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Opinion

Manchester City have the title wrapped up, but who clinches European positions?

Joao Cancelo of Manchester City during the Premier League match between Manchester City and Wolverhampton Wanderers at Etihad Stadium on March 2, 2021 in Manchester, United Kingdom. (Photo by Robbie Jay Barratt - AMA/Getty Images)
Kevin Merrigan new author
Roar Rookie
6th March, 2021
6

Manchester City’s 4-1 victory over Wolves took their unbeaten run to 28 consecutive games during the week, including 15 consecutive Premier League victories.

While they took a while to get the gears going at the start of the season, this incredible run of form has all but etched their name onto the Premier League trophy yet again for this year. However, there are still plenty of unanswered questions to come from the remainder of the season, such as who will finish in the European spots come the season’s conclusion.

Let’s take a look at the current Champion’s League position contenders and give some predictions.

Manchester United
Despite sitting in second, it remains incredibly difficult to predict where Manchester United will finish this season. They remain a very on-and-off team, as has really been the issue since Sir Alex Ferguson left the club.

Bruno Fernandes has been crucial to the club’s success this season, posing highly impressive statistics for his first full season in the Premier League, featuring 15 goals and ten assists. However, the criticism has been aimed towards him for not turning up in big games, and the same goes for the rest of the team as United haven’t picked up a single win against one of the top six sides this season.

Bruno Fernandes

Bruno Fernandes. (Photo by Simon Stacpoole/Offside/Offside via Getty Images)

Defensively, United still remain vulnerable. Harry Maguire and Victor Lindelof are nowhere near the safe centre-back pairing United crave to challenge for the title, with the side dropping easy points in games such as the loss to Sheffield United and the draw with West Brom. Luke Shaw has been truly excellent, arguably United’s best player this season.

Anthony Martial and Mason Greenwood have been poor, nowhere near as effective as the post-restart last season.

Leicester
Again, Leicester remain a case of being either on or off. Some weeks they’ll be beating the reigning champions 3-1, next they’ll be picking up a draw at Burnley.

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Much of this comes down to an injury-plagued season for the Foxes. The recent loss of Harvey Barnes will definitely hurt, having been one of the major breakthroughs of this season. James Justin was another breakthrough for the side in defence, having only thought to be a temporary replacement for the once-injured Ricardo Pereira, but will unfortunately not feature again this campaign.

Getting James Maddison back fit again is essential to their end-run as he had been in incredible form prior to picking up a hip injury.

The main man Jamie Vardy has shown signs of age in the second half of this season, having significantly slowed down his rate of goalscoring conversion. This perhaps comes down to these injuries within the side putting a halt to the quality of service he’s been receiving, but it will be essential his goalscoring picks up in the late stages.

Jamie Vardy

Jamie Vardy. (Michael Regan/Getty Images)

Chelsea
The Blues are still up there contending with the big boys under new manager Thomas Tuchel. Edouard Mendy has been an immense improvement in goal, having picked up 12 clean sheets already this season. Mason Mount has been arguably the best player for the side, having played the most minutes in the side. Five goals and five assists is a healthy return, much of this coming in his most recent run of form.

Chelsea’s position is all the more impressive considering the disappointment of a number of key summer signings.

Kai Havertz has been a shadow of his Bundesliga self.

Kai Havertz of Chelsea

Kai Havertz. (Photo by Mike Hewitt/Getty Images)

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Hakim Ziyech has shown glimpses of brilliance, but nothing close to consistent.

Timo Werner can’t complain about opportunity, but his end product has been shocking and his confidence is low.

As a result, some older face such as Marcos Alonso, Antonio Rudiger and Olivier Giroud have come in clutch for the Blues with some standout performances.

Liverpool
One of the all-time poor title defence attempts. Coming off the highest of highs last season, Liverpool have slumped down to their current position of seventh on the table.

Of course, injuries have been an issue. Van Dijk’s long-term injury has led to 18 different centre-back combinations for the Reds this year, which has understandably led to some defensive blunders and inconsistency in their performances. Trent Alexander-Arnold has struggled to replicate his golden and youthful exuberance of last season, getting on the wrong side of statistics in terms of ball giveaways.

New signing Thiago has shown obvious on-the-ball class, but doesn’t seem to be fitting in with the Liverpool system, as results have shown. Mo Salah has been doing his job sufficiently, with 17 goals to his name, a league-high.

Mohamed Salah

Mo Salah. (Laurence Griffiths/Getty Images)

Sadio Mane has been slightly disappointing in comparison. Seven goals and seven assists doesn’t sound too bad on paper but he hasn’t really met his own high standards.

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Five ive home losses in a row is an all-time low for the Reds, and they continue to slump down the table.

West Ham
Now for the surprise package of the season. Having spent the last few years hovering down in the bottom ten, West Ham have been transformed this year under David Moyes. Tomas Soucek has been a standout performer, gaining a reputation for being in the right place at the right time, often for a perfectly-timed diving header at the back post. Eight goals and one assist for a defensive midfielder is a very healthy return for the Czech man.

Jesse Lingard has been reborn since his move to the Hammers, reminding us of his form under Jose Mourinho’s United with three goals and two assists in his first five appearances. Jarrod Bowen has shown brilliance on the ball.

Antonio is back in the goals after injury. Aaron Creswell is showing his class from left-back with six assists. It’s all positives for the Hammers, and ultimately this has resulted in morale at the club soaring. Imagine West Ham in the Champions League next season.

Everton
The Toffees are another team punching above their weight this season. Dominic Calvert-Lewin was the breakout star of the first half of the season. He hasn’t quite found his goalscoring form after returning from injury but sits at 13 goals for the year still, an impressive tally that has no doubt raises the eyes of England selectors.

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Dominic Calvert-Lewin of Everton

Dominic Calvert-Lewin. (Photo by Tony McArdle/Everton FC via Getty Images)

Luckily for him though, Richarlison has picked up where Calvert-Lewin left off, having been in superb form as of late as a result of a slight formation tweak by Carlo Ancelotti to allow both Richarlison and Gylfi Sigurdsson into the game more.

James Rodriguez has shown nothing but class when he’s been fit, and it’s just a shame he hasn’t been fit more often. Lucas Digne has been excellent from left-back, providing six assists so far.

Spurs
Harry Kane and Son Heung-min versus the world. 14 goals and 11 assists for Kane, 13 goals and eight assists for Son. That’s essentially the whole team in a nutshell, and that’s why they’re as low as they are.

Gareth Bale finally remembered his feet after his performance against Burnley and if he can continue that kind of form then there’s a new threat to the Spurs attack. The rest of the team, however, lacks depth and quality. The Jamie Redknapp versus Roy Keane argument really brought this to light.

Bar a few exceptions, notably Sergio Reguilon and Pierre-Emile Højberg, Spurs lack the class to really challenge for a title, and at the moment they’re struggling to challenge for Europe at all.

Harry Kane

Harry Kane. (Tottenham Hotspur FC/Tottenham Hotspur FC via Getty Images)

Prediction
There are so many ways this could go, but here’s my roll of the dice prediction for the end of the season.

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1. Manchester City
2. Manchester United
3. Chelsea
4. Leicester
5. Liverpool
6. Everton
7. Spurs
8. West Ham