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End of season predictions: Liverpool to topple Man City? Chelsea on for double? Big debate


Gundogan expects Premier League title race to go down to wire

We are approaching the business end of the 2021-22 season and football supporters could be treated to a truly rip-roaring finale. The title race, the battle for Champions League spots and fight to avoid the drop are all still tantalisingly close, while there is also plenty of British interest left in Europe, along with the small matter of the FA Cup. Express Sport writers have been debating how the final weeks of the campaign will pan out – and it’s fair to say we are not all exactly in agreement. 

MATT DUNN

PL top 4 (in ascending order): Manchester City, Liverpool, Chelsea, Tottenham – The key to winning the title will come at the Etihad and for all Liverpool’s brave chasing, Pep Guardiola’s side will be too strong on April 10. Similarly, Antonio Conte will have his side fired up for Arsenal’s visit whenever it is scheduled and with Mikel Arteta still yet to manage to beat the big teams, they could drop points against Chelsea and Manchester United as well.

PL bottom 3 (in ascending order): Watford, Burnley, Norwich – There will be a huge sigh of relief at Everton and a mopping of the brow at Leeds. But as bad as they have been, nobody has been able to match the bottom three for being sub-standard. One job too many for Roy Hodgson and a shock conclusion to Sean Dyche’s Burnley story.

FA Cup winner: Chelsea – Despite everything going on at Chelsea right now – and perhaps because of it – Thomas Tuchel has the easier semi-final and a final against a team with other distractions in the league and Europe.

Champions League winner: Liverpool – They have the easiest quarter and will have to watch their nerve against Bayern Munich, but Jurgen Klopp will put one over Pep Guardiola in the final as revenge for not catching him in the league.

Europa League winner: RB Leipzig – West Ham v Rangers final? Sadly, Barcelona against Leizig is more likely, with the Germans set to underline just how far the mighty have fallen even with Barcelona’s recent resurgence.

Premier League

It is set to be a thrilling end to the season (Image: Getty)

GIDEON BROOKS

PL top 4: Man City, Liverpool, Chelsea, Spurs – Manchester City have the draw on their side as well as a good head to head record at home when it comes to their blockbuster clash against Liverpool on April 10 and should hold on. Liverpool and Chelsea fill the podium places and Spurs can worry the Gunners out of the top four with a late charge. 

PL bottom 3: Everton, Burnley and Norwich – All four of the bottom teams could rally but it is hard to see the positions changing too much and Everton have a horrible run in. Watford may just have the firepower to edge way from the drop.

FA Cup winner: Chelsea – The Blues have proved themselves a very good Cup side and, removed from the immediate coalface of a Premier League battle, could have better preparation for a Wembley one off.

Champions League winner: Chelsea – They could well retain their title – for argument see above.

Europa League winner: Barcelona – Xavi’s resurgent Barca should be way too strong for the field in their first dip to the second tier in 18 years.

STUART BALLARD

PL top 4: Man City, Liverpool, Chelsea, Arsenal – Liverpool are in excellent form and it may well come down to that fixture at the Etihad. But Manchester City have a slightly easier run in from now until the end of the season and remain favourites to stay on top.

 

PL bottom 3: Burnley, Watford, Norwich – Everton to survive by the skin of their teeth just based on the clubs below them in the league. Too much to do for all three teams to escape the drop.

 

FA Cup winner: Chelsea – Strong favourites to make it through to the final and could well be their only shot at a major trophy this season. Will be underdogs against City or Liverpool but they will want some redemption at Wembley.

 

Champions League winner: Liverpool – They’ve got the ideal draw to make it through to the final and Jurgen Klopp may end up putting all his eggs in one basket to go for Champions League glory once again if the Premier League becomes out of reach.

 

Europa League winner: Barcelona – West Ham are in dreamland with their Europa League run, but Barcelona are in excellent form and Xavi will want to see his side push for a trophy.

Frank Lampard

Frank Lampard and Everton are battling against relegation (Image: Getty)

CHARLIE GORDON

PL top 4: Man City, Liverpool, Chelsea, Tottenham – With Chelsea all alone in third, the main top-four battles will be for the title and the final Champions League spot. I see City pipping Liverpool at home in April, while Harry Kane is hitting top gear for Spurs at an ominous time for their north London rivals.

PL bottom 3: Burnley, Watford, Norwich City – Without meaning to be boring, the three worst teams in the Premier League are currently in the bottom three. Everton’s tough run-in could see them given an almighty scare but their three-point buffer and games in hand should be enough to see them through.

FA Cup winner: Chelsea – With Liverpool and Manchester City balanced on a knife-edge in one semi-final, any sensible gambler would opt for Thomas Tuchel’s side who must topple Crystal Palace to reach their second Wembley final of the season. After Carabao Cup heartbreak, the Blues will be out for redemption and stand a great chance of getting it.

Champions League winner: Manchester City – In their half of the draw only Atletico Madrid, Chelsea and Real Madrid stand between Manchester City and another pop at that elusive trophy. A final against either Liverpool or Bayern Munich would be a daunting one but this could be the year they do something that should have been done years ago.

Europa League winner: Barcelona – Frankfurt, Lyon and West Ham stand between La Blaugrana and a Europa League final, and the way they dismantled Real Madrid on Sunday tells its own story. Atalanta and RB Leipzig both have the capability to spring a surprise, but their inconsistency may ultimately let them down. 

CHARLIE MALAM

PL top 4: Man City, Liverpool, Chelsea, Arsenal – City pip Liverpool to the title because they’ll get at least a draw in their clash at the Etihad while Arsenal just about beat Tottenham and Man United to fourth thanks to not losing to either in their head-to-head games.

PL bottom 3: Everton, Watford, Norwich – Everton are dreadful defensively at the moment and couldn’t even get themselves up for an FA Cup quarter-final. I think Leeds, Brentford and Burnley will all just about scrape clear and then the Toffees will get sucked down the plughole.

 

FA Cup winner: Chelsea – Chelsea should really have won the Carabao Cup, and I think they’ll see off Crystal Palace to make the final of the FA Cup. Whether it’s Liverpool or City they face on May 14, I just have a feeling they’ll edge it.

 

Champions League winner: Liverpool – I think we’ll see a repeat of the 2018/19 season where Liverpool just miss out on the league title but rule supreme in Europe. They’ll probably have to beat City in the final, though.

 

Europa League winner: Barcelona – Xavi’s working wonders at the Nou Camp. Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang will get them past Eintracht Frankfurt, then West Ham in the semis, then RB Leipzig in the final.

SAM SMITH

PL top 4: Liverpool, Man City, Chelsea, Arsenal – Liverpool will win at the Etihad and go on to win the league. Tottenham’s inconsistency will rule them out of fourth, with Arsenal just about pipping them.  

PL bottom 3: Watford, Burnley, Norwich – Everton have done just about enough to beat Watford or Burnley to safety, especially with two games in hand. 

FA Cup winner: Crystal Palace – Patrick Vieira’s side are two major shocks away from glory. Palace have given each of the Big Six a tough game this season – why not twice more?

Champions League winner: Liverpool – The Reds have played Benfica in the quarter-final twice and on both occasions went on to lift the then-European Cup. They will win an all-English final against either Chelsea or Man City. 

Europa League winner: Barcelona – Xavi’s ever-improving young side will overcome a disastrous start to the season by lifting a European trophy. 

West Ham

West Ham are dreaming of Europa League glory (Image: Getty)

WILL LANCASTER

PL top 4: Liverpool, City, Chelsea, Arsenal – Liverpool look unstoppable at the moment. They’ve been in this situation before back in 2018-19; just one point behind City at the end of March, hoping Pep’s would slip up – although it never happened. Yet something seems different about both teams this season – Liverpool are much more relentless, and City don’t have that same ruthlessness about them that they did three years ago. For me, that will give Liverpool the upper hand ahead of Chelsea and Arsenal somewhat cruising to Champions League qualification.

 

PL bottom 3: Burnley, Watford, Norwich – Burnley are a side that constantly seem to defy the odds much to most of the Premier League’s dismay – much like the second coming of Tony Pulis’ Stoke City side back in the day. However, all good things came to an end for Stoke when things started to go stale, and it seems like that will happen at Turf Moor with the lack of investment over the last four years finally catching the Clarets up. They will run Everton close, but ultimately their quality will be too good to send them down in place of Burnley, Watford and the already doomed Norwich.

 

FA Cup winner: Manchester City – The winner of the semi-final between Liverpool and City will undoubtedly be favourites for the trophy. Yet with the Reds likely to be ‘relentless’ in their push for a huge haul of trophies, they could put the FA Cup on a back-burner in order to focus on the league and Champions League. If that happens, City should take home their second FA Cup in the Pep Guardiola era.

 

Champions League winner: Real Madrid – They seemed dead and buried at half-time in the clash against Paris Saint-Germain earlier this month after Kylian Mbappe had made it 2-0 to Les Parisiens on aggregate with his technical excellence. But with Karim Benzema’s hat-trick, Carlo Ancelotti’s men have stayed in the competition – and it could give them a kickstart to win their 14th title. They face Chelsea in the quarter-finals, and with the turmoil surrounding Stamford Bridge at the moment, they could capitalise to go within three games of glory.

 

Europa League winner: Barcelona – It could be an El Clasico continental double this season – Barcelona are so used to fighting in Europe’s major club competition, but this season find themselves in the Europa League. The Blaugrana are on fire under Xavi, and beat Real Madrid 4-0 on Sunday in a huge shock. Whoever faces them will surely struggle at the magnitude of the challenge ahead.

LEWIS WINTER

PL top 4: Man City, Liverpool, Chelsea, Tottenham – I can’t see Liverpool beating City at the Etihad, which is why I’ve tipped them for the title. Tottenham’s fixtures are easier on paper than Arsenal’s so fourth spot should go to Antonio Conte’s side.

PL bottom 3: Burnley, Watford, Norwich – Norwich are almost down already and Watford seem destined for the drop too. Everton do have too much quality to go down and will get enough wins to fight off relegation, with Sean Dyche’s Burnley finally coming up short in terms of survival.

FA Cup winner: Manchester City – City’s squad depth means they could field a stronger team than Liverpool in the semi-final next month. Chelsea are likely to beat Crystal Palace in the other semi but City will be favourites against Thomas Tuchel’s side.

Champions League winner: Liverpool – Liverpool would prefer to win the Premier League and City the Champions League, but I can see it going the other way. Liverpool should make it to the semi-final at least and cannot play an English side until the final, which is a big advantage.

Europa League winner: Barcelona – Barca are a different animal under Xavi than they were earlier this season. Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang is banging in the goals and Sunday’s 4-0 win in El Clasico proved how dangerous they can be. Don’t completely rule out Rangers though, who are flying on the European stage.

Chelsea

Chelsea are looking to retain the Champions League (Image: Getty)

ALEX TURK

PL top 4: Man City, Liverpool, Chelsea, Arsenal – The only locked-in position amongst the top four seems to be Chelsea; Thomas Tuchel’s side are out of the title race but are too good to drop below third at the same time. Liverpool are showing more consistency at the moment, but I back Man City to reign supreme when they meet on April 10 and that should launch them towards a successful title defence. A Champions League return beckons for Arsenal, who just keep on grinding out one-goal wins like there’s no tomorrow – something United and Tottenham struggle to do consistently enough.

PL bottom 4: Burnley, Watford, Norwich – It feels like Watford and Norwich have been destined for relegation for months – the real question has pondered who will finish 18th. A few weeks ago, I backed Wout Weghorst to fire Burnley to safety, with Marcelo Bielsa’s leaky Leeds slipping into the bottom three in their place. However, Leeds’ 3-2 comeback at Wolves, a second successive win under Jesse Marsch, was the type of victory that fuels a survival bid. If Burnley are to edge safety, I’d tout Brentford as under the most threat of the drop, but the Bees should live to see another top-flight season.

FA Cup winner: Man City – Cover your eyes, United fans, because it’s very easy to picture Man City becoming the second English team to complete the treble this season. I think Pep Guardiola will guide his side to the league title, and I back them to lift the FA Cup too. Liverpool were extremely fortunate in the League Cup final against Chelsea, and City would snap up most of the chances the Blues squandered. It’d be hard to bet against Chelsea in the other semi-final, but City would then secure 2021 Champions League final payback.

Champions League winner: Bayern Munich – As a United fan with two of the club’s biggest rivals potentially in the final four of the competition, this is potentially more hopeful than insightful. But here’s my logic. I’d expect Bayern and Liverpool to meet in the semis, and like in the FA Cup against Man City, the Germans’ firepower won’t let them off if handed the chance. City will likely navigate past Atletico and then Chelsea or Real Madrid, but Guardiola could face back-to-back European final heartbreak. Bayern’s wealth of experience in Champions League finals will be enough to better City and lift their second UCL in three years in Paris.

Europa League winner: Barcelona – The Europa League quarter-final lineup is strong, but Barcelona look back to their best in the early stages under Xavi Hernandez – most recently showcased in their 4-0 dismantling of Real Madrid. Barcelona vs West Ham in the semis is something of fantasy and what most would want to see, but the Blaugrana should have far too much for Frankfurt and the Hammers. Rangers vs Barcelona in the final in Seville? It’d be a spectacle, but whether it’s the Scottish champions, Braga, Atalanta or RB Leipzig, I think the Europa League already has Barca’s name engraved on it.



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