Everton topple United to throw title-race wide open

Everton continued their table-defying form at the weekend by adding the scalp of Man United to that of Chelsea. They responded excellently to going a goal down, cancelling out Berbatov’s early opener within three minutes through Bilyaletdinov. Everton kept United at bay for another hour before clinching the tie with a goal each from substitutes Dan Gosling and Jack Rodwell. Arsenal and Chelsea took advantage with 2-0 wins while victories for West Ham and Stoke heaped more woe on relegation-threatened Hull and liquidation-threatened Portsmouth respectively. On Sunday Aston Villa came from a goal behind to thrash Burnley 5-2 at Villa Park and in the late game Tottenham battled against Wigan’s bombsite of a pitch to win 3-0 thanks to a clearly offside Defoe goal and a brace from out-of-favour Roman Pavlyuchenko. These wins were made sweeter for the two top four chasers due to Man City’s dire 0-0 draw with Liverpool, a game kindly not selected for broadcast. Sunday also saw home wins for Fulham and Blackburn.

With only a dozen or so rounds of games left in this unpredictable season I’m going to go out on a limb and make some predictions, here’s the first part of how I think the teams competing for the title and champions league places will fare as the season draws to a close.


Remaining fixtures: Man City (A), West Ham (H), Blackburn (A), Portsmouth (A), Aston Villa (H), Man United (A), Bolton (H), Tottenham (A), Stoke (H), Liverpool (A), Wigan (H).

The current leaders have some tough fixtures ahead of them, notably the two games in Manchester and away trips to Spurs and Liverpool, but then this Chelsea side could win all of those games. The Man United game will be the most important but a draw will probably be good enough for Chelsea if they can maintain their 4 point lead over their rivals until then. Their last game of the season could become a lot tougher if Wigan, who beat the Blues in the reverse fixture, find themselves threatened with relegation.

Predicted points taken: At least 25, but if they win the big games it could be more like 30.

Predicted finish: 1st, just.

Manchester United

Remaining fixtures: West Ham (H), Aston Villa (A), Wolves (A), Fulham (H), Liverpool (H), Bolton (A), Chelsea (H), Blackburn (A), Man City (A), Tottenham (H), Sunderland (A).

Man United also have some tough games remaining but they have the advantage of playing at home against Liverpool and Chelsea and will be out for revenge in both fixtures. A trip to Villa part and the Manchester derby at City will be stern tests and Ferguson might be happy with a point from each. Sunderland, like Wigan for Chelsea, could become a harder game if the North-East side stand a chance of going down on the final day of the season.

Predicted points taken: 25-29, beating Chelsea would make a big difference but I think United’s inconsistent form will cost them.

Predicted finish: 2nd, I’m not sure they can pick up 5 more points than Chelsea but it will be close.


Remaining fixtures: Stoke (A), Burnley (H), Hull (A), West Ham (H), Birmingham (A), Wolves (H), Tottenham (A), Wigan (A), Man City (H), Blackburn (A), Fulham (H).

On paper Arsenal have a brilliant run-in, especially the home games with the exception of Man City (a game set to reveal Gooners’ differing views on certain City players). Away games at Stoke and Spurs look to be the only real stuttering points: the Gunners’ last two visits to the Britannia Stadium have yielded two losses and an away point in the North London derby is becoming a speciality.

Predicted points taken: 28 is realistic, but if Arsenal can conquer their demons at Stoke (or just learn to clear a long-throw) and win against Spurs then maximum points could be feasible.

Predicted finish: 3rd, but if Man United or Chelsea drop more points in their much harder run-ins then 2nd or even 1st place isn’t impossible.

Tottenham Hotspur

Remaining fixtures: Everton (H), Man City (A), Blackburn (H), Stoke (A), Portsmouth (H), Sunderland (A), Arsenal (H), Chelsea (H), Man United (A), Bolton (H), Burnley (A).

Spurs edged into fourth place this weekend but it is going to be hard for them to hang on to the last champions league place with the games they’ve got left. Home games against Everton, Arsenal and Chelsea will be tough as will away games at Man City, Stoke and Burnley who have made themselves hard to beat on their own turf. Add their trip to Old Trafford (the last of three consecutive games with the top 3) we could see Tottenham drop a number of points between now and the end of the season.

Predicted points taken: could be as few as 17, but if they can avoid drawing in some of their away games they could take 23 points or so.

Predicted finish: tough run will make 5th or 6th more likely than 4th.

Manchester City

Remaining fixtures: Stoke (A), Chelsea (A), Tottenham (H), Sunderland (A), Fulham (A), Wigan (H), Burnley (A), Birmingham (H), Man United (H), Arsenal (A), Aston Villa (H), West Ham (A).

Level on points but with a game in hand on Tottenham, Man City have a similarly difficult fixture list. They showed a real lack of ambition against Liverpool on Sunday and will be lucky to get anything out of their away games with Chelsea and Arsenal. City will have to be good to get a champions league spot.

Predicted points taken: Like Spurs they could drop a lot of points but around 20 seems a likely haul.

Predicted finish: 5th or 6th


Remaining fixtures: Blackburn (H), Wigan (A), Portsmouth (H), Man United (A) Birmingham (A), Fulham (H), West Ham (H), Burnley (A), Chelsea (H), Hull (A).

Of the teams fighting it out for 4th place Liverpool have the best run-in and Benitez has made them much harder to beat than they were at the beginning of the season. Getting Torres back will be a timely boost and as long as they can remain consistent they should grab 4th place

Predicted points taken: they could quite easily pick up 25 points which I think would be enough to get into the champions league.

Predicted finish: 4th.

Aston Villa

Remaining fixtures: Sunderland (H), Stoke (A), Wigan (A), Wolves (H), Chelsea (A), Bolton (A), Everton (H), Portsmouth (A), Birmingham (H), Man City (A), Blackburn (H).

Villa have the Carling Cup final and the FA cup to worry about before they play again in the league where they already have a game in hand and an ok run-in. They could do very well against those teams or they could fall away like they did last season, especially if they prioritise other competitions.

Predicted points taken: If they stay focussed and win against their close rivals then they could get 25 points or more.

Predicted finish: anywhere between 4th and 7th, it’s going to be very close but having played all but one of their games against the traditional top 4 I would tip them to edge 5th place ahead of Man City and Spurs.


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