With approximately three months left in the Premier League season, the title race is looking more and more locked up by Manchester United.
United's 2-1 win over Blackburn coupled with Liverpool's 1-1 draw with Manchester City this weekend puts United seven points clear at the top with just 12 matches to play. United's run of nine straight wins and 14 matches unbeaten in the league makes it hard to see how they would concede this race.
Although the top spot seems to be taken, there are still many position battles left to be determined. Can Arsenal unseat Aston Villa and get back into the top four? Will Middlesbrough win another game and escape from the bottom three? Will Everton be able to sneak into Europe?
To answer these and all your other burning EPL questions, I present a new weekly segment to predict the final standings of the Premier League. Check back every Monday for an updated table.
1. Manchester United (94 Points)
Current Position - 1 (62 Points)
It's just hard to see them ever losing again. Maybe the Champions League takes its toll and they drop one unexpectedly, but even then it would be tough to drop them from the top spot.
2. Liverpool (81 Points)
Current Position - 2 (55 Points)
Liverpool must beat Manchester United at Old Trafford to have a shot at the title. In my opinion, their best possible result is a draw. Even after their draw with Man City, I think the Reds have enough in the tank to secure second in the table and a Champions League group stage berth next fall.
3. Chelsea (79 Points)
Current Position - 3 (52 Points)
The theme with Chelsea this season has been that they beat the bad teams and struggle against the good teams. Fortunately for the Blues and new manager Guus Hiddink, they only team from the current top five they face again is Arsenal. I expect Chelsea to build off their win over Villa on Saturday and hold on to their current third position.
4. Aston Villa (76 Points)
Current Position - 4 (51 Points)
It's hard to see Villa dropping many more matches the rest of the campaign. Unfortunately for them, the same can be said for the three clubs in front of them. Villa still has to face top half teams Man United, Liverpool, Fulham, and Man City away, while hosting Everton and West Ham at Villa Park. To weather that schedule and still gain a Champions League spot would be a success for the West Midlands club.
5. Arsenal (69 Points)
Current Position - 5 (45 Points)
The story of Arsenal's season has been too many draws. Saturday's match against Sunderland was the perfect example. Even if Arsenal were to win the rest of their home matches (six), it still isn't enough to vault them past Villa into the fourth and final Champions League spot.
6. Everton (61 Points)
Current Position - 6 (41 Points)
The table deviates from the current standings soon, I promise. Everton suffered a massive blow with the loss of Mikel Arteta for the remainder of the season. Prior to that injury, I thought they had the chance to overtake Arsenal, but it now seems less likely. Everton faces four of the bottom six teams over the next month, but then must play six of their final eight against the current top half.
7. West Ham United (52 Points)
Current Position - 8 (33 Points)
The Hammers were unlucky not to take at least a point from Saturday's match with Bolton. They have been playing very well as of late and have only six matches left versus the current top half, with three coming at home. If Gianfranco Zola can find someone suitable to partner with Carlton Cole at the front, the Hammers will be able to take a good share of their remaining points.
8. Wigan (51 Points)
Current Position - 7 (35 Points)
Wigan's last eight matches have only featured one that has produced more than a singular goal. The Latics have managed to take 10 points from those matches, but haven't scored more than one goal in a game since Boxing Day. Wigan will need to do better than that to stay in the top half of the table.
9. Manchester City (50 Points)
Current Position - 10 (32 Points)
City has played very well since making moves in the transfer window, winning four of six including Sunday's 1-1 draw with Liverpool at Anfield. Fifty points for City might be a bit generous considering their remaining matches, as they still must travel to Man United, Everton, Arsenal, Chelsea and West Ham.
10. Fulham (47 Points)
Current Position - 8 (33 Points - 1 game in hand)
The Cottagers have moved up and down the table this year, but have been very difficult to beat at home, taking at least a point from 11 of their 12 matches there. In order to stay in the top half, this trend will have to continue to some degree, as Man United, Aston Villa, Everton, and Liverpool all pay a visit to Southeast London in the remaining weeks of the campaign.
11. Bolton (47 Points)
Current Position - 12 (30 Points)
Maybe it's because they just won a game where they were not the better side for the majority of the match. Maybe it's because they play eight of their final 12 matches against the bottom 11 teams. I'm not sure what it is, but I think Bolton has a solid final three months of the season and might even squeak into the top half.
12. Tottenham (43 Points)
Current Position - 14 (28 Points)
Needless to say this has been a disappointing season for the Spurs, but the arrivals of Jermain Defoe and Robbie Keane in the window have significantly improved their attacking options. Spurs have a lot of games on their schedule, with the UEFA Cup and Carling Cup Final in addition to the league, but I see enough draws in their future to stay afloat.
13. Hull City (41 Points)
Current Position - 13 (29 Points)
This is the part of the table where it starts to come down to who can earn a point from their fixtures. I don't see Hull winning too many more of their games, especially losing their record signing Jimmy Bullard for the season. However, if they can take a point from enough games, I think the Tigers have a good chance of survival.
14. Sunderland (41 Points)
Current Position - 11 (30 Points)
Looking at the schedule for the club, I don't see many more wins. But their recent form has been decent to the point that they could steal points from the likes of Wigan or even Everton and should be able to position themselves well enough to stay afloat.
15. Newcastle (41 Points)
Current Position - 15 (28 Points)
See the Sunderland paragraph above for my thoughts. This team battled it out for a half with 10 men against Everton at home yesterday, and has shown that they will fight to do the same against other top clubs as well. Their remaining schedule is difficult, with matches Man United, Arsenal, Chelsea, Liverpool, and Villa still to play, but if the Magpies take the points they are supposed to I think they survive.
16. Portsmouth (33 Points)
Current Position - 16 (28 Points)
Another club who have had a disappointing season, but their well-deserved point against Stoke this weekend might be crucial in their survival. This club still has one match remaining with each team currently in the bottom three, which will be the most important left on their schedule.
And the final survivor is.........
17. Blackburn (32 Points)
Current Position - 18 (23 Points - 1 game in hand)
The decision between Blackburn and Stoke City came down to their head-to-head match. I think that with the Rovers' remaining schedule, if they can take at least a point from that match, they will be assured of survival.
18. Stoke City (31 Points)
Current Position - 17 (25 Points)
Stoke was cruelly denied an extra two points this weekend against Portsmouth, and seeing the look on manager Tony Pulis' face he knows how crucial they were. Stoke have six matches remaining against the current top half, with four on the road. It is hard to see them taking enough points from there to stay alive.
19. Middlesbrough (27 Points)
Current Position - 19 (23 Points)
Boro's recent form is the reason for them staying in the drop zone. Yes, they've taken two points from their last three, but with no wins since early November I don't see many more coming.
20. West Bromwich Albion (25 Points)
Current Position - 20 (22 Points)
The Baggies' fight for survival will be difficult, and ultimately they will not have enough to stay afloat. Perhaps they will be able to surprise a team or two, but this late in the season, the fixture against WBA becomes a must win for all their opponents, and I think it is enough to keep them from staying up.