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klopp drop My predictions for Premier League's top four...and champions Liverpool are going to miss out

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Jurgen Klopp's Liverpool have fallen way below the standards they set themselves in recent seasons

Jurgen Klopp's Liverpool have fallen way below the standards they set themselves in recent seasons

Jurgen Klopp's Liverpool have fallen way below the standards they set themselves in recent seasons

LIVERPOOL have been facing a fight to finish in the top four of the Premier League for the last few weeks - and I suspect they are on course to lose it.

Just two months ago, it looked like Jurgen Klopp’s men were in a two-team fight for the Premier League title, but I suggested in my column back then that Liverpool could not win the title unless a top-quality defender arrived in the January transfer window.

There were plenty of Liverpool fans on my Twitter feed telling me I was being too pessimistic to doubt Klopp’s ability to find a way to plug the holes left by first-choice defenders Virgil van Dijk and Joe Gomez.

Yet all my warnings have now come home to roost and in a manner that’s left everyone who has witnessed Liverpool’s collapse scrambling for answers.

The harsh truth is that Liverpool have lost their way in a manner that has done so much damage to their self-belief and confidence that they are now outsiders to claim a top-four finish.

I never believed I’d be writing those words in late February, but it’s the only conclusion we can come to.

This is a Liverpool team that has lost four times at Anfield for the first time in a century, a side that looks to have run out of ideas and a set of players whose confidence has been shattered.

Here is my rundown on the team that will finish in the top four this season.


1. MANCHESTER CITY

The champions-elect have cashed in on Liverpool’s collapse in impressive fashion.

They have had to deal with injuries to key men Kevin De Bruyne and Sergio Aguero and have done it much better than Liverpool have done with their absentees, so they fully deserve to be champions.

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Pep Guardiola is strolling to the league title

Pep Guardiola is strolling to the league title

Pep Guardiola is strolling to the league title

City boss Pep Guardiola will also be eyeing up a shot at the Champions League and they will never have a better chance in a season when so many of the top teams are struggling.

However, City tend to bottle it in the final stages of Europe’s top competition, so let’s see if they can handle the heat this season.

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2. MANCHESTER UNITED

They are not a great side and Ole Gunnar Solskjaer is a manager with a lot of questions to answer, but United are finding a way to get wins on the board.

They have been given huge help from referees at times and some of the penalty decisions that have gone in their favour at both ends of the pitch have been hard to believe.

Yet they have some good quality forward players, with Bruno Fernandes and Marcus Rashford leading their challenge, and they are looking good to finish in second place behind City.

3. LEICESTER

I’m not sure whether Brendan Rodgers’ side will finish third or fourth, but I fancy them to secure a Champions League finish this time.

They were in a very similar position last season and blew up when football resumed behind closed doors last summer, so Rodgers will be hoping they have learned from that experience.

Leicester are a decent side and they are well organised by Rodgers, with the nine-point advantage they have over Liverpool hard to close in the final 13 games of the season.


4. CHELSEA

On paper, Chelsea have one of the most impressive squads in the Premier League and Frank Lampard wasn’t getting the best out of them.

That’s why he was replaced with Thomas Tuchel and the impact from the new manager has been instant, with Chelsea going on a winning run and getting into the top four mix.

Tuchel is a manager with a good track record and if he can get them into the Champions League next season, his first task at the club will be complete.


5. LIVERPOOL

Jurgen Klopp (inset) has too many defensive issues to cover up to make the top four unless he pulls off a miracle and finds a way to start winning matches.

Home form has now become a massive issue and while I think they could pick up wins on their travels, as they did at West Ham and Spurs last month, Anfield is now throwing up psychological problems for Klopp’s players.

They need to get back on track quickly or the threat of Europa League football next season will be very real.


BEST OF THE REST

Everton fans have been partying like its 1999 in the last few days, after they won at Anfield for the first time since that date in ancient history last weekend.

When you have had such a barren run with nothing to cheer, you can understand why they are getting excited, but I don’t see Carlo Ancelotti’s men as top four contenders.

After all, they lost at home to Fulham earlier this month and caught Liverpool at the perfect moment, so top six is their best hope.

As for West Ham, they have done well to be currently sitting in fourth place, but they won’t be able to keep it going.

They’ve had a few things go their way this season and I just don’t see them riding their luck through to the end and securing a Champions League finish.

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