Image: Wikimedia Commons /
Image: Wikimedia Commons /

Invincibles to relegation: Mitchell Ryan’s 2021 football predictions

The new year is upon us, so it’s time to make some bold, likely incorrect predictions about the next 12 months in football.

Barcelona and Real Madrid will end the year trophyless

This is a big call to start off with, especially since Real Madrid are hot on the heels of neighbours Atletico in La Liga at the time of writing, but I can’t see either of Spain’s two biggest teams lifting any silverware this calendar year.

Domestically, I think Atletico are looking strongest to claim the title. Almost halfway through the season, they have been very impressive thus far, sitting at the top of the table with two games in hand, having conceded only five goals in 14 games.

I can also see a team like Real Sociedad or Sevilla going on a cup run, with Real Madrid and Barcelona, challenging for the silverware, but falling just short of either the Copa del Rey or Supercopa de Espana.

Finally, on a European front, I think there are many teams far better positioned to take the Champions League crown, with a potential early exit for both El Classico sides.

It’s an audacious claim, but I’m fairly confident neither team will taste success this year, with Ronald Koeman possibly being sacked before the end of it all as a bonus prediction.

Pogba to (finally) leave Manchester United

It’s a saga that’s dragged on for years, but I think the recent comments made by agent Mino Raiola have to have dealt a potentially fatal blow to Pogba’s relationship with the Red Devils.

Pogba himself has often flattered to deceive in his second stint in Manchester. With fleeting moments of quality and world class performances for France putting something of a polish on what has been an otherwise disappointing return for the midfielder.

United don’t want him, Pogba seemingly wants out, Raiola is Raiola, it all appears set for an anti-climactic conclusion.

United fans had high hopes for the French international upon his world record arrival from Juventus back in 2016. But with just 26 Premier League goals and a further 26 assists since his return, paired with countless flat performances, the fans can be forgiven for wanting a bit more from a £89.3 million signing.

If he doesn’t leave this January, it seems inevitable he will over summer

However, his time at Old Trafford seems to be coming to a disappointing end viewed, with a change of scenery looking beneficial for both parties. If he doesn’t leave this January, it seems inevitable he will over summer.

Chelsea Women to go invincible

A quick flip to the Women’s Super League, now, where I can see Emma Hayes’s Chelsea side completing the season undefeated.

This is another risky prediction on my part, with the team currently sat in third in the league and with a tendency for edging wins this campaign.

However, this team does have two games in hand against Reading and league leaders Man United, with victories in both ensuring passage to the top of the table. As well as this, they have carried out some demolitions this season, including a 4-0 win over Everton and a 9-0 thrashing of Bristol City.

I can see this team grinding out enough wins and draws against the top teams, paired with some easy victories against the lesser sides, to take them to an unbeaten league title at the end of the season.

Brace yourselves for Man United now hammering six goals past them in two weeks’ time.

Arsenal won’t get relegated

One of, if not, the biggest call in my predictions so far.

All joking aside, as comedic as it may be to suggest that one of the traditional ‘Big Six’ could be in the midst of a relegation battle this year, I don’t see them going down just yet.

If the board sack Mikel Arteta, there is an increased risk of a season in the Championship, in my opinion, but I can’t see it happening either way.

Yes, they’ve been poor, but eventually the quality of players such as Aubameyang, Lacazette, maybe even Pepe, should see them through to a comfortable season of top half security.

Still, though, the idea that a top ten finish would be considered a success at this point speaks volumes about Arsenal’s trajectory in recent years.

It’s sad to see, but the Gunners will (probably) be back in the top half of the table sometime soon.

So that concludes my hot takes for the footballing year ahead of us. I look forward to looking back on these in a year’s time, with Real Madrid having somehow won the treble, Pogba not only staying at United, but taking over as player-manager, Chelsea women losing every game from now until July, and Arsenal actually getting relegated.

Somehow, that last one doesn’t seem as ridiculous anymore.

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