BBC pundits on the Premier League climax

1 Apr

Match of the Day


Leicester manager Claudio Ranieri says he wants to “see how his horses run” in the home straight of their title bid – and he is not the only one.

With six weeks of the Premier League season to go, we are about to find out who can produce a fast finish, and who will falter in the final furlong.

Can the Foxes stay clear, or will Tottenham catch them? Could Manchester City collapse completely, and what are the chances of a late West Ham charge into the top four?

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BBC football pundits Danny Murphy, Chris Waddle, Jermaine Jenas, Chris Sutton, Mark Lawrenson, Pat Nevin and John Hartson have studied the form and fixtures and give their verdicts on who will win the title, and who will take the coveted Champions League spots.

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Pat Nevin: Big four monopoly is over – and here’s why

Danny Murphy: ‘My heart says Spurs but my head says Leicester’

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Murphy: “Trying to predict how the top six will finish is like trying to predict the weather at the moment.

“My heart wants my old team Tottenham to win the title but my head says Leicester are going to do it because of the way they are digging out results.

“Either way, it is going to be very close.

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“Spurs have got some incredibly difficult fixtures but, if they go to Anfield on Saturday and beat Liverpool, then Leicester slip up at home to Southampton on Sunday – both of which are entirely possible – then you might get a different one and two from me by Monday.

“As things stand, though, I am going with the Foxes.”

Chris Waddle: ‘Arsenal surge will come just too late’

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Waddle: “It is Tottenham for the title for me – their players are bang in form and they have got real momentum.

“Arsenal always have a blip, like the one they have had in the last couple of months, but they always finish the season well.

“I can see them winning all of their remaining games but they have left themselves too much of a gap to claw back, not so much on Leicester as on Spurs.

“Fourth will be very close too, but I have gone for Manchester City – Samir Nasri is fit again and Kevin de Bruyne is close to a return, and having those two back could be be the boost they badly need.

“If City do not make it into the Champions League spots, it is the equivalent of a relegation with the players they have got.

“But Manchester United will have done well if they finish fifth with their squad and the amount of injuries they have suffered.

“I am going for Southampton to finish sixth. I think West Ham have got their hearts set on winning the FA Cup in their final season at Upton Park and it will be a big distraction for them if they get past Manchester United in their quarter-final replay.”

Jermaine Jenas: ‘Leicester have got stronger and stronger’

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Jenas: “Tottenham are in a great position but to win the title they cannot afford to lose another game between now and the end of the season and, with their away fixtures, that is too big an ask.

“I have watched Leicester a lot recently and the times where I thought they would fall away, they haven’t.

“Far from feeling the pressure, they have actually got stronger and stronger and shown they can win when games are really tight.

“I don’t see them dropping enough points now to let Spurs in, and although they will definitely be champions if they win six of their last seven games, I don’t think they will need to do that to finish top.

“Jamie Vardy’s goals had dried up a bit – he has gone five league games without finding the net – but scoring for England against Germany and the Netherlands last week should reinvigorate him.

“Even if it doesn’t, the Foxes have got the quality of Riyad Mahrez, who can make the difference when it matters, and their defence looks solid too.

“At the start of the season they were leaking a few, and just scoring more goals, whereas now the attack has not really been at it but their back four has carried them and they have won their last three games 1-0.”

Chris Sutton: ‘Big clubs should learn from Leicester’

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Sutton: “I don’t see Leicester being shifted from top spot and the bigger clubs should learn some lessons from the way they have shut up shop recently.

“Robert Huth and Wes Morgan are old-fashioned centre-halves but they have got the job done as part of a back four who stay in place and defend as a unit – you never see their full-backs bombing on to look for a second goal when they are 1-0 up.

“Arsenal are not out of it yet but I cannot see them finishing higher than third.

“They have missed a massive opportunity to end their 12-year wait for the title and it is down to the same old frailties – they are arguably the best team to watch in the division on their day, but they are as flaky as ever.

“Sometimes you need a different voice. Arsene Wenger said this week he has no plans to stand down as Gunners boss but he has too much power if he can decide when he does go, and I don’t think it is right.

“As for Manchester City, I have spent the last few months thinking that they are going to kick into gear, but it has not happened.

“They have been awful away from home, taking only 11 points from their last 11 away league games, and scoring only seven goals.

“Five of their final eight league games are on the road and I cannot see them hanging on to fourth place.”

Mark Lawrenson: ‘Man City look as flat as a pancake’

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Lawrenson: “I said before the international break that Leicester are on course to win the title and I don’t see anything in their remaining games to change that.

“Yes they have to go to Old Trafford and Stamford Bridge in May, but forget the clubs they will play and look at their teams and their league position.

“Manchester United are ordinary and Chelsea are poor, while Leicester are the best team in the league and have been all season.

“As far as the top four goes, I just don’t think Manchester City are going to get in the Champions League places – the whole club looks as flat as a pancake.

“I think City should just say to Manuel Pellegrini now, in the nicest way, ‘thank-you very much and goodbye’, and put someone else in charge until the end of the season.

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Pep Guardiola: Ten Manchester facts for incoming Man City boss

“It is a bit like ‘Waiting for Godot’ now. We are all just waiting for Pep Guardiola’s arrival in the summer and I would just say to Pellegrini ‘don’t waste any more time here with these players, because some of them have given up on you’.

“It has turned into a horrible situation and by keeping him hanging on it is just prolonging the agony for everyone. I know they are still in the Champions League, but the whole thing has just become a bit embarrassing.”

Pat Nevin: ‘West Ham have the form and momentum’

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Nevin: “Form and momentum will make all the difference in terms of who finishes fourth.

“West Ham are in great form right now, Manchester City aren’t – and Manchester United are just too up and down.

“Looking at those three teams, player for player, if the Hammers can keep everyone fit they can sneak in there, although things are so close it is just a toss-up really.

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Leicester City: How the Foxes became ‘The Impossible Team’

“Like everyone else, I keep waiting for Leicester to fall, but the only thing that could possibly upset them now is if they get some injuries.

“Without Vardy or Mahrez, or both, they would be in some trouble but even then they have got Leonardo Ulloa and Shinji Okazaki, who are capable of coming in and getting them over the line.”

John Hartson: ‘Hammers are flying home to fourth’

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Hartson: “West Ham are flying, and they do not look in danger of running out of steam despite the fact their season started weeks before everyone else’s did – on 2 July in the Europa League first qualifying round against Andorran side Lusitanos.

“Their home form is especially impressive – they lost their first two league games at Upton Park in August, but have not lost any of their next 12 since then.

“Five of their final eight league games are at home and I think that will help them finish fourth. They are still in the FA Cup too.

“My old team seem to be embracing the fact this is their final season at a stadium that has been their home since 1904, and they want to finish really strongly before they move to the Olympic Stadium.

“I think they can do it, and get in the Champions League places.

“People who say they did not expect Leicester to slip up are lying, but they have stood up to every challenge that has come their way.

“If the Foxes do win the league, they will absolutely deserve it – they have played the best football and they will have won it on merit.”

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