5 Things You Might Have Missed From This Weekend’s Football

As the season nears the end across Europe, titles and relegations are beginning to be confirmed. This weekend saw titles confirmed in England and the Netherlands, whilst fans of French and Italian football will have to wait for their champions to be crowned. Elsewhere, Bayern completed an incredible comeback in their 5-4 win over RB Leipzig, Real Madrid remain in control of La Liga after a 4-1 win over Sevilla, whilst Benfica were crowned champions in Portugal.

Chelsea Clinch Premier League

West Bromwich Albion v Chelsea - Premier League - The Hawthorns

Image: FourFourTwo

On Friday night Chelsea travelled to West Brom looking to seal their second Premier League title in the last three years. The Blues were four points clear with three games remaining, so a win would see them confirmed as champions. The Blues dominated the match, but struggled to break through the resilient Baggies. But substitute Michy Batshuayi netted his second goal of the season with just eight minutes to go, meaning that the celebrations could begin.

Hull Suffer Relegation

hull relegated

Image: Hull Daily Mail

At the other end of the table, Hull City were relegated to the Championship following their 4-0 demolition at the hands of Crystal Palace. After Swansea had beaten Sunderland on Saturday, Hull needed at least a point to mathematically avoid relegation, although even that would have left them needing a significant swing in the goal differences. A defensive mistake from Andrea Ranocchia in just the third minute set the tone for the match, and Palace raced to secure the victory that kept them in the division.

Juventus Title Celebrations Delayed

Roma

Image: Daily Mail

In the week that Juventus secured their place in the Champions League final, they had the chance to secure their six consecutive Serie A title as they travelled to second place Roma. But it wasn’t to be for Massimiliano Allegri’s side, who went down 3-1 to Roma. Mario Lemina put Juve in the lead, but goals from Daniele De Rossi, Stephen El Shaarawy and Radja Nainggolan ensured that the gap at the top was cut to four points. But Roma’s hopes of breaking the monopoly still remain slim, as Juventus host eighteenth place Crotone next weekend.

Monaco Effectively Seal Ligue 1

AS-Monaco-vs-Lille-OSC

Image: Daily Mirror

A Falcao brace helped Monaco take a step closer to their first league title since 2000, as they beat Lille 4-0. A superb run from Kylian Mbappe set up Bernardo Silva for a tap-in, and a late own goal completed the rout. The victory sees Monaco three points clear of PSG, with a game in hand. PSG, who dismantled Saint-Etienne 5-0, would need Monaco to lose both of their remaining games, whilst the champions would need to win their final and hope for a significant goal swing to secure a fifth consecutive title.

Kuyt Hat-Trick Seals Feyenoord Title

kuyt

Image: Sky Sports

On the final day of the Eredivisie season, Dirk Kuyt netted a hat-trick to secure Feyenoord’s first title in 18 years. Feyenoord went in to the final day a point clear of Ajax, so needed a win against Heracles Almelo to secure the championship. Kuyt wasted no time in getting the ball rolling, scoring after just a minute, and adding a second after just twelve minutes. He completed his hat-trick from the penalty spot with just a few minutes remaining. Even a late consolation goal was not enough to stop Giovanni van Bronckhorst’s side from clinching the title, ahead of Ajax, who managed a 3-1 win over Willem II despite naming the Eredivisie’s youngest ever team.

Premier League 2016/17 Preview -Hull City

Hull City v Leicester City - Capital One Cup Fourth Round

Andrew Robertson’s performances will be vital in determining Hull’s fate this season. Image: 90min.com

Hull fans had a right to be optimistic at the end of last season: victorious in the Play-offs and heading in to the Premier League with an experienced boss who had been promised the funds to strengthen his side. Fast forward to the start of the season and the Tigers are managerless, having spent no money and reportedly only have 13 fit first team players. Added to that, their second and third top scorers, Mo Diame and Chuba Akpom have moved to Newcastle and returned to Arsenal respectively. Hull will need a proven striker if they are to survive, with last season’s top scorer Abel Hernandez faltering in his first year in the Premier League. The Tigers were very solid defensively last year, but it is up for debate whether they are able to step up to the level required for the Premier League. Hull face Arsenal, Liverpool and Chelsea in the first few games of the season, so they could be rock bottom of the league from very early on.

Key Man: Andrew Robertson. The Scottish left back has become a mainstay in the Hull side, contributing two goals and five assists in their promotion campaign. Whether he will continue to play as a wing-back under the new manager remains to be seen, but he will have to be on top defensive form this year. Hull’s lack of options in midfield will mean that Robertson will also be relied upon going forward to create chances for Hernandez.

One to Watch: Josh Tymon. The 17 year old left back made his debut in the FA Cup last season, and could make his league debut sooner than expected with Hull’s injury crisis. With three England Under-17 caps already under his belt, Tymon is an attacking full back in the mould of Andrew Robertson and is one of the most highly rated young players at the club.

Last Season: 4th (Championship)

Prediction: 20th

Saints rise to see off toothless Tigers

A first Premier League goal for James Ward-Prowse and Graziano Pelle’s first league goal since December saw Southampton dig deep to overcome a physical Hull side. Ronald Koeman’s team now rise to fifth, whilst the visitors are still precariously positioned above the relegation zone. The one downside for Koeman was Victor Wanyama picking up his tenth yellow card of the season, meaning he’ll miss the games against Stoke and Tottenham.

James Ward-Prowse's penalty was his first goal in his last 83 games for Saints

James Ward-Prowse’s penalty was his first goal in his last 83 games for Saints

Saints could have taken the lead within the first minute, as Shane Long pounced on a loose backpass, however he ran the ball out whilst trying to round Steve Harper. But it was Hull who looked more likely to score early on, with the hosts looking lethargic. Sone Aluko forced a save from Kelvin Davis, but in truth the Southampton stopper never really looked troubled. Aluko had a couple of efforts which went wide and a Tom Huddlestone free-kick summed up the Tiger’s shocking form in front of goal. The hosts’ only clear-cut chance of the first half came when Shane Long almost capitalised on a James Chester slip, instead teeing up Graziano Pelle who was denied well by Harper.

Graziano Pelle ended a run of over 1200 minutes of Premier League football without a goal

Graziano Pelle ended a run of over 1200 minutes of Premier League football without a goal

Steve Bruce was left angered by the referee as Graziano Pelle appeared to move his forearm in to the face of Alex Bruce. In real time it appeared fairly inconspicuous, however Kevin Friend awarded the Italian a yellow card, despite the Hull players’ protests.

The breakthrough finally came as Long burst through and was brought down by Bruce. Sadio Mane picked the ball up, but after a word from Jose Fonte, the duty fell to Ward-Prowse. The twenty year old handled the pressure in an impressive manner, firing the penalty home in a Rickie Lambert-esque fashion for his first Saints goal since 2012. The importance of this goal was emphasised as just minutes earlier, Kelvin Davis had been forced in to an excellent reflex save to prevent Jake Livermore’s low effort that was hit through a crowd of players.

James Chester almost equalised for Hull, as he rose highest from a corner, only to see Ryan Bertrand clear the ball off the line. But the result didn’t ever really look in danger, and it was confirmed with 9 minutes remaining. Dusan Tadic played through Schneiderlin, who unselfishly played it across for Pelle to fire home from 6 yards.

Kelvin Davis saves low to prevent Jake Livermore from equalising

Kelvin Davis saves low to prevent Jake Livermore from equalising

With Tottenham losing against Aston Villa, the victory sees Saints move up to fifth, however Liverpool could overtake them on Monday when they play Newcastle. Hull remain seventeenth, just two points above the relegation zone with six games remaining.


Player ratings

Southampton: K. Davis 8; Alderweireld 7, Fonte 8, Yoshida 7, Bertrand 7; Wanyama 6 (Ward-Prowse, 45, 7), Schneiderlin 6; Long 8 (Elia, 74), S. Davis 7, Mane 6 (Tadic, 61, 6); Pelle 7

Unused: Gazzaniga, Targett, Clyne, Reed

Hull City: Harper 7; Chester 6 (Diame, 64, 6), Dawson 6, Bruce 5, McShane 6; El Mohamady 5, Livermore 7, Huddlestone 7 (Sagbo, 74, 6), Quinn 5; N’Doye 5, Aluko 5 (Hernandez, 84)

Unused: McGregor, Rosenior, Brady, Robertson

Referee: Kevin Friend

Attendance: 30,359

5 things to look out for this weekend in the Premier League

With just seven games remaining of the Premier League season, there is still everything to play for. This weekend sees several important games at both ends of the table which will go some way to answering these five questions.

Will Chelsea lift their Loftus Road hoodoo?

Only Lionel Messi (8) has more assists than Matt Phillips (7) in Europe's top 5 leagues in 2015

Only Lionel Messi (8) has more assists than Matt Phillips (7) in Europe’s top 5 leagues in 2015

Leaders Chelsea should have the title wrapped up by now, however their recent performances have been all but impressive. Added to that is the fact they have only won at Loftus Road once in their last 13 visits to West London. With Matic and Fabregas walking a disciplinary tightrope, and Diego Costa out injured, this could be yet another tough afternoon for Chelsea. QPR have scored seven goals in their past two games with Matt Phillips becoming instrumental in the R’s push for survival. If Chelsea can overcome this hurdle, the title is almost guaranteed, but if they slip up then they could give Arsenal a chance to catch up.

Can Arsenal maintain their title challenge?

For 75 minutes of their match against Liverpool, Arsenal played like champions. This weekend they face Burnley at Turf Moor in a test of their title credentials. In normal circumstances you would assume the title race is all but over, but with Chelsea stuttering recently and with such an unpredictable season already, the Gunners know that nothing except a win will do. Burnley will be a tough test, recently drawing with Chelsea and Tottenham, and beating Manchester City, and it will be a test of this Arsenal team’s mental toughness to see whether they can challenge at the top of the table.

Arsenal have picked up the most points in the league so far in 2015

Arsenal have picked up the most points in the league so far in 2015

Who will be relegated?

Okay, so this question can’t be answered this weekend, but the game at the Hawthorns could go a long way to answering it. If Leicester lose, then they risk being cut adrift at the bottom of the table. West Brom have conceded seven goals in their last two games and could be in danger of being dragged back in to the scrap if they lose. Leicester’s late win at West Ham saw them gain ground on their rivals, whilst West Brom were on the end of a surprise thumping at home to QPR. QPR, Burnley and Hull all unlikely to pick up maximum points in their games, and Sunderland and Villa have tough games, so three points for any of the bottom seven will be welcome in the fight against the drop.

Will the Manchester derby be the final nail in Pellegrini’s coffin?

Despite their poor run of form, City can be the first team in the Premier League era to win 5 in a row against United

Despite their poor run of form, City can be the first team in the Premier League era to win five in a row against United

Sunday sees a stuttering Manchester City visit their in-form rivals United, with the pressure building on boss Manuel Pellegrini. City have lost three out of their last five, and plenty of their stars are out of form. Sergio Aguero hasn’t scored in over 500 minutes and Yaya Toure has failed to reach the heights of last season. Louis van Gaal, on the other hand, appears to have stumbled across a team that fits, with injuries to Robin van Persie and Radamel Falcao allowing Wayne Rooney to flourish up front with Marouane Fellaini finding his Everton form in midfield. After winning the title last year, Tuesday’s defeat to Palace has left the Champions in fourth, below their rivals for the first time in 18 months. Rumours about Pellegrini’s future refuse to go away, and however much his players have let him down this season, a defeat at Old Trafford could be the final nail in his coffin.

Who will finish fifth?

With just one point separating Liverpool in fifth and Southampton in seventh, the battle for fifth is hotting up. Liverpool have lost the momentum with two losses in a row, all but ending their hopes for a top four finish. This week they face Newcastle on Monday night, which on form is a guaranteed three points. Steven Gerrard and Martin Skrtel are back from suspension, which will good news for Brendan Rodgers who may want to shake the team up to get back to the form of the last couple of months. Spurs have laboured to getting results in recent weeks, edging past Leicester and QPR whilst drawing with Burnley. Aston Villa visit White Hart Lane, led by former Spurs boss Tim Sherwood. Villa could be a tough test for Tottenham, with Christian Benteke being the highest scorer in the Premier League since Sherwood’s appointment. Southampton, despite playing well, have struggled to score goals recently, as highlighted by their defeat at Everton last week. The host a hapless Hull side who could conceivably not pick up a single point for the rest of the season. Sadio Mane could return for the Saints in order to give Graziano Pelle the support he needs for Saints to find the net.

Premier League gameweek 2: Unhappy return for Redknapp

Harry Redknapp’s return to White Hart Lane was a disaster for QPR, as they were demolished 4-0. Nacer Chadli bagged two goals, whilst Eric Dier grabbed his second goal of the season and Emmanuel Adebayor completed the rout. Louis Van Gaal’s reign at Manchester United continues to be unimpressive, as they were held to a draw at Sunderland. Juan Mata opened the scoring, but ex-Manchester City midfielder Jack Rodwell equalised with a header. In the final game on Sunday, a late Ryan Shawcross goal saved Stoke’s blushes against 10 man Hull City. James Chester saw red early on for the Tigers, but Nikica Jelavic managed to give them the lead from close range. However Shawcross’ scrappy finish gave Stoke the draw.

Chelsea maintained their perfect start to the season as they overcame a tricky game against Leicester. Diego Costa netted on his home debut and Edin Hazard made sure of the points. Swansea are another team with a perfect start, as the edged past Burnley 1-0, with Nathan Dyer breaking clear to score the winner.

Arsenal came from two goals down to draw 2-2 away at Everton. Seamus Coleman and Steven Naismith scored in the first half, but late goals from Aaron Ramsey and Olivier Giroud maintained the Gunners unbeaten start. West Ham demolished managerless Crystal Palace 3-1 at Selhurst Park. Débutante Mauro Zarate and Stewart Downing scored two quick first half goals. Marouane Chamakh brought Palace back into the game, but Carlton Cole wrapped up the win for the Hammers.

Aston Villa drew 0-0 with Newcastle in this season’s first goalless draw. Newcastle were reduced to ten men late in the game as Mike Williamson earned two yellow cards. It didn’t take long for a second goalless draw, as Southampton drew with West Brom. James Ward-Prowse came closest for the Saints as his free kick struck the post, whilst summer signing Brown Ideye came closest for the Baggies, with Fraser Forster denying the striker after a clever turn.

On Monday, last season’s top two face off at the Etihad Stadium, as Manchester City play Liverpool.

Premier League gameweek 1: Swans stun Van Gaal

The biggest story of the opening weekend of the new Premier League season was Swansea’s stunning 2-1 victory over Louis Van Gaal’s Manchester United at Old Trafford. Returning midfielders Ki Sung-Yueng and Gylfi Sigurdsson scored either side of a Wayne Rooney goal to secure Gary Monk’s team their first win at Old Trafford.

Newly promoted Leicester City secured a late draw at home to Everton through a Chris Wood strike. Aiden McGeady opened the scoring with his first Everton goal before Leonardo Ulloa equalised on his Foxes debut. Steven Naismith put Everton back in the lead but Martinez’s men were unable to hold on to the three points. QPR lost on their return to the Premier League as James Chester capitalised on some poor marking to head Hull ahead. Rangers had a chance to equalise from the spot as Chester was harshly punished for an alleged handball, but Alan McGregor saved Charlie Austin’s penalty.

Arsenal, fresh from their Community Shield victory, came from behind to beat manager-less Crystal Palace 2-1. Brede Hangeland headed Palace ahead, but Laurent Koscielny and Aaron Ramsey scored in injury time in each half to secure the win. Palace also had Jason Puncheon sent off. Arsenal’s north London rivals Spurs also opened their season with a win, 1-0 at West Ham. Spurs had Kyle Naughton sent off for blocking a goal bound shot with his arms, however Mark Noble sent the penalty wide. In the second half, things were evened up as James Collins was sent off for a second bookable offence. Débutante Eric Dier rescued Pochettino’s men as the defender broke through and scored in injury time.

At the Hawthorns, Lee Cattermole hit a superb opener to put Sunderland ahead but West Brom pulled level as Saido Berahino converted a very soft penalty. Berahino doubled his tally with a second half volley, but Seb Larsson rescued a late point for Sunderland. In the other match on Saturday, Aston Villa beat Stoke 1-0 through an Andreas Weimann goal, which Stoke’s Asmir Begovic would have felt he should have kept out .

On Sunday, champions Manchester City weren’t at their best as they edged past Newcastle 2-0. David Silva put the champions ahead after an excellent assist from Dzeko. But Newcastle responded well and had plenty of chances to equalise. Their inefficiency was punished as Sergio Aguero tidily finished in stoppage time to put City top of the league. Liverpool coped well without Luis Suarez as they narrowly beat Southampton 2-1. Raheem Sterling beat the offside trap to open the scoring, but Nathaniel Clyne powered in an equaliser after some nice interplay with Dusan Tadic. Southampton really should have taken the lead, but Morgan Schneiderlin crashed his effort against the bar whilst new signing Shane Long headed the follow up wide. Liverpool took full advantage of that, as Daniel Sturridge netted the winner after Southampton failed to clear the ball.

On Monday, newly promoted Burnley host championship favourites Chelsea.

Premier League predictions – the run-in

With 12 games left, and the January transfer window closed, the Premier League is really starting to hot up. The top four are separated by just four points, and the table is split into two distinctive halves. The top nine all have realistic hopes for European qualification with no fear of being sucked into a relegation battle. But below Newcastle, any of the 11 other teams could be in danger of relegation in possibly one off the most exciting relegation battles in recent memory.

Arsenal

Current position: 2nd

How they are doing: Arsenal had defied all expectations by topping the Premier League until just a couple of weeks ago, with many doubting their ability to finish in the top four at the beginning of the year. However it seems as if the Premier League’s nearly-men look set for their annual collapse. The signing of Mesut Özil seems to have boosted the performances of the team, with the likes of Aaron Ramsey taking the league by storm. The Gunners will face a crucial two months now, as they still have to travel to Spurs, Chelsea and Everton, whilst having to host Manchester City. These fixtures, combined with the injuries of Ramsey and Walcott could lead to their threadbare squad dropping down the table. This hasn’t been helped with Wenger’s incompetence in the transfer window, where he didn’t sign a striker and ended up with an injured midfielder whose past his peak.

Pre-season prediction: 5th

Projected finish: 3rd

Aston Villa

Current position: 12th

How they are doing: Aston Villa are towards the top of the relegation battle, which is surprising as they’re sat in twelfth. After a tough start, facing Arsenal, Chelsea, Liverpool, and Man City in the opening weeks of the season, Villa have picked up recently. They have been very inconsistent, with the victories at Arsenal and at home to Man City being balanced out by losses to Fulham and Crystal Palace. Their counter attacking style and attacking flair should see them safe, but they still have to face the likes of Chelsea, both Manchester clubs and Tottenham.

Pre-season prediction: 13th

Projected finish: 10th

Cardiff City

Current position: 19th

How they are doing: With the madness of the Malky MacKay situation over the New Year, Cardiff have slipped back down in to the relegation zone. Mackay had kept Cardiff out of the relegation zone, with a victory against Manchester City and a spirited draw against Manchester United being two particular high points. Another was the 1-0 win against rivals Swansea, so when Mackay was sacked, there was uproar. New boss Ole Gunnar Solskjaer has brought in some new faces from Norway, and these added with current crop of players have the potential to upset a few teams at the Cardiff City Stadium. This home form will be crucial as the team look to rise up and steer themselves clear of relegation, but it will be a big test for a relatively inexperienced manager.

Pre-season prediction: 17th

Projected finish: 18th

Chelsea

Current position: 1st

How they are doing: Chelsea find themselves top without really having clicked in to top gear so far. They have been very consistent, taking 21 points from their 10 games against the rest of the top 8. Doing the double over City will prove crucial towards the end of the season, for both morale and points. The loss of Juan Mata will surely be seen as a mistake if Chelsea fail to win the title, but they have shown how well they can play without him. As you would expect, Jose Mourinho’s set his team out to have a solid base, conceding the least goals so far this season. The strength in depth and winning mentality of both players and manager should see Chelsea take the Premier League trophy out of Manchester for only the second time in 7 seasons.

Pre-season prediction: 1st

Projected finish: 1st

Crystal Palace

Current position: 15th

How they are doing: Crystal Palace have had a strange season, winning the most games out of any of the teams in the bottom half, yet they still find themselves in 15th.Most of their defeats came in the early months of the season, where Ian Holloway’s open style led to the Eagle’s being vulnerable at the back. They have only been thrashed twice (by Fulham and Newcastle), and have run a lot of the big boys very close. Tony Pulis has to take some of the acclaim for their upturn in form, which has seen them rise out of the relegation zone, as Palace have found a way to grind out victories under his new style. However, they still have to play a lot of the teams above them, including three of the top four, and will find it difficult to maintain their Premier League status.

Pre-season prediction: 19th

Projected finish: 19th

Everton

Current position: 6th

How they are doing: Everton’s start to the season has exceeded everybody’s expectations. Many believed, myself included, that Martinez would struggle to adapt to life at a bigger club, however he has took to it like a duck to water. The loan signings of Romelu Lukaku and Gareth Barry have definitely helped, but the performances of Seamus Coleman, Ross Barkley and, more recently, Kevin Mirallas have helped the Toffees rise to 5th. Victory at Old Trafford and at home to Chelsea show the progress that Martinez has made to the team, however the recent 4-0 defeat to Liverpool will be one to forget for players and fans alike. The same problem still remains though, as the squad isn’t big enough to cope with a Champions League push. Injuries to Lukaku, Barkley and Deulofeu could end Everton’s chances of reaching the top four, and they will have to hope that Lacina Traore and Aiden McGeady will settle in quickly if they are to avoid dropping away.

Pre-season prediction: 8th

Projected finish: 6th

Fulham

Current position: 20th

How they are doing: Fulham are doomed. Simple as that. Conceding 58 goals in only 26 games is a sure fire way to be relegated, and now they can only hope that Konstantinos Mitroglou, William Kvist, Lewis Holtby and Johnny Heitinga fit straight in to their team. Another positive is that they have managed to offload the passengers that they couldn’t afford to carry, with Brian Ruiz, Dimitar Berbatov and Adel Taarabt all leaving during January. A spirited first half against Southampton followed by a draw at Old Trafford and a late 3-2 loss against Liverpool show that they do have some life in them. However, after their FA Cup replay defeat to Sheffield United (who were second bottom in League One at the time), Fulham fans must be wondering whether their club can sink any lower. More uncertainty will come with new manager (yes another one!) Felix Magath has been brought in as the third permanent Fulham manger of the season. This instability cannot be a good thing, therefore the Championship probably awaits for the Cottagers.

Pre-season prediction: 14th

Projected finish: 20th

Hull City

Current position: 13th

How they are doing: Hull started this season by defying all expectations with a very good start. I for one thought that they would finish this season bottom with a record low in terms of points. Robbie Brady’s injury may be a reason why the Tigers have tailed off over the winter. A 3-1 win over Liverpool and a 6-0 demolition of Fulham have been particular highlights so far this season. They face most of the teams around them in the run in, so should have enough about them to stave off any fears of the drop.

Pre-season prediction: 20th

Projected finish: 12th

Liverpool

Current position: 4th

How they are doing: Liverpool have had a really good start to the season, despite a few blips. Their SAS partnership up front has be banging in the goals, scoring 39 out of Liverpool’s 66 goals so far. A 5-0 win over Tottenham, a 5-1 demolition of Arsenal and a 4-0 derby victory have been the stand out performances so far this year, but Liverpool will need to be more consistent to maintain their Champions League push. Losing to Hull and drawing with West Brom, Villa and Swansea were poor results for a team looking to finish in the top 4, but luckily the frontrunners have had similar setbacks. They still have to host Tottenham, Man City and Chelsea, and victories there would see Brendan Rodgers’ team secure a Champions League place.

Pre-season prediction: 6th

Projected finish: 4th

Manchester City

Current position: 3rd

How they are doing: Manchester City have been by far the most entertaining team to watch this season. 68 goals in 25 games has been incredible, including a 7-0 against Norwich, 6-0 and 5-1 against Tottenham, a 6-3 win over Arsenal and a 4-1 derby victory. Despite these massive score lines, their defence does look very suspect at times, and that combined with Joe Hart’s drop in form earlier in the year led to a few suspect defeats at the hands of Cardiff, Villa and Sunderland. City play more of the relegation threatened teams than the rest of their title rivals, apart from Chelsea, so the title isn’t out of the question. They also have a game in hand, so a win against Sunderland would see them rise to the top on goal difference. Those two defeats against Chelsea could prove pivotal in the title race with the Blues being City’s main title rivals.

Pre-season prediction: 2nd

Projected finish: 2nd

Manchester United

Current position: 7th

How they are doing: The signing of Juan Mata appears to have papered over the cracks in the United team, despite appearing to not be the sort of player that they need. Despite needing a box-to-box midfielder amongst others, Moyes has brought in an attacking midfielder. When United do get forward, they will be very good to watch, with a front line of Mata, Januzaj, Van Persie and Rooney. But the defeat to Stoke showed up their defensive weaknesses, and they have been unable to field a consistent back line, often playing Smalling and Jones out of position. David Moyes’ tenure at United has been disappointing thus far, and the squad is unlikely to regain a top 4 place.

Pre-season prediction: 3rd

Projected finish: 8th

Newcastle United

Current position: 9th

How they are doing: Losing Yohan Cabaye will hit Newcastle hard, as shown by their results since he left. A goalless draw with Norwich and a 3-0 Tyne-Wear derby defeat have shown signs of the wheels coming off for the Magpies. Luckily, they have built up enough points before losing their key player, making sure that they don’t get drawn in to a relegation scrap. Loic Remy’s goals have dried up recently, so the signing of Luuk De Jong on loan should help Newcastle in the final third. Newcastle still have to play a lot of the big teams, so they may be dropped off of the top group of clubs in to mid-table all by themselves.

Pre-season prediction: 16th

Projected finish: 9th

Norwich City

Current position: 16th

How they are doing: Norwich may be sitting in 16th so far, but they are well and truly in a battle to beat the drop. They backed Chris Hughton in the summer, but the signings of Ricky Van Wolfswinkel and Leroy Fer haven’t been successful. Gary Hooper, after overcoming an injury at the start of the season, has been finding the net fairly regularly and the performances of Nathan Redmond could be seen as a positive for Norwich fans. They have been very poor this season, and the fans aren’t happy with Chris Hughton’s overly-defensive style of management. A team with the attacking players that Norwich boast should look to be more adventurous, and their cautious approach may just cost them their Premier League status. With their final four games of the season against Liverpool, Manchester United, Chelsea and Arsenal, Norwich will need to accumulate enough points before then to avoid having to trips to Sheffield Wednesday and Blackpool next season.

Pre-season prediction: 11th

Projected finish: 17th

Southampton

Current position: 8th

How they are doing: After a great start, a combination of tough fixtures and injuries had led to Maurico Pochettino’s team dropping as low as 9th. The first choice team have proved a tough test against the top teams, securing draws against Manchester City, Manchester United and Arsenal, whilst also beating Liverpool at Anfield; but strength in depth is the big worry for Saints. With the welcome departure of Pablo Osvaldo on loan to Juventus, young Sam Gallagher is the only back up to Rickie Lambert, whilst the untried Matt Targett looks to be the back-up for Luke Shaw. But if any team’s young players can perform at this level, it will be Southampton’s, as proved by the emergence of right-back Calum Chambers. Much relies on the form of Adam Lallana and the return of Dejan Lovren from injury, but the Saints should finish comfortably in the top half, maybe even above the champions.

Pre-season prediction: 9th

Projected finish: 7th

Stoke City

Current position: 14th

How they are doing: Stoke’s recent win over Manchester United was their first win since December 21st. Although Mark Hughes is trying to change the style of play, they still seem to lack any bite in attack, scoring an average of just over 1 goal per game. Sitting in 14th, you’d expect Stoke to be comfortably safe and just playing out the remainder of the season for a mid-table finish, however they are just three points above 18th placed Sunderland. Keeping hold of Asmir Begovic was a big boost for the Potters, as he has been as reliable as ever in goal, as well as being their joint-sixth highest goal scorer after his goal against Southampton. Stoke’s final five games are fairly favourable, apart from hosting Tottenham, so you would expect them to get themselves well away from trouble by the end of the season.

Pre-season prediction: 18th

Projected finish: 13th

Sunderland

Current position: 18th

How they are doing: Sunderland’s season has been a rollercoaster ride to say the least. They started under Paolo Di Canio in disarray, and sat bottom of the table with just 1 point when he was sacked. Under Gus Poyet’s guidance though, Sunderland have at times looked like a good team. Two victories over Newcastle and having the League Cup final to look forward to will have Sunderland fans overjoyed with how the season has gone. The re-emergence of Adam Johnson has been the catalyst to their recent run of form, where they appeared to be lifting themselves away from the relegation scrap and towards a mid-table finish. However, defeat to Hull and a postponement against Manchester City have led to them dropping back to 18th. Fabio Borini and Phil Bardsley’s performances deserve a mention, as they have also been very influential in Poyet’s revolution. Sunderland will definitely be safe, and will end up around mid-table.

Pre-season prediction: 15th

Projected finish: 11th

Swansea City

Current position: 10th

How they are doing: The sacking of Michael Laudrup came as a big shock to most people, especially as Swansea lifted the League Cup only last year. However they had only won 8 games since their Wembley success until his sacking. Gary Monk’s taken over and began well, with a 3-0 victory against Cardiff. Somehow Swansea find themselves in 10th despite their poor form. A contributing factor to this lack of league success may be their progress in the Europa League, but as they face Napoli in the next round they will probably be out by the end of the month, which may help their League form pick up. Michu has had an injury hit season, and Wilfred Bony has been fairly inconsistent, as although he has scored 8 league goals, most of them haven’t affected the result.

Pre-season prediction: 7th

Projected finish: 15th

Tottenham Hotspur

Current position: 5th

How they are doing: Apart from two thrashings, Tottenham’s season was going reasonably well when AVB was sacked. The new signings were struggling to settle in, however the team were seventh. Tim Sherwood has taken over and has done well, apart from the 2-0 derby loss in the FA Cup and the 5-1 thumping at home to Manchester City. Emmanuael Adebayor has boosted the team since being reintroduced by Sherwood. Spurs’ end to the season should be pretty steady, apart from a tough March, but I wouldn’t expect them to catch the top four.

Pre-season prediction: 4th

Projected finish: 5th

West Bromwich Albion

Current position: 17th

How they are doing: The sacking of Steve Clarke came as a complete shock to most. West Brom were doing okay, and certainly didn’t look as if they would be under any threat of relegation. But Clarke’s sacking and then not appointing a manager for two months unsettled the team and drew them towards the bottom three. Beating Manchester United at Old Trafford for the first time since 1978 will be seen as a particular highlight of the season. The board’s panic sacking of Clarke could have really cost West Brom at the end of the season, but playing most of the teams around them in the run-in means that their fate is in their own hands.

Pre-season prediction: 12th

Projected finish: 16th

West Ham United

Current position: 11th

How they are doing: Where to start with West Ham? A month ago they were playing abysmally, not scoring and leaking goals for fun. However four straight clean sheets and 3 straight wins have lifted them out of the relegation zone and up to 11th. The Ravel Morrison situation seems to dominate West Ham at the moment, after looking a world-beater at the start of the season he has been frozen out by ‘Big Sam’. They seem to have got back into the form that led to a solid return season in the Premier League, and a few more performances like those over the last month would see West Ham safe.

Pre-season prediction: 10th

Projected finish: 14th

 

Table Prediction

1st – Chelsea – 93 points

2nd – Manchester City – 89 points

3rd – Arsenal – 84 points

4th – Liverpool – 77 points

5th – Tottenham – 76 points

6th – Everton – 70 points

7th – Southampton – 64 points

8th – Manchester United – 62 points

9th – Newcastle United – 55 points

10th – Aston Villa – 41 points

11th – Sunderland – 41 points

12th – Hull City – 38 points

13th – Stoke City – 38 points

14th – West Ham – 37 points

15th – Swansea City – 36 points

16th – West Brom – 34 points

17th – Norwich City – 31 points

18th – Cardiff City (R) – 31 points

19th – Crystal Palace (R) – 27 points

20th – Fulham (R) – 22 points