palace proved adept at collecting points on their travels and relegation fears were soon quashed as they surged to mid-table comfort, ultimately achieving a top half finish. Pardew was never a fans’ favourite at Newcastle but he can certainly lay claim to such a status at his current club.

9. Tottenham (6.5)

Mauricio Pochettino took a brave step when he swapped a sure thing at Southampton for the potentially reputation-crippling environs of White Hart Lane. His cause wasn’t helped by some horrendous results at home in the early months of the season, but he put his faith in Harry Kane ahead of the misfiring Emmanuel Adebayor and Roberto Soldado and it proved one of the masterstrokes of the season. The young Englishman had a tremendous campaign and Spurs developed a happy knack of scoring late winning goals in away fixtures. They claimed excellent wins over Chelsea and Arsenal but, in their other meetings with the Premier League’s top brass, they were a distinct second best and they were left hugely reliant on Kane, Christian Eriksen, Hugo Lloris and Nacer Chadli. Fifth represents a decent final position, although Pochettino will need to strengthen his squad if Tottenham are to return to the Champions League ranks.

10. West Brom (6)

After flirting with relegation last season, West Brom were again scrapping in the lower reaches of the table under dour Scotsman Alan Irvine, who failed to get The Hawthorns faithful on his side. With the exception of Brown Ideye, the Baggies’ new recruits made zero impact and a predictable, mediocre team looked set for another tough year. Irvine got the chop midway through the season and they turned to Tony Pulis to drag them out of trouble. It was the ideal appointment, with the renowned ex-Stoke and Crystal Palace manager taking little time to improve West Brom’s fortunes. The January arrival of Darren Fletcher also brought some much-needed experience to the side and the Baggies finished the season strongly to finish a respectable 13th. It was certainly a positive placing when you consider where they were at the turn of the year.

11. Manchester City (5)

Man City fell way short of defending their title when they were reigning champions in 2012/13, so the pressure was on them to at least be in contention all the way this time around. Instead they again stood still and allowed the chasing pack to zip past them and their home form, so imperious in last season’s title success, was decidedly poor. Stoke and Arsenal both won at the Etihad Stadium, where relegated Hull and Burnley each collected a point. Sergio Aguero and Joe Hart were outstanding, but too many of their high-profile team-mates severely underperformed and even when they bridged an eight-point gap to Chelsea in January, you never felt that City would really be consistent enough to beat the Londoners to the title. Manuel Pellegrini’s men didn’t truly challenge and that, coupled with another iffy Champions League campaign, could spell the end of the Chilean’s time in Manchester. Second place domestically and the second round in Europe would satisfy most clubs, but not this one.

12. West Ham (5)

Sam Allardyce needed a strong season to win over his many doubters at Upton Park and he couldn’t have been happier with their early form, the Hammers spending most of the first half of the season in the top six. Summer signing Diafra Sakho was prolific during that magnificent spell, but a long-term injury to the Senegal striker coincided with a rapid downturn in West Ham’s fortunes after the New Year. They tumbled from the European places to the bottom half of the league and Allardyce came in for heavy fire once more. It was no surprise that he left the club as soon as an anti-climactic season ended and while 12th was no disgrace, it was a disappointment considering how well they had begun the campaign.

13. Burnley (4.5)

Very few pundits gave Burnley a chance of staying up and they unsurprisingly spent the entire season in the lower reaches of the Premier League, but Sean Dyche deserves massive credit for sticking true to the attack-minded principles which got them promoted last season when there must have been a temptation to adopt a more cautious approach in the top flight. The early season form of Danny Ings ensured that they would never tail off at the bottom of the league, but they worryingly picked up only two wins by the midway stage of the season and when Ings’ goals dried up, it became a real uphill battle. A superb win over Man City in March took them out of the bottom three, but then Burnley didn’t score at all in their next six games and even victory over Hull with two weeks to go wasn’t enough to save them from relegation. They were always likely to suffer that fate, but Dyche and his team admirably kept the fight going almost to the finish.

14. Everton (4)

Last season, Roberto Martinez continued very nicely where David Moyes had left off but the Spaniard found his second year at Goodison Park a lot tougher. The permanent signing of Romelu Lukaku ought to have been ideal, but the giant Belgian was nowhere near as good this year as he was last, just like the Toffees in general. Seamus Coleman and Leighton Baines, so superb in 2013/14, had quiet seasons while the normally reliable Tim Howard was hugely disappointing. Instead it was youngsters Ross Barkley and John Stones who impressed most for Everton, who could at least claim to be the last English team standing in Europe before their five-goal crash away to Dynamo Kiev. Martinez won’t have to juggle domestic and continental competitions next year, but he will be expected to restore the club to a position where they will at least be challenging to get back into the Europa League.

15. Aston Villa (4)

Another difficult year at Villa Park, where a battle to beat the drop has worryingly become the norm in recent times. Fine away wins at Stoke and Liverpool at the outset of the campaign hinted at better things, but with Christian Benteke sidelined for most of the season, Villa were hopelessly feeble in front of goal and, when Paul Lambert was inevitably sacked after defeat to Hull in mid-February, they had registered an inept total of 12 goals in 26 games. The no-nonsense Tim Sherwood came in to pick up the pieces and, buoyed by a most welcome FA Cup run, the Premier League ever-presents enjoyed a resurgence which made sure that they retained such a charmed status. The return of Benteke was critical to their survival, which was guaranteed despite a 6-1 drubbing by Southampton in May. Their improvement under Sherwood, though, wasn’t sufficient to stave off the reality that this was another poor campaign for Villa, reflected in their finishing position of 17th and their humiliation in the FA Cup final.

16. Newcastle (4)

It’s quite appropriate that Newcastle play in black and white, because there never seems to be any middle ground with this club. A woeful first two months of the season had them rooted to the bottom of the league, before a win over Leicester in mid-October sparked a fantastic couple of months which saw them maraud into the top five. Then came another fall and the removal of Alan Pardew, with assistant John Carver stepping up to take the reins for the rest of the season. Newcastle dropped from a similar position at a similar stage in 2013/14, but this time the decline was much more alarming and a disunited club hurtled towards the relegation zone again. The atrocious display at Leicester, after which Carver hung Mike Williamson out to dry, hinted that the Magpies were destined for the drop and they left it until the final day to get the victory over West Ham which spared them from falling into the Championship. It was heartwarming to see Jonas Gutierrez score in that game after everything he has been through, but he will not be at St James’ Park next season and, on the evidence of the last few months, neither will Carver.

17. Sunderland (3.5)

Similarly to Aston Villa, Sunderland have become embroiled in a near-annual battle to avoid relegation, their inability to turn one point into three so often their downfall. Their tally of seven wins was the joint-fewest in the Premier League, but for all their struggles they only lost 14 times, the same as Europa League-bound Southampton. Some of those defeats, though, were harrowing, such as the 8-0 drubbing by the Saints and the 0-4 home shellacking by Aston Villa which cost Gus Poyet his job. Veteran Dutch boss Dick Advocaat took the challenge of keeping Sunderland in the top flight and a derby win on Easter Sunday drastically changed the mood on Wearside. In the end, they again did just about enough, but Advocaat took his leave of the club once he achieved his clear objective and, while the Black Cats can look forward to a ninth consecutive Premier League season, the fans will not tolerate another campaign as mediocre as this one.

18. Hull (2.5)

Just as Norwich did last season, Hull paid the price for being toothless in front of goal with their Premier League lives. They didn’t look like relegation contenders until a terrible run before Christmas dropped them into the bottom three and then the worries set in. There was some welcome improvement in February, when they drew at Man City and beat fellow strugglers Aston Villa and QPR, but they could never pull comfortably clear and the morale began to sap out of the squad after a late defeat to Chelsea in March. Senior players such as Tom Huddlestone and Sone Aluko didn’t perform while they were badly let down by the ill-discipline of Abel Hernandez and the stupidity of Jake Livermore. Their final day draw to Man United summed up their season, a gallant effort but a sore lack of cutting edge, which is why Hull have gone down. They will hope to follow Norwich’s footsteps in a different manner of speaking by returning to the Premier League at the first attempt.

19. Liverpool (2)

Despite the summer departure of Luis Suarez, there was still plenty of grounds for optimism around Anfield as the season began, but that positivity quickly disappeared, as did Liverpool’s chances of another push for a first Premier League title. While losing Daniel Sturridge to injury for most of the season didn’t help, the Reds could not excuse a chronic start which left them in mid-table at Christmas before a 13-game unbeaten run reignited hopes of a top four finish. However, in crunch games against Man United and Arsenal prior to Easter, Liverpool fell short and their season really fizzled out after an insipid defeat to Aston Villa in the FA Cup semi-finals. Most of their much-touted summer arrivals flopped, in particular Mario Balotelli and Dejan Lovren, while the circus surrounding Raheem Sterling didn’t help matters either. The exit of Steven Gerrard and the utterly disgraceful 6-1 hammering by Stoke served only to heap further misery on Kopites as the season mercifully drew to a close. Brendan Rodgers’ reputation, so lofty just one short year ago, is now in the gutter.

20. QPR (2)

They weren’t quite as unforgivably bad as in their previous Premier League season, but QPR’s class of 2014/15 were still pretty dire. It took them just three games to get a first win on board this time, as opposed to 15 a couple of years ago, but the Hoops’ away form was wretched. In fact, they hadn’t even drawn on their travels until mid-February, by which stage Harry Redknapp looked at his squad and decided he had suffered enough. Chris Ramsey was promoted from within to try and stave off a seemingly inevitable relegation and while a couple of impressive results at West Brom and Aston Villa briefly took them to 17th, hope was fleeting and the 6-0 drubbing by Man City which consigned them to the Championship summed up their season. With the honourable exceptions of Charlie Austin and Robert Green, plus a smattering of young players who were given their chance towards the end of the campaign, QPR’s players just didn’t do enough. They bounced back up straight away after their previous relegation but, with the competitiveness of the Championship this year, I can’t envisage them making another immediate return to the Premier League.

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27-year-old Liverpool supporter from Ireland with a keen interest in Irish, English and European football. Been writing about football in either a personal or professional capacity since I was 12.

Chelsea

Chelsea 4-0 Hull City – Willian plays himself into Champions League contention

Jake Jackman

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Chelsea

Chelsea continued their upturn in form with a convincing 4-0 win over Hull City in the FA Cup. The Blues were overwhelming favourites for the tie, but they had to get the job done and they did so effectively, scoring four times in the first-half.

They would have had one eye on the Champions League tie against Barcelona that is upcoming and that led to Antonio Conte making several changes.

The Italian decided to rest key players such as Eden Hazard, Ngolo Kante and Cesar Azpilicueta. It was the right decision as they progressed with comfort. Here are three talking points from the match:

Olivier Giroud is off the mark

One huge positive to come out of the game for the hosts was Olivier Giroud’s first goal for the club. He signed in January to provide competition for Alvaro Morata and his performances have been encouraging since signing, but to hit the back of the net takes the pressure off the Frenchman.

The signing carried relatively little risk for Chelsea as the striker has lots of experience in England and his consistency is already shining through in a Blues’ shirt.

Early into the game, he had a great opportunity to open his account, but he blazed a volley over the bar. It was a difficult chance as the ball was lifted over the defence to play him in, but a striker of his calibre should have done better.

Three goals were scored and he didn’t score one of them. If he had finished the match without scoring, it would have been talked about and that is why his goal just before half-time will relieve the pressure from him.

The rest of his game was excellent as he got two assists and linked up the play well from the front-line. Although he was brought in to be the back-up striker, Conte may give him the start against Barcelona as he is the player in form.

Hull City showed fight in the second half

The contest was over by the time the players stepped back out for the second-half, but Hull City showed fight and commitment to keep the score down to 4-0.

Nigel Adkins knows the importance of every mental victory when battling against relegation and to draw the second half can provide the players with confidence ahead of a return to league action.

Their performance was markedly improved as they created good opportunities and came close to scoring from the penalty spot. David Meyler stepped up and saw his penalty saved, but that didn’t see the players lose focus as they continued to create opportunities. During the match, they had 10 shots to Chelsea’s 14, which shows that they were far from embarrassed. They just didn’t have the quality in the final third that their Premier League opposition did possess.

It would be a huge blow for Hull City to suffer back-to-back relegations and their manager will be aware of that. This match against Chelsea was a good occasion, but it was far from a priority and their defeat won’t live too long in the memory.

They are currently 21st in the Championship and only above the bottom three by one point. Their far superior goal difference provides encouragement, but they must show this level of commitment until the end of the season if they are to avoid the drop.

Willian proved his quality before the return of the Champions League

Rotation can cause problems in the FA Cup, but in this case, it provided an opportunity to those that are on the fringes of the first-team to play themselves into contention for the Champions League.

Willian is an interesting case as he does feature prominently, but he isn’t a guaranteed first-team starter, as Pedro often gets the nod to start ahead of him.

Willian was excellent against Hull City and certainly gave his manager some food for thought ahead of the match with Barcelona. He completed six dribbles, attempted four shots and made three key passes as he terrorised the opposition defence. On the day, he scored twice, but he easily could have got a hat-trick.

Antonio Conte will be aware that his team’s big weakness is an over-reliance on Eden Hazard. The return of Cesc Fabregas goes some way to providing some support to the Belgian, but if Chelsea can get Willian playing to this level consistently, that would be a positive. He is more dynamic than Pedro and offers more flair to the attack. This performance could see him start against Barcelona.

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Chelsea

Chelsea 3-0 West Bromwich Albion: Three talking points from Stamford Bridge

Rob Meech brings us three talking points from Stamford Bridge as an Eden Hazard inspired Chelsea dismantled a struggling West Bromwich Albion side.

Rob Meech

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Photo: Reuters

Chelsea eased the pressure on Antonio Conte after a brace from Eden Hazard saw off basement boys West Bromwich Albion at Stamford Bridge.

It had been a troubling week for the Blues, following back-to-back heavy defeats against Bournemouth and Watford that had cast serious doubts over Conte’s position as manager.

But Hazard netted twice, either side of a goal from Victor Moses to complete a routine victory over the Baggies, who lost loan star Daniel Sturridge to injury after just three minutes.

Chelsea leapfrog Tottenham Hotspur into fourth spot as the battle for the top four heats up, while West Brom remain seven points adrift of safety.

Here are three talking points…

Talismanic Hazard comes to the rescue again

Just days after he was voted as Belgium’s player of the year by his peers, Hazard underlined his ability as a footballer of rare class with another brace to take his tally to 11 for the season.

Chelsea’s number 10 has an excellent scoring record against West Brom, one which he improved upon with a display that was too good for the Baggies to handle.

Hazard is a talismanic performer and when he hits his straps, the rest of the team feed off him.

Hazard combined with new boy Olivier Giroud to slam home his first of the evening, which eased the tension at Stamford Bridge.

The 27-year-old added his second and rounded off the scoring late in the second half, slamming the ball past visiting keeper Ben Foster.

Back in the top four as a result of this victory, Hazard will be the key to Chelsea’s hopes of qualifying for next season’s Champions League.

With him in their ranks, anything is possible.

Conte relieved as the pressure lifts

One man who will be extremely grateful for Hazard’s dazzling display is Conte.

The Italian seemed to be on the brink after last week’s 4-1 loss to Watford, which came hot on the heels of a similarly catastrophic result at home to Bournemouth.

Conte’s prickly demeanour and comments in press conferences had led some to speculate that he was goading the Chelsea board into sacking him, less than a year after he steered the club to the Premier League title.

Either way, it’s clear he retains the full support of the Stamford Bridge faithful, which was vocal in its support for Conte throughout the game, chanting his name with regularity.

Conte himself was typically demonstrative on the touchline, bellowing instructions and celebrating each of the goals as his players repaid him with an improved performance.

Whether he will be in the dugout next season remains to be seen, but for now at least his job is more secure than it was a week ago.

Sturridge’s World Cup audition falls flat

In front of watching England manager Gareth Southgate, Sturridge would have been hopeful of making a positive impression following his shock move to West Brom in the January window.

The Liverpool striker made the switch in order to enhance his prospects of making the World Cup squad, which will be named in little over three months’ time.

Few doubt Sturridge’s quality, but his fragile body continually struggles to hold up under the intensity of Premier League football.

His withdrawal due to a hamstring strain less than three minutes on the clock was a monumental blow, both to him personally and West Brom’s ambitions of springing a surprise against Chelsea.

Although he is expected to be sidelined for only a couple of weeks, this latest setback again raises questions over his durability.

Sturridge’s opportunities to prove he deserves to be on the plane to Russia are fast running out.

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Arsenal

Which four of the ‘big-six’ clubs will qualify for next season’s Champions League?

Martyn Cooke

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There are just 12 games remaining of the current Premier League season and, with Manchester City seemingly destined to secure the title, attention will now turn towards the battle to secure a place in the top-four.

There are only three places available to share between Manchester United, Arsenal, Tottenham Hotspur, Chelsea and Liverpool and two of those clubs will be have to be content with competing in the Europa League next season.

Here, The Boot Room predicts who will finish in the top four at the end of the season…

Arsenal

There was once a time when the possibility of Arsene Wenger and Arsenal failing to qualify for the Champions League was unthinkable, yet the Gunners are facing the realistic possibility of missing out on playing in Europe’s elite club competition for the second consecutive season.

This campaign they have been held back by their inconsistent and unpredictable form away from home and are playing catch-up with their rivals with a five-point gap emerging between themselves and fourth place.

There is a new sense of optimism around the Emirates Stadium after Wenger added Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang and Henrikh Mkhitaryan to his squad yet a defeat against Tottenham Hotspur on Saturday would all but end their hopes – qualifying through winning the Europa League could be a more realistic option.

Prediction: 6th

Manchester United

There is currently a slight sense of disappointment around Old Trafford this season that, despite obvious progress since the arrival of Jose Mourinho, the club have had to be content with seeing cross-city rivals Manchester City stroll their way towards the Premier League title.

It is difficult to imagine Manchester United missing out on a Champions League place as they already have a considerable buffer of seven points and undoubtedly have a squad that is full of quality and experience.

The arrival of Alexis Sanchez will provide additional impetus in the closing stages of the campaign and the only real danger is that their attention might be redirected towards challenging for the Champions League or FA Cup with the title already all but lost.

However, Mouirnho has his team ticking over nicely and it is likely that they will maintain their current league position.

Prediction: 2nd  

Chelsea

It has been a frustrating and increasing turbulent season at Stamford Bridge following the failure of Chelsea to build on last season’s title triumph.

Back-to-back defeats against Bournemouth and Watford have left the Blues clinging on to their place in the top four and there is now a realistic possibility that they may miss out on Champions League qualification.

Antonio Conte’s frustration with the club’s transfer policy has been clear to see since the summer and the off-pitch squabbling can only be a destabilising influence for the players.

Chelsea are certainly a team that are out of form and appear to be short of confidence and direction and it will be a true test of Conte’s managerial prowess to see if he can facilitate some sort of revival in the closing months of the season.

However, momentum is currently against them and they may well be one of the two clubs to miss out.

Prediction: 6th

Liverpool

You get the sense that it is always two steps forward followed by one step back at Anfield under Jurgen Klopp and you never know quite what to expect.

Liverpool continue to be consistently inconsistent as demonstrated by their recent, contrasting performances against Manchester City and Swansea City.

The arrival of Virgil van Dijk in the January transfer window is a boost, although recent games have suggested that he alone will not solve the club’s defensive frailties, whilst the sale of Phillip Coutinho is offset by the impressive array of attacking players that Klopp has collected.

If Liverpool can put together a good run of results then they will be able to capitalise on Antonio Conte’s woes as Chelsea and finish in the top four.

Prediction: 4th

Tottenham Hotspur

Tottenham Hotspur supporters will now have a taste for Champions League football after the success of their team in this year’s competition and they are hitting form at just the right moment in the Premier League.

Mauricio Pochettino’s side are unbeaten since mid-December and have plenty of momentum with the inspirational figure of Harry Kane continuing to his remarkable, prolific run of form in front of goal.

Much will depend on whether the England striker can stay fit until the end of the season whilst they also need Dele Alli to rediscover the sparkle that he has lost in recent months.

Tottenham face a season-defining fixture on Saturday when they face Arsenal in the North London derby but they should have enough quality to qualify for next season’s Champions League.

Prediction: 3rd

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