Paul Merson believes the race for a top-four finish this season could be the tighest one yet – but ultimately thinks Liverpool will retain their place at the expense of one of their rivals.
Manchester City are currently riding high at the top of the Premier League. Their 18 successive wins in all competitions has seen them open up a 10-point lead at the summit. For that reason, Merson thinks Pep Guardiola’s side will ease to a third title in four seasons. Discussing their form, Raheem Sterling has named the two men he feels deserve all the credit.
The race for the second, third and fourth, however, promises to be far closer. With Leicester and West Ham riding high and in with a shout, struggles for Tottenham and Liverpool should ensure a fascinating end to the season. Everton cannot be discounted either.
Indeed, such has been Spurs’ struggles, a report on Tuesday has suggested a top German boss is in line to succeed Jose Mourinho.
Liverpool, meanwhile, have lost four successive times at Anfield. That has prompted Trent Alexander-Arnold to assess where it’s all gone wrong for Jurgen Klopp’s side.
Jamie Carragher, meanwhile, has refused to apologise after his criticism drew an angry response from Liverpool fans.
Merson, however, believes Liverpool will get their act together and should have enough to finish in the top four. He thinks the Hammers won’t last the course and also thinks Thomas Tuchel’s Chelsea could also miss out.
“Man City are in, obviously – that’s the easy part,” Merson told Sky Sports. “Next, I have to stick with Manchester United and Leicester, who are a very good team. The top three now will stay there, in my opinion.
“After that, this is so difficult. You know me, I don’t like to sit on the fence. But I’m finding it really hard to pick a team for the final spot.
“Despite their superb season so far, I don’t see West Ham lasting the distance – and that means a spot is up for grabs.
“Moyes’ side have been brilliant, but I saw enough in that second half against Spurs to tell me it’s just too much for them to do in the reminder of the season.
“Everton have got the fixture list to make a challenge, but I do worry about their consistency. For me, it’s between Chelsea and Liverpool for that final spot.
“If Chelsea have a good March, that’s it, they are in. But, I worry about Chelsea scoring enough goals. I can’t see them blowing teams away.”
Luck against Liverpool, Merson claims
That leaves Merson to conclude that he thinks Liverpool will claim the final place. Despite admitting luck is against them, he says Jurgen Klopp’s side will find a way.
“I’ve always said Liverpool will make it but when push comes to shove, it so hard to stick with them, at the moment,” Merson added.
“It’s hard to get away from their form and the fact the luck is not with them.
“You look at the games they’ve lost, and you look at the games they have coming up and wonder if they can turn it around. They should beat Sheffield United but there is doubt there, especially with no defenders.
“I’ve shown so much faith in them, but the players keep dropping like flies. The one player I want on the pitch out of all of their players at the moment is Jordan Henderson.
“When things are not going well, he’s the leader. He’s the player that gets people going. With him now being out of the team it’s a bit of a worry.
“It feels like I’m just going with the name and not looking at the performances and results. The teams they haven’t beaten is very worrying.
“I don’t know why, but I have to stick with Liverpool. Please don’t ask me why but I’m keeping the faith with Jurgen Klopp and his side.”