6 things that could still happen in the Premier League
With so much left to play for, we take look at the scenarios that the Premier League could throw up between now and May.
The ‘Q’ word
The quadruple was first mentioned as a pie-in-the-sky possibility much earlier last season than this, but Manchester City’s 2018/19 follow-up to the Centurions have now made it a reality.
Having already secured a second consecutive EFL Cup, the domestic cup double now looks a formality. Brighton may offer some resistance in the semi-final, Watford or Wolves perhaps a little more in the final, but there’s a reason why City are as short as to lift the trophy.
With a game in hand, they are also heavy favourites to retain the Premier League. Pep Guardiola’s side have won six consecutive league games, scoring 16 and conceding two, while Liverpool have dropped points in two of their last six and made hard work of recent victories over Burnley and Fulham.
City’s problem is two-fold.
Firstly, their players and supporters have never seemed to relish playing on Europe’s top table, with two uncomfortable games against Lyon in the group stages raising questions about their credentials to win the Champions League at this time around.
Secondly, however often it may appear the case, Aymeric Laporte, Bernardo Silva, Raheem Sterling, Sergio Aguero and the rest are not indefatigable machines.
Fifteen matches in 63 days, as would be required, will not allow for any off day, particularly in a knock-out competition.
City have won 13 of their last 15 matches, with one of the exceptions a freak defeat at Newcastle. Another aberration is not an option if they are to produce the greatest season in English football history.
Déjà vu for Spurs?
The Premier League should be off on its holidays when the final whistle blows on 12 May, but developments elsewhere could see the Champions League race prolonged for three more weeks.
Should the teams that finish fifth and sixth win the Champions League and Europa League (Manchester United and Arsenal, perhaps?), then the Premier League’s fourth-placed team will be playing Thursday night football next season.
Unlike in 2012, we can’t imagine Spurs sacking their manager as a result this time.
Burnley going down
Four consecutive defeats do Burnley’s recent performances no justice, but it does leave them precariously positioned two points above the relegation zone, having played one match more than their nearest rivals, Cardiff.
One look at his side’s remaining fixtures will not leave Sean Dyche breathing any easier.
Unenviable matches against Wolves (H) and Bournemouth (A) follow next, with their last four games reading Chelsea (A), Man City (H), Everton (A) and Arsenal (H). Six defeats, while unlikely, is eminently possible.
Their saving grace? A six (or maybe even nine, 12, whatever)-pointer against the Bluebirds at Turf Moor on 13 April.
Fail to win that one, and either of the Wolves and Bournemouth matches beforehand, and Burnley will be in big trouble.
No more sackings
Realistically, 19 of the 20 Premier League managers can already start planning for next season.
Neil Warnock, Sean Dyche and Chris Hughton are too stitched into the fabric of their clubs to fear for their jobs, regardless of the threat of relegation that hangs over Cardiff, Burnley and Brighton.
Jan Siewert and Scott Parker were both hired in acknowledgement that Huddersfield and Fulham are doomed, while Everton’s 2-0 victory over Chelsea before the international break has guaranteed Marco Silva the rest of the season at least.
Silva’s opposite number that day, Maurizio Sarri, is the only one feeling the heat.
But, despite rumours that Sarri would be dismissed during this two-week hiatus, column inches involving Chelsea have only centred around the impressive international form of Ross Barkley, Callum Hudson-Odoi, Eden Hazard and Olivier Giroud.
With Sarri now likely to be granted the remainder of this campaign to give Hudson-Odoi just one sodding Premier League start, your best bet looks like backing no Premier League manager to leave before the end of the season.
Harry Kane to win the Golden Boot
Kane seemed to spend as much time taking the ball off his centre-backs as leading the line for England during the last week, a trend that has been evident for club and country over the last year or so.
But that he ended both internationals against Czech Republic and Montenegro with a goal to his name reinforces his reputation as one of the best goalscorers on the planet.
Since his brace at Everton on 23 December, Kane has only failed to score in two of his 14 appearances for club and country, netting in five consecutive games ahead of his return to Premier League football this weekend.
Six of Spurs’ eight remaining matches are against sides placed 10th or lower in the league, and it’s easy to imagine him crowning the opening of the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium by going big against Palace, Huddersfield, Brighton, West Ham and Everton.
Recent form would suggest that seven goals from Spurs’ last eight league games is a reasonable expectation. That would see him finish on 24, which may well be enough to beat Sergio Aguero, who scores nearly all of his league goals at home, and the stuttering Mo Salah.
Rodgers to lead Leicester into Europe
Rodgers could hardly have asked for a kinder fixture list to begin his reign at Leicester, and he is certainly taking advantage.
Since undeservedly losing his first game in charge against Watford, the Foxes have won two games in very different manners – one a comprehensive home win against Fulham and the other a gritty 10-man victory at Burnley.
And with their next three opponents all in the bottom half, and their main rivals having other priorities, his side have a legitimate claim of finishing the season as the best of the rest and qualifying for the Europa League.
Seventh-placed Wolves and eighth-placed Watford will be prioritising their cup semi-final against one another, with the winner likely to be distracted for the rest of the campaign.
That creates an opening for Leicester, who rank eighth for xPoints across the whole campaign, suggesting this recent improvement is long overdue.
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