Die-hard fans predict how race will end

Mohamed Salah will need to rediscover his best form if Liverpool are to remain in the title race....
Mohamed Salah will need to rediscover his best form if Liverpool are to remain in the title race. PHOTOS: REUTERS
Monday losses for two of the three leading teams in the English Premier League threatened to spoil this idea. But it has been — and still well could be — one of the great title races, and there are three fans at the Otago Daily Times poised to celebrate or plunge into a deep melancholy. Sports editor Hayden Meikle and colleagues Mike Houlahan and Rob Kidd predict how things will pan out.

Hayden Meikle

My club: The greatest club in the world, of course. Liverpool. The academy of footballing excellence. The Red Men. King Kenny and Klopp, Stevie G and Stevie Heighway, Shanks and Paisley. Every day I give thanks to the footballing gods for making me a Liverpool fan.

The situation: Liverpool are third — tied with Arsenal on 71 points, just two behind Manchester City — with six games to play. Could be worse! But we’ve just blown five points in two league games, one against a dreadful Manchester United team and one at home, and been smashed in the first leg of a European quarterfinal. After dealing with a bulging injury list, it feels like we are running out of steam.

Games remaining: Fulham away (should win); Everton away (groan, might be a draw); West Ham away (tricky enough); Tottenham home (win); Aston Villa away (tough); Wolves at home (surely a win in Klopp’s last game).

Current mood: Grim, to be honest. It has been a really good season — already won the League Cup, and been right near the top of the table for ages — and obviously a marvellous few years. But the signs of poor form have been coming for a while. We are misfiring badly in front of goal. Even Magic Mo the mighty Egyptian is off the pace.

What needs to happen: Arsenal rediscovering their flakiness and City getting four season-ending injuries would be a start. Clearly, Liverpool need to win all six remaining games, too. Klopp somehow needs to get this team pumping again. And if we could convert even 10% of our goal chances, it would help.

If not my club, who do I want to win the title: Arsenal. Spurs. Wrexham. Anyone but the blue club from Abu Dhabi . . . sorry, Manchester, with 115 charges of systematic financial doping hanging over them.

My best guess: City race away with it from here. Arsenal second, Liverpool third, Villa cling on for fourth. Auf wiedersehen, Herr Klopp. Sob.

Astute Arsenal manager Mikel Arteta hopes to lead his club to a first Premier League title in 20...
Astute Arsenal manager Mikel Arteta hopes to lead his club to a first Premier League title in 20 years.

Mike Houlahan

My club: 1-0 to the Arsenal. In 1976, when lining up in the infield of Avondale racecourse one wet Saturday morning for my first game of football, I was asked what team I supported. I didn’t know I had to support a team. Watching Big League Soccer with Brian Moore at lunchtime the next day, I settled on the team with the cannon on their chest . . . the path not travelled — thankfully — was Stoke City. How sad an Arsenal fan am I? Not quite tattoo-of-the-crest-on-my-arm sad, but our boy shares the same first name as Liam Brady, my hero growing up.

The situation: Arsenal are second, having possibly blown our chances for the title for the second year running following our capitulation to Aston Villa — managed, lest we forget, by our former manager Unai Emery. Thank you and good ebening indeed. Liverpool are third — tied with Arsenal on 71 points, but given how Crystal Palace of all teams outplayed them on Sunday, they are surely done.

Games remaining: Wolves away (should win but this is just the sort of match we could lose); Chelsea home (win); Spurs away (an absolute must win, no matter what the table looks like); Bournemouth home (win); Manchester United away (not easy, but win); Everton home (a win, and we’ve won the title beating Everton at home before, so that’s a nice omen).

Current mood: Terrific, right up until the 84th minute on Sunday. This Arsenal, given steel by the addition of Declan Rice in the offseason, had looked destined not to crumble like we did last season. Now every game is an absolute must win, we need someone to do us a favour against an unrelenting City side, and captain fantastic Martin Odegaard looks crocked. Given our wasteful first half against Villa, the murmurings asking why Arsenal didn’t buy a striker last season may well get louder.

What needs to happen: Erling Haaland, Kevin De Bruyne and Rodri all to suffer season-ending injuries at training this week, Liverpool to keep on misfiring, and Mikel Arteta to restore belief to the Arsenal dressing room.

If not my club, who do I want to win the title: Burnley or Luton. But given that won’t happen, Liverpool, please.

My best guess: Arsenal fans are born pessimists — the Wenger years were a glorious anomaly. City to romp home, prior to having their title stripped from them after an investigation into their financial shenanigans, and Arsenal to throw it away again. Now prove me wrong, boys.

Erling Haaland and his Manchester City team-mates are warm favourites to make it six Premier...
Erling Haaland and his Manchester City team-mates are warm favourites to make it six Premier League titles in the past seven years.

Rob Kidd

My club: Current Premier League champions, FA Cup, Champions League, Uefa Super Cup and Fifa World Club Cup holders; the best team in the land and all the world; the only team in Manchester — Man City.

The situation: Top of the league by two points. It’s the first time we have hit pole position since 12 games into the season; not a bad time to peak. Hopefully it is just a replay of last year. As Ruben Dias says: "This is when we get big."

Games remaining: Brighton away (win); Forest away (draw, probably to a last-minute Chris Wood goal); Wolves home (win); Fulham away (draw); Spurs away (loss, as usual); West Ham home (win).

Current mood: To be a proper City fan is to be perpetually pessimistic, and then surprised when they exceed your expectations, which, to be fair, has happened quite a bit in recent years. Do not listen to the Liverpool and Arsenal fans who pit us as the big-spending, evil Goliath, while they are the plucky little Davids, scraping wins together on a meagre budget. In 1999, when their fans were crying about missing out on the Premier League title by a point (Arsenal) and failing to qualify for the Intertoto Cup (Liverpool), I was watching us lose 2-1 at Lincoln City in the third division. But I cannot help but feel it is someone else’s turn to win the league this year, most likely the scouse scum given the Premier League loves a fairy tale and will no doubt want to give Klopp his joyful send-off. Winning the treble last year was football utopia for me. It will never get any better, so while I am desperate for more success, I am also waiting for the bubble to burst. There are some tired legs in our squad this year and I do not know if we quite have the edge we did last year. That said, you cannot write off Man City when the pressure is on.

My best guess: Liverpool win it for Klopp and his dentures, Arsenal second, City third. Prove me wrong, lads.

 - What do you think? Liverpool to send Klopp out a winner, Arsenal to break their long title drought, or Manchester City to win yet another trophy? Email us (sport@odt.co.nz) your thoughts.