As the return of the Premier League draws nearer, Peter Watton, from the matched betting experts OddsMonkey, shares his predictions on how the season will end at the top and bottom.
Later this week, we’ll finally see the return of the Premier League, a moment that many fans have been looking forward to during these tough times. The final matches of the 2019-20 season will be played behind closed doors with no fans in attendance due to COVID-19, and we’ll see a sub bench of nine and up to five changes allowed to help manage fitness concerns.
While the title is essentially decided already, there is still plenty to play for around the Champion’s League spots and the relegation places. With nine (ten for some) games to go, we could still a few twists and turns in this already historic season. Below, I’m going to share some insights into how I think the rest of the Premier League will pan out by the time matches wrap up in July.
How do things look right now?
Well, as I’m sure we’re all aware, at the top Liverpool are essentially champions elect, with a massive 25-point lead over nearest rivals Man City. Leicester sit in 3rd with a five-point cushion over Chelsea in fourth, who themselves have a three-point gap over Man Utd in 5th.
Chasing those Champion’s League spots is a host of teams, realistically extending as far down to Crystal Palace in 11th, who are just six points behind the Reds. It’s also worth recalling that, currently, Man City are banned from Europe next season (pending appeal), so that 5th position will earn Champion’s League football next season.
At the bottom, an old-fashioned dogfight is about to get underway, with just four points separating Aston Villa in 19th from Brighton in 15th. Norwich are rock bottom and are the team in real danger of losing touch with the rest of the league if a six-point gap gets any wider.
Where will Chelsea finish?
It’s certainly been a positive season for Chelsea this year, with Frank Lampard’s young squad sitting in a position that most fans would have taken at the start of the year, especially considering the loss of Eden Hazard and the transfer ban. For their last nine games, optimistic supporters will be looking for the team to kick on and catch Leicester in 3rd, though many will be quite happy if they can lock down that 4th place to ensure Champion’s League football whatever the situation with Man City.
Looking at the remaining fixtures still left to play, Man City, Sheff Utd, Liverpool, and Wolves are the standout tough games. Playing the top two will be particularly hard, and Chelsea’s performance in these matches could be the deciding factor on whether they can keep hold of 4th place. I think they will be able to do it, especially if they don’t lose Ngolo Kanté to COVID-19 fears and the returning Kovacic and Pulisic hit the ground running.
What about that last Champion’s League spot?
With 5th place awarding Champion’s League football this season, there’s a new motivation to finish in a spot usually reserved for a disappointed also-ran (like Arsenal last year). This year it’s Man Utd who are currently occupying the position, followed by a pack of talented teams looking to beat them to this bonus qualification. Tottenham and Arsenal are also in there as well.
Looking at the remaining games for this set of teams, Man Utd have one of the easiest run-ins, which I think will give them an edge in the race. The likes of Wolves and Sheff Utd will be wanting to upset the apple cart, but both have slightly more difficult matches ahead. One side I think we can discount are Arsenal, who still have the top two to play and five points to make up already.
Who will be relegated?
For the teams below Southampton in 14th, the fight for survival starts this week. Aston Villa and Bournemouth will be looking to scramble out of the relegation zone, while the likes of Watford, Brighton, and West Ham, will be looking to speed away as soon as possible. Norwich will likely take anything they can get right now. But, three have to go, so who will it be?
In my books, we’ll be saying goodbye to Norwich, Villa, and Bournemouth this season. I think there’s too much to do for Norwich to save their season in nine games, while Aston Villa probably have the most difficult run-in of any relegation contender, with a number of top teams to play.
Bournemouth are the hardest to condemn, but their points have mostly come from home games, and, as we have seen with the Bundesliga being played with no crowd, the home advantage is lost. In fact, home teams have earned half as many points as they usually would since the German league resumed. Because of this, I think their home fortress will vanish and they’ll struggle.
The return of the Premier League is sure to bring back a bit of excitement for football fans. And, we’re in for a roller coaster ride over the next nine or ten games, with a whole lot left to play for.