The English Premier League is approaching its last 10 games, and it looks like being a very exciting climax to the season – not only to see who the winner will be, but also who will get the valued fourth position, and which teams are doomed to relegation.
The three front runners, Chelsea, Manchester United and Arsenal all have strong credentials, are all missing key players (Cole, Anderson and Arshavin respectively) and all three still have good chances of progressing through to the quarters finals of the European Champions League.
Chelsea has 4 key games from their 11 remaining, starting this weekend with the visit of Manchester City to Stamford Bridge. The other three would appear to be their visits to Manchester United over the Easter weekend, White Hart Lane on 17th April and Anfield on 1st May. If they win 8 of their remaining program and are held to a draw in three others, their points total for the season would be 88.
As well as the visit of Chelsea, Manchester United have home games against Liverpool (21st March) and Spurs on (25th April) as well as the derby game v Manchester City (away) on 17th April. With one less fixture remaining than Chelsea, it is vital that they acquire at least 8 points from these four games as well as winning the remainder of their matches. That would result in Manchester United finishing the season with 86 points.
Arsenal have a comparatively quiet run-in and probably their hardest three games would be – a visit to one of the leagues in-form teams – Stoke City – this weekend, and then away to local neighbours Spurs on 10th April, followed by the visit of Manchester City on 24th April. Depending on “which” Arsenal runs out onto the pitch, we suspect that they could win as many as nine of their eleven remaining matches. Should they avoid defeat in the two others, this would leave the Gunners on 84 points.
It may well be that the common opponents in these games have more influence on the outcome of the Premiership than just statistical analysis. The three teams each have to play Manchester City and Tottenham on the run-in. Both City and Spurs can be brilliant one day and dreadful the next. The title may hinge on the respective performances of these two teams as much as those who are still in the chase.
This projection was completed with the help of BBC Sports “Predictor”. This is a tool into which you enter your predicted results for each match for the remainder of the season and update the (projected) league table on a week by week basis or, as we did, at the end of the season. In order to make these projections as accurate as possible, we used the excellent SoccerStats.com web site. You will get to the Premiership data by following this link, and if you scroll down the page you will see a current form section which covers the most recent eight games for each team. We continued the exercise to forecast the other positions we mentioned in our opening paragraph.
We see the fourth place position became a five team race due to Everton´s improved performances, although not enough to stop Tottenham Hotspur from claiming the Champions League spot on goal difference from Liverpool. In our prediction, Manchester City and Aston Villa were both only one point adrift – so an unexpected gained or dropped point from any of the teams in this equation would put a different complexion on the outcome.
For the descent into the Championship, we see Hull, Burnley and Portsmouth being relegated (irrespective of the latter’s possible points deduction should they go into administration). However, on the penultimate weekend of the season Hull travel to Wigan and Wolves to Portsmouth, so it would appear that this is going to go down to the wire.
The “Predictor” program allows you to update the table after each series of results that you predict, so try this at home and see if you draw the same conclusions.