By Arun Nair – (@Nair_39)
2013 has been a year of highs and lows for Reds fans, from the hard-fought victories over Tottenham and Man Utd, and thrashings of the likes of Norwich and Fulham, to the disappointing defeats, most notably against Oldham, Southampton, and recently Man City and Chelsea.
As the end of the year looms, I take an educated guess at what we might expect to see from the year 2014.
Despite ending the year in 5th place, there remains optimism around Anfield that a top four place is well within Reds’ reach. A title tilt will probably be too much for Brendan Rodgers’ worryingly thin squad, but with the right additions in January, Kopites can be confident that a return to the Champions League is on the horizon.
Meanwhile, the title itself does seem to be Manuel Pellegrini’s Man City’s to lose, despite pressure from Arsenal and Chelsea. Those three look likely to make the top four, while the final Champions League qualification spot will likely see Liverpool in competition with Merseyside neighbours Everton, Man Utd, and a resurgent Spurs.
The fact that the that all of the afore mentioned sides (excluding Man Utd, and of course Liverpool themselves) must travel to Anfield in the second half of the season could be a crucial factor, while January transfers could also prove significant.
Top 8 – Prediction:
1. Man City
4. Liverpool (fingers crossed!)
5. Man Utd
At the other end of the table, a host of sides could well find themselves in a relegation dogfight. The turmoil at Cardiff under Vincent Tan’s dictatorship could cause the Welsh side problems, and the manager who fills the vacant position following Malky Mackay’s sacking will have a job on their hands. Another managerless side, West Brom, will need to make the right appointment to avoid being dragged into the mire, but the talent at their disposal in the likes of Saido Berahino and Stephane Sessegnon should be enough to keep the Baggies up.
In Tony Pulis Crystal Palace have a manager who, as he regularly reminds the press, has never been relegated in his management career, and the upturn in his side’s fortunes since his arrival suggests that his record may hold out for another season. Pulis will make Palace tough to beat, and that may be enough.
Norwich and Aston Villa are on the fringes of the bottom six, but both sides look to have enough about them to stay up. Gary Hooper will be integral to the Canaries hopes, while they’ll hope that Luis Suarez picks up an injury before Liverpool’s visit to Carrow Road. The Villains will hope that Paul Lambert’s young side can spark a second half of the season revival, similarly to last term. Getting Christian Benteke back to full fitness and
Fulham, West Ham and Sunderland end the year propping up the table; Fulham have been disappointing all season, and new manager Rene Meulensteen has struggled to spark a sustained revival – signings in January could prove crucial, while West Ham’s hopes seem to be pinned on Andy Carroll. If the Geordie can recapture the Newcastle form that led to his ill-fated £35million move to Anfield in 2011, then Sam Allardyce’s Hammers will stand a chance of staying up, but it’s a big if, given Carroll is returning from a significant injury. Sunderland have improved under Gus Poyet’s tuteledge, but again, keeping their star striker Steven Fletcher fit will be of paramount importance.
It will be fascinating to see which teams survive.
Bottom 5 – Prediction:
19: West Ham
Capital One Cup – Prediction:
Winner: Man City
Man City’s squad strength will see them into the final, where I predict they will deny David Moyes his first meaningful silverware at Utd.
FA Cup – Prediction:
Not really a prediction this one. More my hope that Rodgers’ will win a first trophy with Liverpool, although hopefully not at the expense of Champions League qualification.
World Cup – England – Prediction:
Roy Hodgson will be unable to buck the trend of miserable Quarter-Final exits, while the ‘Golden Generation’s last stand will unfortunately end in disappointment.
So there we have it. My predictions for the rest of the season in 2014. If it ends up as I have predicted I’ll be astonished – as ever they’ll be many twists, turns and shocks along the way.
Feel free to comment below if you disagree with my predictions, or to submit your own predictions as to how it will all unfold.