The conclusion of the 2018-19 Premier League season draws near, and it is becoming crunch time for much of the league. With a close title race, a tight battle for Champions League qualification and an equally intriguing relegation fight, much will be settled in the coming months.
Here are six bold predictions which may play out in the remainder of the Premier League season.
Manchester City repeats as Premier League champion
- The defending champions are just two points behind Liverpool with an extra game to play and have a more favorable remaining schedule.
- City has eight games remaining, and four will come against teams currently 15th place or lower — providing an opportunity to pick up easy points.
- In its last five matches, City has earned a maximum 15 points out of 15, while Liverpool has dropped points to Manchester United and Everton in goalless draws.
- Manchester City also holds a slight but important advantage in goal difference, as it currently holds a six-goal lead in the tiebreaker category.
Tottenham drops out of the top four
- The race for the top four is the most competitive one in recent memory, with all big six clubs vying for the chance to qualify for the champions league.
- While the Spurs hung with Liverpool and Manchester City for most of the season, an injury bug has caused the team to fall off recently. Tottenham has just one win its last five matches, losing to relegation candidates Burnley and Southampton in the last month.
- In addition to their poor form, Tottenham has matches remaining against both the title candidates, which will be sure to bring their all against a fellow top-six club.
- They have finished well to end each of the past two seasons, but with the likes of Chelsea, Manchester United and Arsenal all vying for the same spot, they will have to avoid dropping points at all costs.
Sergio Aguero wins the Golden Boot
- Just as with the top four, there is a tight race for the Golden Boot. Six players are all staking their claim to be the Premier League’s top goal-scorer.
- Aguero is the current leader with 18 goals, but he is closely followed by Mohamed Salah (17 goals), Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang (17), Harry Kane (17), Sadio Mané (17) and Raheem Sterling (15).
- Among those players, Aguero has the best ratio of minutes played per goal by far. He is averaging a goal per 107 minutes for City this season, with the next-closest player being Aubameyang at 130 minutes per goal.
- With City pushing for the title in the final portion of the season, Aguero will likely play most of the team’s minutes and will be relied upon for a scoring spark.
Southampton escapes relegation in 17th place once again
- Following an impressive sixth-place finish in the 2016 season and eighth-place follow up campaign in 2017, Southampton lost many of its top players to transfers. Victor Wanyama, Sadio Mané and Virgil van Dijk all departed the club.
- As such, Southampton was nearly relegated in 2017, missing out on the drop by three points as Swansea City earned just three points out of a possible 27 in its final nine games and was relegated instead.
- The Saints are currently two points above the relegation zone in 16th place, but come the end of the season, they may be counting their blessings for the second straight year.
Cardiff City gets relegated
- If Southampton are to remain in the Premier League, it is likely because the current 18th-place team, Cardiff City, returns to the Championship instead.
- Cardiff got a big 2-0 win over West Ham on March 9 to earn three points but even that couldn’t lift them out of the relegation zone.
- The remaining fixtures are also a major concern for Cardiff, as they have chances to pick up points against Burnley, Fulham and Brighton. But matches against Chelsea, Liverpool and Manchester United present a difficult challenge.
Rafa Benitez leaves Newcastle
- The esteemed Spaniard joined Newcastle in the midst of a relegation battle and stayed with the club to guide it out of the Championship and back into the Premier League. But lack of financial investment from owner Mike Ashley has been a sore spot.
- While Newcastle finally broke its long-standing transfer record this year which previously stood since 2005 with the arrival of Miguel Almirón from Atlanta United, much of the squad remains the same from the team which was relegated in 2016.
- Benitez’s contract expires in June, and the manager is likely to have his fair share of suitors. Unless Ashley truly shows renewed financial backing or there is a change in ownership, Newcastle may be looking for a new manager this summer.