Premier League top 7: Where will they finish?

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As the Barclays Premier League winds down to its final five games for most clubs, the title race heats up for the final time as we count down to a climatic end to one of the most unpredictable seasons in football history.

How will your team fare as the 2013/14 campaign draws to a nervy conclusion? Who will go to Europe? Who will suffer an embarrassing end to a disastrous campaign? And most importantly, who, will emerge as champions?

7. Manchester United
Current Points: 57

Remaining Fixtures:
- vs Everton (A): DRAW

Manchester United has been enjoying some kind of comeback in recent weeks, having scored four goals apiece past Aston Villa and Newcastle United respectively.

With no fixtures this week, United will have an extremely precious and valuable opportunity this late in the campaign to rest and regroup for their battle against Everton a week later. The Toffees meanwhile entertain two teams who are fighting against relegation this weekend.

Should this match be played at Old Trafford, United will churn out a narrow victory, but since the venue is in Merseyside, Everton's fatigue will be compensated by a thunderous home crowd who have never seen their team get so close to a Champions League spot since 2005.

The safe bet will be to go for a draw.

- vs Norwich City (H): WIN
- vs Sunderland (H): WIN
- vs Hull City (H): WIN

- vs Southampton (A): DRAW

Southampton will likely end the season on a bumpy note, but their quality should help them survive this match with a point. I’m convinced the Red Devils will end the season on a high, with Wayne Rooney and Juan Mata both on song, and Robin van Persie, while not as effective this season than last season due to injury, providing a reliable presence when being the focal point of many United attacks.

However, Southampton are playing at home in this fixture, where they’ve performed significantly better than on their travels. The tussle for 8th place between them and Newcastle should be a decent motivator for them to continue playing their best towards the end of an honestly overachieving season.

A win for United will be the more sensible option should they work and maintain their form, but given the trend this season for many clubs, it’s way too unpredictable to give an accurate outcome.

The battle for a place in Europe is clearly wide open, but at the moment, I don’t see United pipping Spurs to salvage something from their atrocious campaign.

Final Points: 68
Position: 7th

6. Tottenham
Current Points: 59 (6th)

Remaining Fixtures:
- vs West Bromwich Albion (A): DRAW

If we observe the trend, we’ll realise that Tottenham suffers from something called the “Bouncy Castle Effect".

After winning teams by comfortable margin, they end up getting squashed in their next round of fixtures.

For example, after winning Swansea City 3-1, they went on to get thrashed by Manchester City 5-1 at the White Hart Lane. And, after winning away at Newcastle with a scoreline of 4-0, their tied-largest margin of victory this season, they fell 1-0 to a struggling Norwich City side the following week.

After their thrashing of Sunderland a few days ago, I wouldn't be surprise if they ran into all-too-familiar problems this week against West Brom. The last time these two sides met, they drew 1-1, and Tottenham were riding on a morale-boosting victory over Southampton after a 5-0 thrashing at Liverpool the previous week.

A win for West Brom might seem a little too rash and unrealistic, but the chances of them holding out successfully for a draw are actually pretty high.

- vs Fulham (H): WIN
- vs Stoke City (A): DRAW
- vs West Ham United (A): WIN
- vs Aston Villa (H): WIN

The matches against Fulham, West Ham and Aston Villa are pretty straightforward affairs, while the clash against Stoke might prove to be a tricky one, with the Potters having only lost two of their 16 games at the Britannia Stadium in the Premier League this season.

Tottenham has let in 23 goals on the road, while Stoke has only scored 22 times at home this season. Defensive fragilities of the former combined with an average, but in-form, strikeforce of the latter adds up to give you, a low-scoring game.

Final Points: 70
Position: 6th

5. Everton

Current Points: 63 (5th)

Remaining Fixtures:
- vs Sunderland (A): WIN
- vs Crystal Palace (H): WIN

Sunderland are in awful shape at the moment after unexpectedly getting thrashed 5-1 at the hands of an off-form Tottenham Hotspur. Despite returning to the Stadium of Light for this clash, it seems unlikely they’ll pull off an upset against the on-song Everton. Pretty straightforward result.

Against Crystal Palace, I’m looking at a win for Everton even though Tony Pulis has pretty much rejuvenated the whole Palace team who now plays soccer like, well, soccer.

Defensive-wise there doesn’t seem to be much difference whether they’re on the road or playing at home, but Palace has more success winning games at home. Playing away at Goodison Park, it will be an uphill task for them to dismantle the organised Merseyside club.

It’s very much possible for Palace to steal a victory from Roberto Martinez’s side, but right now the odds are better in the Everton camp.

- vs Manchester United (H): DRAW

- vs Southampton (A): DRAW

The match against Southampton will be hard to predict as the outcome will heavily depend on how the Saints cope without star striker Jay Rodriguez in their next few matches.

However, with how they are playing, I reckon Rickie Lambert will have enough quality in him to shine till the end of the season. Adam Lallana is in fine form as well as he pushes towards a place in Roy Hodgson’s final 23-men squad heading for Brazil this summer.

It might be tricky, but I believe Southampton will at least escape with a draw.

- vs Manchester City (H): LOSE

Manchester City simply has too much quality. And really, do you expect them to slip up so late in their challenge for the title?

- vs Hull City (A): DRAW

Final Points: 72
Position: 5th

4. Arsenal
Current Points: 64 (4th)

Remaining Fixtures:
- vs West Ham United (H): WIN

If you observe closely, Arsenal also suffers from the “Bouncy Castle Effect”, albeit in a more positive way than their bitter north London rivals.

After suffering from an away defeat, Arsenal usually bounce back with a decent performance in their next home game.

Following a 1-0 defeat at the hands of Manchester United back in November 2013, Arsenal bounced back with a 2-0 victory against Southampton at the Emirates Stadium.

Again, after getting demolished 3-6 by Manchester City, they bounced back with a conservative 0-0 draw against Chelsea the next week.

In another example, in the wake of a 5-1 annihilation at Anfield, they bounced back with a goalless draw against Manchester United.

And succeeding their embarrassing 6-0 loss against rivals Chelsea was a 1-1 draw against Manchester City.

So, after their insipid performance against Everton last week which saw them lose 3-0 at Goodison Park, Arsenal will unquestionably bounce back against a struggling West Ham side.

This frustrating inconsistency has been a trademark for Arsenal fans in the second half of the season, and given their current form, it’s unlikely that it’ll go out of trend any time soon.

- vs Hull City (A): DRAW

Hull City have played some solid defence in recent weeks, with Curtis Davies and Liam Rosenior at the heart of their fearless displays at the back.

Against an Arsenal side alarmingly devoid of attacking ideas at the moment, they might even have opportunities to storm into the attacking third and get some goals for themselves.

Despite Arsenal being characteristically careless in the opening stages of away matches, they ironically settle down when they start conceding, hence should Hull pop in a goal, Arsenal will have sufficient quality to equalise and blow the contest wide open once again.

- vs Newcastle United (H): WIN
- vs West Bromwich Albion (H): WIN

Newcastle are in free fall right now, losing four of their last five games. An in-form Stoke City awaits them, followed by Swansea City. They’re not going to be entering the brawl in good shape.

Meanwhile, West Brom’s chance of getting a draw is quite high once again, but considering how they lost and conceded more on the road, I really don’t fancy the Baggies holding the Gunners to a draw in front of 60,000 pissed-off fans.

- vs Norwich City (A): WIN

Final Points: 77
Position: 4th

3. Chelsea

Current Points: 72 (2nd)

Remaining Fixtures:
- vs Swansea City (A): WIN

Swansea City have just lost against fellow relegation strugglers Hull City. There just cannot be a worser time for the Welsh team to face a not-so-pleased Chelsea side, who are tailing league leaders Liverpool by two points, and are probably eliminated from the Champions League in humiliating fashion by Paris Saint-Germain.

After unexpected defeats against Aston Villa and Crystal Palace, Chelsea’s chances of winning the title is all but over. Should Manchester City win both their games in hand, they will open up a four point gap between them and the Blues.

With absolutely no margin for errors now should they still want to mathematically stay in the title race, Chelsea seems unlikely to slip up at Swansea this weekend.

- vs Sunderland (H): WIN
- vs Liverpool (A): LOSE
- vs Norwich City (H): WIN

- vs Cardiff City (A): WIN

Whether Cardiff will spring a surprise on Chelsea heavily depends on their results leading up to this clash.

Should Cardiff make it out of the relegation zone before the final round of games but are still facing the possibility of going down, the probability of them upsetting Chelsea will be increased substantially as it’s a do-or-die match for them.

However, should relegation be secured before this affair takes place, it’s almost certainly three points for Chelsea.

Personally though, regardless of the circumstances, I fancy a result in favour of the Blues.

Final Points: 84
Position: 3rd

2. Manchester City

Current Points: 70 (3rd)

Remaining Fixtures:
- vs Liverpool (A): LOSE

- vs Sunderland (H): WIN
- vs West Bromwich Albion (H): WIN
- vs Crystal Palace (A): WIN

The match against Sunderland will yield many goals in City’s favour, while the matches against West Bromwich Albion and Crystal Palace might be a little less flamboyant for them.

West Bromwich have been the draw kings in the Premier League this season, with a stunning 14 draws to their name, and are fighting for survival, while Palace have been improving steadily throughout the weeks under new manager Tony Pulis (have you seen how Palace ripped Chelsea apart?).

Besides, City’s away form, while envious, is not nearly as good as their home form.

- vs Everton (A): DRAW

Everton, who have been on a six-match winning streak, including a 3-0 drubbing of Arsenal last week, have been more lethal up front, although it came at the expense of their defence.

Regardless, a more attacking-minded approach have certainly helped Everton, who managed an average of 2.8 goals per game for their previous five matches, with two clean sheets in the process.

However, against Arsenal, Seamus Coleman and co. tormented and humiliated Arsenal’s attackers like their lives depended on it, suggesting that they can still be relied on when they are needed.

With much spirit in the Everton camp right now, they’ll be relishing their opportunities to overtake Arsenal in fourth sport with victories against Sunderland and Crystal Palace this coming week.

Should they continue their superb run of form against Manchester United next week, and Southampton the week after, the Toffees will seriously be a major threat to be reckoned with.

And as mentioned previously, City had seen better days on the road. Against a reliable all-round squad, the awfully expensive City team will be in for a tricky fight.

I’m going with a draw.

- vs Aston Villa (H): WIN
- vs West Ham United (H): WIN

Final Points: 86
Position: 2nd

1. Liverpool

Current Points: 74 (1st)

Remaining Fixtures:
- vs Manchester City (H): WIN

If Liverpool win against Manchester City, the title will be entirely theirs to lose, if that isn’t already obvious enough. A win against the Citizens will open up a seven point gap between them and their main title rival, who will still be one point behind the Merseyside team even if they win both their games in hand.

City’s away record is pretty dismal compared to their home record. On the road, they only obtained 28 points out of a possible 48, scoring 32 goals in the process, compared to 52 at the Etihad, where they’ve played one match less.

Liverpool will also be happy to know that City have let in 19 goals on their travels, and with their attacking quartet currently on fire, no reminders will be needed for them to pounce and rip City apart at every available opportunity.

Despite City obviously having more experience dealing with title challenges, Liverpool doesn’t seem to be slowing down under the pressure.

Some might argue that Liverpool’s last few performances glaringly revealed some signs of fatigue, but let’s not forget that even though Sunderland and West Ham United both fielded strong defences, Liverpool still managed to break down their stubborn resistance and eked out a 2-1 win on both occasions.

Champions win games when they are playing badly.

With all their attacking players on song right now, it seems unlikely that the team’s offense will break down tragically when one outlet fails to deliver.

As this a must-win game, City will naturally field their strongest squad, and Liverpool, whose team looks the weaker one on paper, will likely be slightly troubled during the match.

It might still go either way, but with Liverpool’s current form, I don’t think they’re going to throw away a golden opportunity to win their first league title since 1990.

- vs Norwich City (A): WIN

- vs Chelsea (H): WIN

The Chelsea game will definitely not be a draw. It will either go Chelsea's way, or Liverpool's way. And unfortunately for the Blues, it'll go in favour of the latter.

Jose Mourinho tends to operate a more cautious approach in away games, preferring to soak up the pressure in the first half, launch quick and numerous counter attacks in the second half, and 'park the bus' when his team scores a couple of goals.

Unfortunately, that strategy backfired spectacularly against Crystal Palace, whose wingers put in dazzling shifts, tormenting the Chelsea fullbacks non-stop throughout the match.

If Chelsea are unable to deal with a surprisingly quick group of attacking players from Crystal Palace, how do you think they will fare against a red-hot offensive lineup of Philippe Coutinho, Jordan Henderson, Raheem Sterling, Daniel Sturridge and Luis Suárez?

The first two's passing range will split open a comparatively slower defence that will prove to be costly at the end of the game, while the remaining trio will run riot in the entire final third, which Palace managed to do successfully.

Back in defence, the young fullback Jon Flanagan has staked his claim in the first XI with solid performances week in week out, while Daniel Agger and Martin Skrtel, whose the highest scoring defender in the league with six goals right now, has enjoyed decent shifts thanks to a blossoming partnership that improved Liverpool tremendously as a whole.

With Chelsea's strikers misfiring badly, as claimed by Mourinho, Steven Gerrard will take charge of shutting down their creative outlets like Eden Hazard, who the Blues have alarmingly been over-reliant on since the start of the season.

Having only midfielders to score should Torres and co. not buck up and raise their games in their next few games, Liverpool will relish an expected stream of counter-attacking opportunities for them to embarrass their London counterparts.

Like I mentioned earlier, this match will not end as a draw. Given current circumstances, it's hard to foresee a win for Chelsea.

- vs Crystal Palace (A): WIN
- vs Newcastle (H): WIN

Final points: 89
Position: 1st

As any ardent Premier League fan will tell you, this season has been full of unpredicted surprises, and the final five games will definitely see its fair share of them. Experts were gunning for an Arsenal win early in the season, but look how far they've falter. Data analysts predicted  a Chelsea triumph, but their title hopes are quickly burning away as you're reading this. It might be too early for Liverpool fans to celebrate yet, but ever since their 4-0 win against Tottenham, the title has really been theirs to lose.

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