Sportsmail predicts the title: Will Liverpool, Spurs or City claim the prize?

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The Premier League could have its mostly hotly contested title race in recent memory


At present only seven points separate the top eight places in the Premier League, in what is one of the tightest summits of the English top flight in recent memories.

Surprise results are being served up each week, as clubs flex their muscles against one another and bid to triumph in unprecedented circumstances.

Liverpool lead the way following their win over Tottenham, but multiple sides are chomping at the bit to relinquish Jurgen Klopp‘s men of their crown.

Sportsmail’s experts run the rule over the teams in contention, to make a prediction on how this crazy Premier League season could finish up.

The Premier League could have its mostly hotly contested title race in recent memory

LIVERPOOL

Reasons to be cheerful

The omens tend to be good for the side who occupy top spot on Christmas Day and if Liverpool negotiate Saturday’s tricky trip to Crystal Palace without defeat, that is where they will be. 

They have a hungry squad who are eager to retain the Premier League title, and the ambition in the dressing room should not be underestimated. The performance against Tottenham marked them out as the team to beat and this correspondent will be surprised if they are pegged back. 

Jurgen Klopp's side are marching on from last season and went top after their win over Spurs

Jurgen Klopp’s side are marching on from last season and went top after their win over Spurs

They have come through a terrible spell of injuries with their position in the table enhanced and in the coming weeks Thiago Alcantara will be back, along with James Milner, Xherdan Shaqiri and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain. 

They will soon have strength in depth. It should also be considered that Sadio Mane and Roberto Firmino will not continue to score as infrequently as they have done in recent weeks. When the goals start flowing for them, Liverpool’s rivals will be in trouble.

Reasons to be fearful

One more injury to a defender and Klopp would be in a serious predicament. Fabinho has provided remarkable cover, while the emergence of Rhys Williams and Nat Phillips has been heartwarming but how long can it last? Andy Robertson, in outstanding form, has played almost every minute of the Premier League campaign. 

If something was to happen to the Scotland captain, it would throw the balance of Liverpool’s team completely, as his understudy Kostas Tsimikas is not at a high level yet. 

Alisson is injured frequently for a goalkeeper and it is imperative for Klopp to keep him fresh

Alisson is injured frequently for a goalkeeper and it is imperative for Klopp to keep him fresh

How Klopp manages the minutes of his defenders — and his goalkeeper Alisson, for that matter — will present a big test of his skill. 

The sequence of games when they face Southampton, Manchester United, Burnley, Tottenham and West Ham in January will be vital.

Dominic King’s prediction: 1st

TOTTENHAM

Reasons to be cheerful

Jostling at the top with a sense of purpose. Form is strong despite the setback at Liverpool, there is a cohesive plan and the strikers are in the goals. Son Heung-min has 11 and Harry Kane nine. 

There are options: the power of Steven Bergwijn, the pace of Lucas Moura and the pedigree of Gareth Bale. Unlike before, there is depth and cover to ease the strain on Kane and Son.

Harry Kane and Son Heung-Min's formidable partnership has put the title in Tottenham's sights

Harry Kane and Son Heung-Min’s formidable partnership has put the title in Tottenham’s sights

Defensively sound, no team have conceded fewer goals. Jose Mourinho knows what it takes to win a Premier League title. He has a glint in his eye. His players are on board with the strategy. 

They have taken points from Manchester City, Manchester United, Chelsea and Arsenal to fuel belief. There is a sense of determination. They are not perfect but this has the hallmarks of a season when perfection is not required to finish top.

Oh, and the year ends in a one when the season finishes, for those Spurs fans old enough to remember why that is a good omen.

Reasons to be fearful

The annual Kane injury. Usually an ankle, last year a hamstring, often between new year and the end of the season. He rarely makes it coast-to-coast. The squad is stronger but Kane is integral, the talisman as well as the key to the goal supply.

Yes, the squad is deeper but there are players they would not want to be without. The tenacity of Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg and the combative spirit of Eric Dier are vital to the plan. 

Jose Mourinho knows injury to key men like Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg or Son would be disastrous

Jose Mourinho knows injury to key men like Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg or Son would be disastrous

Mourinho remains keen to add a centre half, cover is limited in central midfield and questions remain at right back.

Oh, and the superstition of a season ending in a one… well, it didn’t work in 2011. Or 2001. And it hasn’t worked in terms of the title since 1961. What about a cup?

Matt Barlow’s prediction: 2nd

CHELSEA

Reasons to be cheerful

Frank Lampard appears to have solved his team’s long-standing defensive problems which should have Chelsea in good heart heading into the festive period. Two defeats on the bounce may have stunted their progress, but they are now a team built on a solid foundation. 

Edouard Mendy has found his feet quickly at Chelsea and been a big factor behind their form

Edouard Mendy has found his feet quickly at Chelsea and been a big factor behind their form

Thiago Silva and Edouard Mendy have been key to that. Getting Silva, 36, playing as often as possible is a balancing act Lampard must get right, but Chelsea look a different animal with him in the team.

Lampard is establishing a reputation as a fine young coach and has already developed a knack of getting results when he needs them. Their injury concerns are relatively minor, too; just Hakim Ziyech and Callum Hudson-Odoi are out but both are expected back soon.

Reasons to be fearful

Following a 17-match unbeaten run, two defeats on the spin have raised question marks. Chelsea have the squad to arrest any concerns of a lengthier slump, though Monday’s derby against West Ham will be tricky.

Chelsea’s biggest fear heading into Christmas would be how well they handle a run of negative results. But victory over David Moyes’s side and it would be a case of ‘Crisis? What crisis?’

Frank Lampard knows there are big expectations upon him after spending lavishly in summer

Frank Lampard knows there are big expectations upon him after spending lavishly in summer

Defeat, however, particularly with Arsenal and Manchester City on the horizon, and doubts may surface. As we know, Chelsea aren’t a club who typically tolerate difficult sequences — though Lampard has credit in the bank.

Sami Mokbel’s prediction: 3rd

MAN CITY

Reasons to be cheerful

The stagnation in results and performances cannot go on for ever. Individually, these players are too good for this to linger. 

City will take heart from the fact that they are not completely cut adrift from the leaders — eight points off the top going into this weekend with a game in hand against Aston Villa to come. 

There remains belief that the table could look very different come the end of January, given a favourable run of five consecutive matches they should win next month against Brighton, Crystal Palace, West Bromwich, Sheffield United and Burnley.

Man City have looked lethargic this season and Pep Guardiola has cut a frustrated figure

Man City have looked lethargic this season and Pep Guardiola has cut a frustrated figure

Reasons to be fearful

The trouble with that stretch of matches is that City need to get there in decent shape. And the next fortnight is not easy by any stretch. Today’s trip to high-flying Southampton is tricky in itself, before tough games at Everton and Chelsea. Newcastle at the Etihad Stadium on Boxing Day is perhaps the only banker.

The biggest fear for Pep Guardiola is that his team are not striking fear into opponents. The goals have dried up and this season’s total of 18 is 17 adrift of last year after the same number of games. 

They are failing to create anything, despite a dominance in possession, or simply not converting opportunities on the rare occasions they arrive.

Sergio Aguero's continued injuries are now becoming a troublesome issue for City

Sergio Aguero’s continued injuries are now becoming a troublesome issue for City

Sergio Aguero has revealed that his knee problems come and go on a daily basis, with maintaining his fitness a significant worry for Guardiola. No team in the top six could do without the best striker in the club’s history and City are no different in that regard. 

Gabriel Jesus does not score enough to fill the large void in Aguero’s absence and there has been no indication he can go on a goalscoring run.

Jack Gaughan’s prediction: 3rd

EVERTON

Reasons to be cheerful

This is a season in which anything could happen so it must be the season when Everton attack. Carlo Ancelotti has not come to Merseyside to accept second best and his outlook should be an inspiration. 

Everton are not perfect but they have the potential to be a threat to all and their record in big games is superb, taking 10 points from 12 off Liverpool, Tottenham, Leicester and Chelsea. Dominic Calvert-Lewin has emerged as one of England’s best strikers and he has a trait that all big forwards have — selfishness. It’s making a huge difference for Everton having a No 9 who can put the ball away. 

With signings like James Rodriguez, Carlo Ancelotti has breathed new life into Everton

With signings like James Rodriguez, Carlo Ancelotti has breathed new life into Everton

They will improve under Ancelotti’s guidance and it is a happy change for Everton to be heading into a new year thinking about what might be, rather than damage limitation after a poor start.

Reasons to be fearful

What happens if inconsistency rears its ugly head? In between a blistering start and eye-catching results of late came a spell in which their form was horrid. The players knew it wasn’t good enough and vowed to put it right. 

There is still a nagging doubt, though, that they will slip up when least expected. Aside from that, there is also a worry about injuries and how they would fare without Calvert-Lewin or Richarlison. They have not won when the Brazil forward has been missing from the starting line-up and that cannot continue.

Dominic King’s prediction: 6th

LEICESTER

Reasons to be cheerful

In Jamie Vardy, Leicester have one of the best goalscorers in Europe and even though he turns 34 next month, he shows no sign of slowing. 

The Foxes have been sensational away from home thanks to Vardy’s deadly finishing, the inventiveness of James Maddison and the fine form of James Justin, Harvey Barnes and Youri Tielemans. 

They now have belief they can compete with the elite and, thanks to some smart summer business, they have a better squad than last season. Defender Wesley Fofana looks to be a great buy at £32million from St-Etienne.

Jamie Vardy has shown no signs of slowing up and still remains Leicester's talisman

Jamie Vardy has shown no signs of slowing up and still remains Leicester’s talisman

Reasons to be fearful

Brendan Rodgers must sort out his team’s home form. Despite wins at Manchester City, Arsenal and Leeds, Leicester have been unable to find the same rhythm on their own turf, losing to West Ham, Aston Villa, Fulham and Everton. 

Then there is the nagging worry of what they will do if Vardy suffers injury or loss of form. There is little money to spend in January, so Rodgers is keeping everything crossed that Vardy stays healthy. 

Thankfully, Wilfred Ndidi has regained fitness but the midfielder has been susceptible to injuries over the last 12 months. Without his imposing presence, it will be tough for Leicester to stay in the race to the end.

Tom Collomosse’s prediction: 5th

MANCHESTER UNITED

Reasons to be cheerful

Somehow, United go into Christmas just five points off the top with a game in hand. It seems implausible when you look at their home form, which has fallen off a cliff: one win from six at Old Trafford with just a solitary goal scored from open play. 

Away from home, however, a 100 per cent record of six wins has kept Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s side in the hunt with United coming from behind each time, scoring a total of 19 goals. 

Bruno Fernandes has continued his imperious form of last season, Marcus Rashford has scored 12 times, and Paul Pogba and Edinson Cavani are beginning to shine despite off-field distractions. If United can find consistency in an unpredictable league, they are only going to get stronger after such an upside-down start to the season.

Bruno Fernandes has continued his blistering form from last season and is vital for his side

Bruno Fernandes has continued his blistering form from last season and is vital for his side

Reasons to be fearful

We still don’t know which United are going to turn up, and that has never been conducive to a title challenge. Nor is Thursday night football, and United’s demotion to the Europa League may yet have consequences. 

You have to wonder if Fernandes can maintain his form and fitness and how United would cope without their talisman. Cavani may miss three games if he is found guilty of misconduct and who knows when Pogba’s agent will open his mouth again?

Chris Wheeler’s prediction: 3rd

SOUTHAMPTON

Reasons to be cheerful

There’s confidence at Southampton now and total faith in the manager’s methods. There is a belief that they can take on anyone in the league.

Ralph Hasenhuttl has made Saints so well-drilled that he’d rather not hear them talking on the pitch as he feels they should know where they need to be and what they need to do. Few teams can match Saints’ intensity and pressing.

Ralph Hasenhuttl has brough unity back to Southampton and a winning streak has followed

Ralph Hasenhuttl has brough unity back to Southampton and a winning streak has followed

Reasons to be fearful

Squad depth has to be a concern. A full back would be welcome in January. Highly-rated defender Mohammed Salisu came in last summer but is yet to feature. And how long can Southampton sustain their high-intensity, high-pressing style?

Adrian Kajumba’s prediction: 6th

THE FINAL SAY – CHRIS SUTTON

I went with Manchester City in my pre-season predictions, followed by Liverpool, Manchester United and Chelsea. 

City may have endured an indifferent start, but I’ll stick with my forecast for the time being. That is despite Liverpool looking formidable, even though they have some big names sidelined. 

The way Jurgen Klopp was able to call on a pair of 19-year-olds in Curtis Jones and Rhys Williams to do a job for him in such a big match against Tottenham was highly impressive.

I’m not sure Spurs can win the title with their smash-and-grab style. It’s difficult to be consistent that way — even with Harry Kane and Son Heung-min in attack — and in the spirit of sticking with my top-four prediction from September, I’m placing them fifth. Sorry, Jose!

SUTTON’S PREDICTED TOP EIGHT

1 Man City

2 Liverpool

3 Man Utd

4 Chelsea

5 Tottenham

6 Leicester

7 Southampton

8 Everton



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