Seven burning questions still to be answered in the Premier League
Published 06/04/2015 | 16:28
They say the Easter weekend normally provides a lot of answers to Premier League questions - and it's proven somewhat true this season.
The Top Four looks all but guaranteed following this weekend's games, while Chelsea's win over Stoke looks to have ensured their consistency levels are high enough to see out the season as champions comfortably.
However, at the other end of the table, it's anyone's guess as to who will go down. With seven games remaining there are still seven questions football fans are asking around their office watercooler. Here at Independent.ie we do our best to answer them.
The title race is all over, surely. How many points will Chelsea win the league by?
Jose Mourinho's Chelsea have simply been the best team in England all year. They've led the way through 90pc of the campaign, and with nearest rivals Manchester City slipping of late, it looks like the Blues could be crowned champions with four games to go. I felt all season that Chelsea would finish on 90 points, which they will do if they take 20 more points from the last 24 available.
I can't see any of City, Arsenal or Manchester United going past the 80-point mark which tells me Chelsea will win the title by at least 10 points and could lift the trophy as early as May 3rd at home to Crystal Palace. That would leave Brendan Rodgers' Liverpool — a club Mourinho has had run-ins with in the past — applauding the new champs out on to the field the following week.
Are the Champions League places all sorted?
Yes. Spurs' failure to get all three points at Burnley yesterday was all-but confirmation that Manchester City Arsenal and Manchester United will be England's representatives in the Champions League next season.
We know that Chelsea will finish in the No.1 spot, but the order thereafter is difficult to call. It might be a bit easier to predict after this weekend's Manchester derby. But for me, United have three tough games in a row coming up now that I just can't see them taking maximum points from despite their brilliant form of late. Expect them to drop points and stay in fourth while Arsenal and City will scrap it out for second. The Gunners might just have the edge, confidence-wise.
Who will finish in the Europa League places?
With Chelsea winning the League Cup this year, both fifth and sixth-place finishes in the League will ensure Europa League qualification. There are three teams in the mix, with only one point currently separating Liverpool, Spurs and Southampton. While the Saints have been fantastic all season, I do think they'll miss out on a European adventure.
Liverpool and Spurs' run-ins look kind and I think they'll both pick up another 15 points at least from the 21 still on offer, while Southampton will struggle to get that many points from their remaining games that include clashes against Spurs and Chelsea, but just as difficult, matches against relegation scrappers such as Leicester, Hull, Sunderland and Aston Villa. They can't be ruled out though, and it would be some achievement by Ronald Koeman to fire the Saints in to Europe. Their chances could depend on Liverpool's mentality. If the Reds' confidence continues to be shot, then the Saints could stumble over the line.
Which three teams will be relegated?
Those ruling Leicester out should hold fire. They could easily pick up a lot of points in the run in as they have a kind looking list of games. They play a lot of teams around them and could come out on top. However, it's likely that 36 points is required to guarantee safety which would need Nigel Pearson's side needing 14 points from their last seven.
Tough ask, but I think they'll show some fight. As for the rest, it appears a scrap between Sunderland, Hull, Aston Villa, Burnley and QPR. If Villa fail to beat QPR this mid-week then they are in serious trouble as tough fixtures loom in the run in. Sunderland's win at the weekend gives them a great boost and puts Hull in trouble.
The Tigers look a shambles and could fail to get the eight-points they need. The teams the bookies think will go down are Leicester, QPR and Burnley and it's hard to argue against that. But I certainly wouldn't advise you to put money on it. All six teams mentioned here are in serious trouble.
Which three teams will be joining the Premier League next season?
The top of the Championship is so close that trying to predict three teams right now is a mad man's game. As it stands, Bournemouth are the bookies' favourites and the neutral's choice too.
Middlesbrough are second favourites and have a decent run-in but trying to predict their consistency isn't easy. Same goes for Watford, Derby, Brentford and Ipswich. A team easier to predict is Norwich who are on a superb run, at the right time.
I'd like to see Mick McCarthy lead another team to the top tier, but the Tractor Boys haven't impressed of late. It's still a case of pick any three, but Bournemouth are the most consistent, Middlesbrough's fixtures are kind and Norwich are the form team. They're the most likely three this week anyway. It could all change this weekend again!
Who will win PFA Player of the Year?
Expect a Chelsea player to win it anyway - and that's only right. Eden Hazard is current favourite, but I don't understand why Namanja Matic is so far down the bookie's odds list.
Matic could get a lot of votes from players who understand that the game isn't solely played on the ball. He has been the main difference between Chelsea this year and Chelsea last year. Harry Kane could get a lot of votes too and push Hazard all the way while Alexis Sanchez and Cesc Fabregas are also strong candidates. It's looking likely Hazard will pip them all though.
Who will be crowned LMA Manager of the Year?
In truth it should be Jose Mourinho who is about to lift Chelsea comfortably back in to the king's throne of English football. It's too simplistic to suggest Chelsea didn't have much competition, they'll finish way ahead of the rest because they are simply much better than the rest - led by the Portuguese.
But Mourinho will have stiff competition to this title, most notably from Ronald Koeman who has done a superb job at Southampton. Alan Pardew could get some manager's votes as could Sean Dyche if he keeps Burnley up. But it should be a straight fight between Mourinho and Koeman with the former rightly coming out on top.