At this stage in the season the 2014-2015 Premiership title race seems to have boiled down to just two clubs: current leaders Chelsea and second place Manchester City. There is little to choose between the two squads and both their games against each other have ended in 1-1 draws. Chelsea are slight favourites as they have the cushion of a five point lead and coach Jose Mourinho has never lost a championship when his team had the lead at the turn of the year. With this in mind we predict Chelsea will win the title with a points’ margin of 3 or less.
A more uncertain outcome is who will take the remaining two Champions League places open for Premiership clubs. Presently, Manchester United, who missed out last year after a disastrous campaign under David Moyes, and Southampton, managed by Ronald Koeman occupy third and fourth. Manchester United have struggled all season, rarely turning in a convincing display as the team struggle to adapt to new manager Louis van Gaal’s “philosophy” and tactics, which consist of playing three at the back, constant rotation and Wayne Rooney in midfield. However with nearly all their squad now injury free, Manchester United will be hoping to hang in the top four and we predict they will ending the season in fourth spot.
Southampton are likely to fall away as the season progresses. The Saints have been a revelation so far this term but with other clubs greedily eying their players as the season reaches its climax, just as happened last year, the pressure on a relatively small squad should tell and Southampton will have to settle for a Europa League spot at best.
So the battle is on between Arsenal, Liverpool and Tottenham for the one remaining Champions League place. Liverpool barged into the top four last season, at the expense of Manchester United, but despite a turnaround in form and the presence of returning striker Daniel Sturridge, it is hard to see a repeat. Tottenham too are riding high. Spurs have reached the final of the League Cup and are still in the Europa League, but Spurs being Spurs, most pundits expect the team to lose form whether they win or lose their Wembley showdown with Chelsea.
This leaves Arsenal who we tip to finish third. Arsene Wenger has finally decided to play on the counter against other "big" teams away from home and the 0-2 win away to Manchester City at the Etihad in January seems to have kick-started what was looking to be a disappointing season. A similar-style away win in this weekend's tie against Tottenham in the north London derby should be the catalyst for Wenger’s team to overtake Manchester United and take third place.
At the bottom of the Premier League we estimate there are eight teams who could face the drop: Crystal Palace, Sunderland, West Brom, Aston Villa, Burnley, Hull, QPR and Leicester. Three clubs have recently changed, or are in the process of changing, their manager in an effort to head off relegation: Palace, West Brom and QPR. We tip these three to survive and in the case of QPR only just with the bottom three places undecided until the last day of the season. Villa will also stay up but will surely part company with Paul Lambert at the end of the season. Sunderland with the arrival of Jermain Defoe and his goals will survive which leaves Burnley, Hull and Leicester as the clubs to return to the Championship.
William Hill's football odds offer the best bets on the Premiership outright, top 4 finish and relegation.