Premier League: After a VERY weird season, one Sportsmail hack has another go at the final table


The most unpredictable season is now looking a little clearer. 

What seemed to be a thrilling title race looks to have come to an abrupt end with Manchester City 14 points clear at the top and on course to win the Premier League for the fifth time after a stunning resurgence.

It was a different story in December, however, when one Sportsmail reporter – yes, me – made some bold calls on where each team would finish in the table.

The Premier League table is looking very different to the one predicted in December, with Manchester City (above) now runaway leaders, having looked well below par earlier on

The Premier League table is looking very different to the one predicted in December, with Manchester City (above) now runaway leaders, having looked well below par earlier on

Those predictions, er… haven’t quite materialised.  

There’s now just seven weeks left of the season and there’s a bit more to go on, with the battle for Europe and relegation taking shape.

With that in mind, here’s attempt No 2 at gazing into the crystal ball – and this predicted Premier League table looks very different to than one compiled three months ago.

1ST – MANCHESTER CITY  

PREVIOUS PREDICTION – 5TH 

WHAT I SAID AT CHRISTMAS:   

Fifth? Hear me out. City were eight points off the top before Christmas with a game in hand. Few were expecting them to go on that 14-game winning run. Okay, maybe Pep Guardiola was. 

Back in December, I wrote: ‘David Silva has proved to be a big loss and the man billed as his successor, Phil Foden, has only been used sparingly in the league – despite impressing when given a chance.’

Enter Ilkay Gundogan. The midfielder has scored 11 goals since Christmas after managing just one in his first seven games.

Perhaps I should have anticipated City stepping it up a gear after what was a slow start but they’ve been even better than we could have expected. Even so, fifth was harsh. I can only apolosise to Pep, the Gallagher brothers and Micah Richards. 

WHAT I THINK NOW: 

There’s no stopping City on their march to the title. Give them the trophy now. 

Ilkay Gundogan has been in fantastic form with City edging closer towards the title

Ilkay Gundogan has been in fantastic form with City edging closer towards the title

2ND – MANCHESTER UNITED

PREVIOUS PREDICTION – 4TH

WHAT I SAID AT CHRISTMAS:  

‘The club really needed to sign another centre back in the summer and may be made to pay for their failure to do so, with their weaknesses in defence capable of costing them vital points.’ 

This point on defensive frailities still stands but it has cost Manchester United a chance of the title rather than a place in the top four, which now looks secure. 

United were third at Christmas but a six-game unbeaten run saw them climb all the way to the top at the start of January.

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer may have played down their title credentials but his side were contenders until dropped points against Sheffield United, Arsenal, Everton and West Brom saw them fall behind City. 

WHAT I THINK NOW: 

United should finish second providing Marcus Rashford, Mason Greenwood and Anthony Martial are not set for a long spell on the sidelines after picking up knocks. Chelsea could catch them if United get complacent.

Manchester United are in a strong position to finish second if they can avoid complacency

Manchester United are in a strong position to finish second if they can avoid complacency

3RD – CHELSEA

PREVIOUS PREDICTION – 3RD

WHAT I SAID AT CHRISTMAS:

Chelsea were fifth at Christmas but there was still an expectation they would finish in the top four after a 3-0 victory over West Ham. 

‘The pressure has been on Frank Lampard since his big summer spend. After a bit of a shaky start, Chelsea found a level of consistency but back-to-back defeats against Everton and Wolves have cast more doubt on their title credentials.’

Well, those defeats cast more than just doubt on their title credentials as further losses to Arsenal, Man City and Leicester saw Lampard sacked and replaced by Thomas Tuchel. 

The German is undefeated since taking charge and has guided the Blues back into the Champions League places. They don’t thrash teams, but they are much stronger at the back with just two goals conceded in 10 league games. 

WHAT I THINK NOW:  

Chelsea are currently fourth but I’m sticking to my guns and saying they’ll finish one place higher. They’ve got the Champions League and FA Cup to contend with but they have a big enough squad to deal with a busy schedule. 

Chelsea are yet to lose under Thomas Tuchel and are favourites to finish in the top four

Chelsea are yet to lose under Thomas Tuchel and are favourites to finish in the top four

4TH – LEICESTER

PREVIOUS PREDICTION – 6TH

WHAT I SAID AT CHRISTMAS:

‘Leicester are in the last 32 of the Europa League and, as Wolves showed last season, it’s difficult to compete on both fronts.’

Leicester quickly went out at the last 32 of the Europa League and are no longer competing on both fronts. 

Throughout the season pundits have been predicting the Foxes would fall away after their collapse in Project Restart and I was guilty of making the same assumption. But here they are, currently third and one place lower than they were at Christmas.

Their home form was a worry before but they have won four of their six games at the King Power since January. There were question marks over how they would cope without James Maddison, Harvey Barnes and James Justin but they’ve shown they can still get results and will hopefully have more players back from injury before the end of the season.

WHAT I THINK NOW: 

There is every chance Leicester could finish third or even second but they have a tough run of games with City, United, Chelsea, West Ham and Tottenham all to play before the end of the campaign. 

Leicester have consistently been in the top four and have shown they can cope with injuries

Leicester have consistently been in the top four and have shown they can cope with injuries

5TH – WEST HAM

PREVIOUS PREDICTION – 9TH 

WHAT I SAID AT CHRISTMAS:

‘The Hammers have coped well without Michail Antonio but they need the striker back if they’re to push for more than a top-half finish.’ 

And back he came. Antonio returned from injury on December 29 and has scored four goals and made five assists in that time. 

Antonio is not the only reason West Ham find themselves in the Europa League places, with the addition of Jesse Lingard in January also proving crucial with five goals and three assists in seven games. 

David Moyes’ side were 10th at Christmas but have a real chance of securing European football for next season. 

WHAT I THINK NOW: 

Finishing in the top four is still possible but it will be tough to dislodge Chelsea or Leicester – although they have them both to play. There are teams looking to overhaul them for fifth but they have a decent run-in with Newcastle, Brighton, Burnley, Southampton and West Brom still to come.

West Ham are enjoying a fantastic season and look even stronger with Jesse Lingard (centre)

West Ham are enjoying a fantastic season and look even stronger with Jesse Lingard (centre)

6TH – LIVERPOOL

PREVIOUS PREDICTION – 1ST

WHAT I SAID AT CHRISTMAS:

‘The Reds might not have the unassailable lead they enjoyed this time last Christmas but to be top without two of their first-choice centre backs speaks volumes. How they’ll cope without Diogo Jota for the next two months remains to be seen.’

It’s fair to say I didn’t see this one coming. Liverpool had beaten Crystal Palace 7-0 before Christmas and were four points clear at the top. Since then, they’ve only managed three wins from 15 games and have lost seven of their eight home games.

The Reds already had injury problems but the loss of Jota has proved to be crucial. Jurgen Klopp’s side have struggled for goals this year and went four games without finding the net in January. 

They also lost Joel Matip for the rest of the season and are now without captain Jordan Henderson. While we might have expected those injuries to catch up with them, their drop off has been spectacular. 

The squad still has enough quality to be performing better than they have been but the team has looked a shadow of the one that beat Palace at the end of last year. 

They are, however, still in the Champions League and still in with a chance of turning things around.

WHAT I THINK NOW: 

Jota will be key for the rest of the season if Liverpool are to finish strongly. He scored the winner against Wolves before the international break and has been in fantastic form for Portugal. Making the top four will be tough and they’ll need to start winning at Anfield again if they’re to stay in the race.

Liverpool have suffered a spectacular drop in form and are in a battle to qualify for Europe

Liverpool have suffered a spectacular drop in form and are in a battle to qualify for Europe

7TH – TOTTENHAM

PREVIOUS PREDICTION – 2ND

WHAT I SAID AT CHRISTMAS:  

‘Mourinho will be determined to prove his doubters wrong once again. However, he’ll need Harry Kane to stay fit for the whole campaign – something he’s not managed for the last two years.’

Down five from two, it’s Jose Mourinho’s ‘little ponies’. 

I can’t even blame Tottenam’s demise on a mid-season injury to Kane. Spurs were only two points off second at Christmas but they have failed to maintain any consistency.

They won three games in a row before losing against Arsenal but did bounce back with a victory over Aston Villa. That came after their second leg collapse against Dinamo Zagreb in the Europa League. Not being in that competition may help their league form. 

They’ll have to take at least six points from their next three games against Newcastle, Man United and Everton if they’re to reignite their bid for the top four.

WHAT I THINK NOW: 

It’s hard to know what to expect from Spurs. They could go on a good run until the end of the season but they’ve just not shown enough since the start of the year to suggest they can make the top four. They look set to battle it out with Liverpool and West Ham for fifth.

Tottenham have struggled for consistency after looking like potential title challengers

Tottenham have struggled for consistency after looking like potential title challengers

8TH – EVERTON

PREVIOUS PREDICTION – 7TH 

WHAT I SAID AT CHRISTMAS:

‘With Dominic Calvert-Lewin leading the line, James Rodriguez in midfield and Michael Keane at the heart of the defence, Everton have every chance of challenging for a place in the Europa League – but a place in the top four looks out of reach.’ 

The Toffees are another team who have struggled for consistency and their home form has held them back from being in a higher position. 

Carlo Ancelotti’s side have Tottenham and West Ham still to play and have also played a game less than the teams around them, meaning European qualification is still in their own hands.

But the 2-1 defeat by Burnley before the international break was an indication that they might fall just short.

WHAT I THINK NOW: 

Everton’s games against Spurs, West Ham and Arsenal will be crucial but they’ll have to improve their home form to finish higher.

Everton are still challenging for Europe but their home form could hold them back

Everton are still challenging for Europe but their home form could hold them back

9TH – ARSENAL 

PREVIOUS PREDICTION – 11TH

WHAT I SAID AT CHRISTMAS:

‘The Gunners have looked more promising in the Europa League – maybe this could be the year they finally win the competition.’ 

Arsenal could still get their crowning moment in the Europa League and it still looks their best chance of qualifying for Europe next season. 

Mikel Arteta’s side have definitely improved. They were 15th before Boxing Day and only four points clear of the relegation zone.

They are now only four points off seventh but there are several things for Arteta to iron out with his side usually conceding goals through their own errors.

WHAT I THINK NOW:

The Gunners have a decent run in with all of the bottom three to play and if they beat Liverpool at the weekend then they could set themselves up for a brighter finish. They’re just too inconsistent to bet on.

Arsenal have improved since December but there are still inconsistencies to iron out

Arsenal have improved since December but there are still inconsistencies to iron out

10TH – ASTON VILLA

PREVIOUS PREDICTION – 12TH 

WHAT I SAID AT CHRISTMAS:

‘Dean Smith’s side have played some fantastic football at times with Jack Grealish and Ross Barkley pulling the strings in midfield. They should be far away from the relegation battle if they can keep their key players fit.’

Villa are far away from the relegation battle but losing Grealish to injury has seen their form dip. 

The captain should be back soon and his return will give them the boost they need to get back on track. Ollie Watkins has only one goal in his last eight games but his recent England call-up will have done much to boost his confidence.

WHAT I THINK NOW:

It’s not the easiest of run-ins for Villa with City, United, Liverpool and Chelsea all to play before the end of the season but Grealish can help make the difference and get Watkins firing again.

Jack Grealish's imminent return should give Aston Villa and striker Ollie Watkins a boost

Jack Grealish’s imminent return should give Aston Villa and striker Ollie Watkins a boost

11TH – LEEDS

PREVIOUS PREDICTION – 13TH 

WHAT I SAID AT CHRISTMAS:

‘Leeds should be safe with plenty of time to spare and Bielsa will be hoping they can follow in Wolves’ footsteps next season.’

The Yorkshire club may not be mathematically safe yet but they’re set for another top-flight campaign. They had a bit of a dip in form in February but held Chelsea to a draw before beating Fulham. 

Patrick Bamford is still banging in the goals and was unlucky to miss out on a place in the England squad.

WHAT I THINK NOW: 

After their game with Sheffield United, Leeds face a tough run with City, Liverpool and Man United back-to-back, which may see them drop points. They should hang around the mid-table places though.

Leeds should comfortably finish mid-table with Patrick Bamford still in fine scoring form

Leeds should comfortably finish mid-table with Patrick Bamford still in fine scoring form

12TH – WOLVES

PREVIOUS PREDICTION –  10TH 

WHAT I SAID AT CHRISTMAS:

‘The serious injury to Raul Jimenez has been a huge blow. He scored 17 goals last season and there’s no one to replace him unless Wolves dip into the January transfer market.’

Wolves are still struggling to find the net without Jimenez. 

Only Burnley, Fulham, West Brom and Sheffield United have scored fewer goals than Nuno Espirito Santo’s side and January signing Willian Jose hasn’t managed to hit the ground running. 

However, they are proving to be strong at the back with 38 goals conceded, nine less than Leeds and Crystal Palace above them. 

Jimenez is set to return before the end of the season and he may just be able to fire them up a couple of places. 

WHAT I THINK NOW: 

Wolves are currently below Crystal Palace but face a better run-in with Fulham, Burnley, Brighton, West Brom and Sheffield United all still to play. It will probably be a struggle to make the top 10.

Wolves are still struggling to find the net with only four teams having scored fewer goals

Wolves are still struggling to find the net with only four teams having scored fewer goals

13TH – CRYSTAL PALACE

PREVIOUS PREDICTION – 15TH 

WHAT I SAID AT CHRISTMAS:

‘It’s been a steady enough start for the Eagles but their reliance on Wilfried Zaha is as clear as ever. Palace lost both games when he was absent with coronavirus but beat West Brom 5-1 when he returned.’   

Roy Hodgson’s side have continued to be steady enough and managed to cope when Zaha got injured in February. While they only won once without him, they did pick up a point against Man United.

They’ve continued to beat teams around them with victories against Brighton, West Brom and Newcastle and are firmly safe with nine games to spare.

WHAT I THINK NOW: 

Palace are currently above Wolves but face a tougher set of final fixtures with Man City, Leicester, Arsenal and Liverpool all to play in the final six, which could see them drop down a place.

Crystal Palace have coped, just, without Wilfried Zaha (right) but have still struggled for goals

Crystal Palace have coped, just, without Wilfried Zaha (right) but have still struggled for goals

14TH – SOUTHAMPTON 

PREVIOUS PREDICTION – 8TH 

WHAT I SAID AT CHRISTMAS:

‘Ralph Hasenhuttl has turned things around at St Mary’s and his side have been in and around the top six for much of the campaign. Jan Bednarek and Jannik Vestergaard have formed a strong partnership at the back and Alex McCarthy has been a rock in goal.’ 

It was all going so well. Few could have forseen the Saints succumbing to another 9-0 defeat after starting the season so strongly.  

It now looks a tall order to make the top 10 but they shouldn’t drop down much further than their current position of 14th.  

WHAT I THINK NOW: 

The Saints are likely to focus their energy on the FA Cup semi-final with Leicester and the competition will also take priority if they progress to the final. Should they lose, it’s still a fairly tough run-in, with the Foxes, Spurs, Liverpool and West Ham to play.

Southampton were competing in the top half in December but suffered a poor run of form

Southampton were competing in the top half in December but suffered a poor run of form

15TH – BURNLEY

PREVIOUS PREDICTION – 16TH 

WHAT I SAID AT CHRISTMAS:

‘They might not be a free-scoring side, but they’ll likely pick up enough clean sheets to see them over the line.’

Only two teams have scored fewer goals than Burnley but their nine clean sheets gives them the second-best defensive record in the bottom half of the table.

Sean Dyche’s side are seven points clear and you wouldn’t bet against them to secure another season in the top flight. Victories over Liverpool and Everton and draws with Leicester and Arsenal have given the Clarets valuable points.

They have also ensured they’ve not lost against teams below them with draws against Fulham and West Brom. 

WHAT I THINK NOW:

Burnley still have Fulham, Sheffield United and Newcastle to play and should be safe before the final few games.

Burnley are seven points clear of the bottom three and look set to avoid relegation

Burnley are seven points clear of the bottom three and look set to avoid relegation

16TH – BRIGHTON

PREVIOUS PREDICTION – 17TH 

WHAT I SAID AT CHRISTMAS:

‘Neal Maupay has been guilty of squandering some good chances, as has Danny Welbeck, but both have scored crucial goals and will always get themselves into the right positions to score.’ 

Both Maupay and Welbeck were on target in the 3-0 victory over Newcastle, which indicated Graham Potter’s side will have enough to avoid the drop this season.

The Seagulls could easily be higher in the table if they could take more of their chances but they may have found their clinical touch at the right time. 

WHAT I THINK NOW:  

Brighton don’t have the easiest of run-ins, with Man United, Chelsea, Everton, Man City and Arsenal all to play – but the form of those below them means they should be safe. 

Brighton's victory over Newcastle showed they should have enough to avoid the drop

Brighton’s victory over Newcastle showed they should have enough to avoid the drop

17TH – NEWCASTLE

PREVIOUS PREDICTION – 14TH 

WHAT I SAID AT CHRISTMAS:

‘Callum Wilson was a clever signing and will score the goals needed to keep Steve Bruce’s side clear of the relegation battle.’

Well, this one hasn’t gone to plan either but Callum Wilson’s hamstring injury has not helped us here.

Newcastle were 12th at Christmas but have slipped into a dreadful run form and look to be in a straight shoot-out with Fulham for the final place in the bottom three. 

It’s not all down to Wilson’s injury but they haven’t won since the striker was sidelined. However, he is edging towards a return and that could be the key as to whether Newcastle or Fulham avoid the drop. 

Allan Saint-Maximin could also be fit soon and his and Wilson’s returns may just give the Magpies the lift they need to get themselves over the line. 

WHAT I THINK NOW:  

It’s fair to say Newcastle fans are not optimistic about their chances of survival. Burnley away on April 11 looks like a must-win game with West Ham, Liverpool, Arsenal, Leicester and Man City all to follow afterwards. 

They then have Sheffield United before the final game of the season with Fulham. If they can take six or seven points before that it should be in their own hands. A lot will rest on getting Wilson and Saint-Maximin back and firing quickly.

Newcastle need Allan Saint-Maximin (left) and Callum Wilson to return to help them stay up

Newcastle need Allan Saint-Maximin (left) and Callum Wilson to return to help them stay up

18TH – FULHAM

PREVIOUS PREDICTION – 18TH 

WHAT I SAID AT CHRISTMAS:

‘Survival definitely looks more possible than it did at the start of the season, but it’s still going to be incredibly tough for Parker’s side.’

Survival is looking even more possible now with Fulham just two points adrift. They’ve dragged Newcastle into the relegation battle and have given themselves a fighting chance of staying up. 

Scoring goals is still the main issue but they do have a better goal difference than Newcastle due to their superior defensive record.  

Aleksandar Mitrovic scored five goals in three games for Serbia during the international break, which could just spark him into life in the Premier League. 

WHAT I THINK NOW:

It’s so close between Fulham and Newcastle you could probably toss a coin when it comes to predictions. It will likely all come down to their showdown on the final day of the season and Parker’s side could have some fans in the stadium, which would give them a boost. They will be hoping Wilson and Saint-Maximin fail to provide any spark when they return for their rivals.   

Fulham have given themselves a fighting chance and will push Newcastle all the way

Fulham have given themselves a fighting chance and will push Newcastle all the way

19TH – WEST BROM

PREVIOUS PREDICTION – 19TH 

WHAT I SAID AT CHRISTMAS:

‘Big Sam is back – but it remains to be seen whether he’s still got his magic touch when it comes to relegation battles. Allardyce had Jermain Defoe at Sunderland and Zaha at Palace – he’s not got a striker of the same quality at West Brom.’

This has been the problem for West Brom. They signed Mbaye Diagne in January but he’s only managed one goal and has missed a hatful of gilt-edged chances.

The Baggies are eight points behind Fulham and 10 behind Newcastle and it looks like it will be too big a margin to claw back. 

They needed to pick up three points against Newcastle and Palace but only managed one from the two games and it’s not surprising they have the fewest wins of any side in the division.

WHAT I THINK NOW:

It’s going to take an almighty great escape to preserve Allardyce’s record of never being relegated from the top flight as a manager.

West Brom still look likely to go down despite the arrival of Sam Allardyce as manager

West Brom still look likely to go down despite the arrival of Sam Allardyce as manager

20TH – SHEFFIELD UNITED

PREVIOUS PREDICTION – 20TH 

WHAT I SAID AT CHRISTMAS:

‘The Blades’ inability to put the ball in the back of the net is what will likely send them back to the Championship. The £20m gamble on Rhian Brewster hasn’t paid off, yet, and injuries to key players have not helped Chris Wilder.’

Sheffield United are still the lowest scorers in the division and they are heading for relegation. They are now without a manager after Wilder left in March and the 5-0 defeat by Leicester showed little is set to change any time soon.

Teams can often improve after relegation is confirmed and the Blades may end up taking a few points off teams come the end of the season. 

WHAT I THINK NOW: 

After claiming Huddersfield and Hull City in recent years, second-season syndrome looks to be striking again in Yorkshire. 

Sheffield United are heading back to the Championship with relegation all-but confirmed

Sheffield United are heading back to the Championship with relegation all-but confirmed

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