Little has been predictable in 2020. While Liverpool were expected to clinch their first Premier League title, few would have envisaged them lifting the trophy in July, rather than May.
The current champions aren’t running away with the league like they were last season with only seven points separating the top six teams.
Jurgen Klopp’s side still look strong, despite losing key players to injuries, while Jose Mourinho’s ‘little ponies’ could push them all the way.
Liverpool and Tottenham have been the pace setters in the Premier League 2020-2021 season
Aston Villa fans may have briefly hoped they were on course for a shock title win, similar to that of Leicester in 2015-2016 campaign, when they thrashed Liverpool 7-2 in September.
But it’s Southampton who are leading the way for the underdogs with the Saints currently sixth. The Foxes are also in the mix and will be hoping to avoid another end-of-season capitulation.
Can Manchester United come good at the end again, will Arsenal ever get going and could Sheffield United pull off the greatest escape of all time? Sportsmail predicts the final Premier League table as the 2020-2021 season approaches the half-way stage.
1st – Liverpool
For the last two seasons people have asked how Liverpool would cope if Virgil van Dijk got injured. Admirably, is the answer.
The Reds might not have the unassailable lead they enjoyed this time last Christmas but to be top without two of their first choice centre backs speaks volumes. They’ve also had to do without Trent Alexander-Arnold, Jordan Henderson and Alisson on occasions this season.
Despite his infuriation at kick-off times and VAR, Jurgen Klopp can be happy with how his side have performed, barring that defeat at Villa Park.
How they’ll cope without Diogo Jota for the next two months remains to be seen. The winger has been an astute signing and the options beyond their front three are mediocre in comparison. But if Sadio Mane can get up to the playing levels he reached last season, Liverpool will be hard to stop.
Thiago Alcantara can also have an important role to play if he can get himself fit.
Liverpool are top of the Premier League despite having suffered several injuries this season
2nd – Tottenham
Jose Mourinho has a knack of winning titles in his second season – he did it at Porto, Inter Milan, Real Madrid and twice at Chelsea.
Tottenham are still contenders to push Liverpool all the way, despite a couple of bad results. Mourinho won’t be letting his squad focus on that setback and he’ll be determined to prove his doubters wrong once again. However, but he’ll need Harry Kane to stay fit for the whole campaign – something he’s not managed for the last two years.
Kane is so integral to Spurs – not just for his goals and assists but his ability to hold the ball up and win free kicks.
We’ve not seen enough of Carlos Vinicius to determine if he’d be an able understudy but he’s no replacement for the England captain. His link-up with Son Heung-min has been devastating this season and Tottenham need that to continue.
Harry Kane and Heung-min Son could help Tottenham challenge Liverpool in the title race
3rd – Chelsea
The pressure has been on Frank Lampard since his big summer spend. After a bit of a shaky start, Chelsea found a level of consistency but back-to-back defeats against Everton and Wolves have cast more doubt on their title credentials.
The additions of goalkeeper Edouard Mendy and defenders Thiago Silva and Ben Chilwell have sured up the defence but Lampard might have hoped for a few more goals from £53million man Timo Werner. Kai Havertz is also yet to find his feet in the Premier League.
Hakim Ziyech hit the ground running and his absence was felt when he picked up another injury at the start of December. Keeping him fit could be key.
It’s a big ask for Lampard’s first trophy to be the Premier League but they should have enough to make the top four.
Chelsea have been impressive at times but lack the consistency needed of title challengers
4th – Manchester United
Ole Gunnar Solskjaer can be encouraged by the fact his side are currently fourth with a game in hand, despite regularly giving the opposition a head start.
United were much better in the second half of the 2019-2020 season, mainly down to the fact they signed Bruno Fernandes – and they might have to delve into the transfer market again if they’re to push for the top four.
The club really needed to sign another centre back in the summer and may be made to pay for their failure to do so, with their weaknesses in defence capable of costing them vital points.
If United can keep Fernandes and Marcus Rashford fit and get Mason Greenwood and Anthony Martial back into their form of last season they could finish higher.
Bruno Fernandes will be key if Manchester United are to have another strong finish this season
5th – Manchester City
After losing their title to Liverpool last season, a reaction was expected from Pep Guardiola’s side – but it’s yet to materialise.
The lowest Manchester City have ever finished under Guardiola is third but they’ve made a slow start to the current campaign and look a shadow of the free-flowing footballing side we saw during their back-to-back league victories.
David Silva has proved to be a big loss and the man billed as his successor, Phil Foden, has only been used sparingly in the league – despite impressing when given a chance.
City are desperate to do better in the Champions League this season and if they prioritise that competition their Premier League form could suffer.
Manchester City have struggled in front of goal and face a battle to finish in the top four
6th – Leicester
The Foxes looked like title contenders when they thrashed Man City 5-2 in September but a lack of consistency, especially at home, could cost them a place in the top four.
Jamie Vardy is the main man with nine league goals and the 2019-2020 golden boot winner will be key to where his side finish the season.
Leicester are in the last 32 of the Europa League and, as Wolves showed last season, it’s difficult to compete on both fronts.
Winning the Europa League would be a route into the Champions League and Brendan Rodgers may look to prioritise that competition if they can get into the latter stages.
Leicester have played some fantastic football but their inconsistent home form is a worry
7th – Everton
The season started so well for Carlo Ancelotti but it looked in danger of tailing off before their victory over Chelsea.
With Dominic Calvert-Lewin leading the line, James Rodriguez in midfield and Michael Keane at the heart of the defence, Everton have every chance of challenging for a place in the Europa League – but a place in the top four looks out of reach.
Luca Digne’s absence has been significant. The left back made four assists before he picked up an injury and Ancelotti will be desperate to have the Frenchman back, although Ben Godfrey has filled in admirably.
The battle for the final European spot should be a close contest between the Toffees, the Saints and the Foxes.
Everton are likely to be battling it out for the final Europa League spot come the end of May
8th – Southampton
It’s hard to believe Southampton were in a relegation battle this time last season.
Ralph Hasenhuttl has turned things around at St Mary’s and his side have been in and around the top six for much of the campaign.
Can they make either of the European competitions? It may rest on Danny Ings’ fitness. The striker return from injury against Brighton but limped off again in the defeat by Man City. The Saints coped well without their top goalscorer but they’re a much bigger threat when he’s leading the line.
Jan Bednarek and Jannik Vestergaard have formed a strong partnership at the back and Alex McCarthy has been a rock in goal.
Southampton also have the best free-kick taker in the league in James Ward-Prowse. He’s not bad on corners either.
Southampton have been the surprise team of the season and are serious European challengers
9th – West Ham
Few expected West Ham to start as well as they have and David Moyes has to take a lot of credit.
He managed his side via Zoom when he was suffering with coronavirus in September and has overseen thrashings of Wolves and Leicester and picked up valuable points against Manchester City and Tottenham.
The Hammers have coped well without Michail Antonio but they need the striker back if they’re to push for more than a top half finish.
Sebastien Haller and Pablo Fornals have both been guilty of missing big chances which have resulted in dropped points.
West Ham have had an impressive start to the season despite the absence of Michail Antonio
10th – Wolves
Nuno Espirito Santo’s team seem to be unpredictable from one week to the next. The absence of the Europa League was expected to make things easier domestically but they’re struggled to find any consistency.
The serious injury to Raul Jimenez has been a huge blow. He scored 17 goals last season and there’s no one to replace him unless Wolves dip into the January transfer market.
They need the likes of Daniel Podence and Pedro Neto to step up but neither are a ready-made replacements for Jimenez.
Wolves need the likes of Pedro Neto and Daniel Podence to step up in Raul Jimenez’s absence
11th – Arsenal
After what appeared to be a positive transfer window and a decent start, it’s all gone downhill very quickly for Mikel Arteta.
Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang looks a shadow of the player he was last season and nobody else has stepped up to put the ball in the net.
Their defence looks slightly steadier but it will only get them so far unless they can start creating and converting more chances.
The Gunners have looked more promising in the Europa League – maybe this could be the year they finally win the competition.
There’s always the FA Cup.
Arsenal have had a poor start and there are already question marks over Mikel Arteta’s future
12th – Aston Villa
Hopes were high after that 7-2 thrashing of Liverpool but four defeats in five games soon brought Villa crashing back down to earth.
Dean Smith’s side have played some fantastic football at times with Jack Grealish and Ross Barkley pulling the strings in midfield.
Ollie Watkins has added more goals up front to take the pressure off the Villa skipper and Ezri Konsa has formed a strong partnership with Tyrone Mings in the centre of defence.
They should be far away from the relegation battle if they can keep their key players fit.
Aston Villa look like they’ll be clear of the relegation battle after avoiding the drop last season
13th – Leeds
Marcelo Bielsa’s high energy side have exceeded expectations so far and have given us some entertaining games.
Kalvin Phillips is been instrumental in midfield and Patrick Bamford has shown the doubters that he can score goals at the highest level.
Leeds should be safe with plenty of time to spare and Bielsa will be hoping they can follow in Wolves’ footsteps next season.
It’s a shame the fans have been denied the chance to watch their team in the top flight after a 16-year wait. The players will get a boost if supporters can return in the new year.
Leeds have played some scintillating football and have been impressive in the top flight
14th – Newcastle
With five wins, three draws and five defeats, the Magpies are on course for another steady season.
Callum Wilson was a clever signing and will score the goals needed to keep Steve Bruce’s side clear of the relegation battle.
The only concern is a slight lack of creativity and they could do with Allan Saint-Maximin getting back to fitness and hitting the form he reached during Project Restart.
Crashing out of the Carabao Cup against Championship side Brentford was an opportunity missed and Bruce will be hoping his team can get past a tricky FA Cup tie with Arsenal to keep some excitement in the season.
Newcastle look to be on course for another steady season with Callum Wilson leading the line
15th – Crystal Palace
It’s been a steady enough start for the Eagles but their reliance on Wilfried Zaha is as clear as ever.
Palace lost both games when he was absent with coronavirus but beat West Brom 5-1 when he returned.
Hodgson’s side will likely be safe with games to spare. A difficult end to the season with Man City, Leicester, Arsenal and Liverpool all to play in the last six fixtures will probably prevent them climbing any higher.
Only an injury to Zaha could throw them into trouble.
Wilfried Zaha will be key if Crystal Palace are to secure another season of top flight football
16th – Burnley
Every year people predict Burnley to get relegated and every year they prove people wrong.
Sean Dyche started to get irritated towards the end of last season when there was problems with players signing contract extensions and the club’s failure to recruit in the summer got them off to a poor start.
But victories over Arsenal and Wolves and a valuable point at Aston Villa has seen them picking up seven points in their last three games. They might not be a free-scoring side, but they’ll likely pick up enough clean sheets to see them over the line.
Dyche’s side play relegation rivals Fulham and Sheffield United in their last four fixtures of the season in what could decide the fates of all three teams.
Victories over Arsenal and Wolves showed that Burnley should have enough to avoid the drop
17th – Brighton
Graham Potter’s side haven’t always got the points their performances have deserved. Their determination to play a more exciting brand of football is admirable but not always practical.
Neal Maupay has been guilty of squandering some good chances, as has Danny Welbeck, but both have scored crucial goals and will always get themselves into the right positions to score.
Brighton could end up in a straight shoot-out with Fulham at the end of the season. They drew 1-1 with their rivals at Craven Cottage, which was followed up with a result of the same scoreline against Sheffield United. They’ll have to start turning some of those draws into wins if they wants to avoid falling deeper into trouble.
Brighton should have enough to stay out of trouble but need to pick up more victories
18th – Fulham
Fulham were everybody’s tip to go down at the start of the season. On the opening day of the campaign, Jamie Carragher said he’s never been more certain of anything – so we’ll blame him if this prediction turns out to be wrong.
After a dismal start, Scott Parker’s side showed promise in their victory over Leicester and draw with Liverpool but squad depth could be an issue as the season progresses.
The fixture list has not been kind with Fulham facing Arsenal, Tottenham, Chelsea, Manchester United and Southampton in their last eight games.
Survival definitely looks more possible than it did at the start of the season, but it’s still going to be incredibly tough for Parker’s side.
Fulham have improved since the start of the season but it will still be tough for them to survive
19th – West Brom
Big Sam is back – but it remains to be seen whether he’s still got his magic touch when it comes to relegation battles.
He’s more experienced than the likes of Parker and Potter but their teams have more goals in them.
Allardyce had Jermain Defoe at Sunderland and Zaha at Palace – he’s not got a striker of the same quality at West Brom.
Conor Gallagher has been their best attacking outlet but the Karlan Grant, Charlie Austin and Callum Robinson will have to start weighing in with a few goals if the Baggies are to avoid the drop.
Based on West Brom’s season so far, their squad isn’t strong enough to stay in the division. But you can’t write Allardyce off.
West Brom are relying on Sam Allardyce to guide them to safety after sacking Slaven Bilic
20th – Sheffield United
It feels like a lifetime ago that Sheffield United were singing about playing in Europe.
The Blades’ inability to put the ball in the back of the net is what will likely send them back to the Championship. The £20m gamble on Rhian Brewster hasn’t paid off, yet, and injuries to key players have not helped Chris Wilder.
The return of some fans could give them a boost but it’s unlikely we’ll see Bramall Lane full and back to its intimidating atmosphere before the end of the season. It would be the greatest of escapes if Wilder could somehow steer his side to safety.
Second season syndrome has a habit of catching up with Yorkshire clubs – Huddersfield and Hull City (twice) have been its victims in the last 10 years. Leeds might want to start thinking about planning ahead…
Sheffield United have had a nightmare second season and are bottom of the Premier League