Premier League: Who will win the title - and who will beat the drop?

run-in

With seven games to go, things are hotting up at the top and bottom of the Premier League.

We spoke to seven BBC pundits to get their views on what will happen in the climax to the season, and why.

Do you agree? Send us your 1-2-3-4 and/or 18-19-20 predictions on Twitter, with the hashtag #bbcsportsday

THE TOP OF THE TABLE

ALAN HANSEN, MATCH OF THE DAY

Alan Hansen

1. Man Utd 2. Man City 3. Tottenham 4. Arsenal

Who will win the title, and why?

"In some ways you can say Manchester United will win it because they are Manchester United.

"Manchester City may have better players and greater strength in depth but, when it comes to the crucial business of a title run-in, United have been there, seen it and done it over this course and distance so many times.

"And in Sir Alex Ferguson they have got a manager who demands unity and that sense of purpose that is crucial at the big moments. Ferguson does not simply want this - he demands it. They have never become fragmented because their manager will not allow it.

"They have also shown, vitally and unlike City, that they know how to get the job done when it needs doing. United may not have been sparkling against Fulham or Blackburn but they came away with six points."

What is the runner-up lacking?

"I would say it was unity. I did think for a period earlier this season that City would win the title because they did look like a team that was together and had spirit.

"Of course history tells us it is easy to be like this when you are winning. This has not been the case when they started to struggle and we saw the evidence for ourselves against Sunderland when Mario Balotelli started squabbling with his team-mates over a free-kick."

Who else will finish in the top four?

"Spurs have been excellent this season and Arsenal have come with a great run of form after really struggling early on.

"Chelsea still have the capacity to prove me wrong, but my reasoning is that Spurs and Arsenal have that five-point cushion and Roberto di Matteo's team have some big games coming up in the FA Cup and Champions League semi-final so I think they will finish fifth."

ALAN SHEARER, MATCH OF THE DAY

Alan Shearer

1. Man Utd 2. Man City 3. Tottenham 4. Arsenal

Who will win the title, and why?

"United are favourites now because they have been there, seen it and done it so many times and they are used to the situation they are in.

"I still think there will be twists and turns between now and the end of the season. The game between City and United on 30 April could still decide a lot but I think both of them will drop points between now and the end of the season. I'm backing United."

What is the runner-up lacking?

"City have had a lot of problems off the pitch, rather than on it. The rows between their manager Roberto Mancini and players wouldn't have helped at all."

Who else will finish in the top four?

"Tottenham and Arsenal, meaning Chelsea will miss out on the Champions League. That would be a huge blow for them because that is where their owner Roman Abramovich wants them to be, and the competition he most wants them to win.

Former Chelsea manager Andre Villas-Boas
Chelsea sacked Villas-Boas on 4 March

"Chelsea have made it hard for themselves because of decisions they have made this season.

"They went for youth when they went for Andre Villas-Boas last summer to try to change things at the club. His problem was that he probably tried to do everything too soon and it didn't work. A lot of the senior players fell out with him because they weren't playing and I understood that situation.

"I will be fascinated to see where Chelsea go from the end of the season. Depending on how they end up doing in the Champions League, where they finish in the league, who they appoint as manager in the summer and which players they sign - it is a crucial five or six months for them."

LEE DIXON, MATCH OF THE DAY

Lee Dixon

1. Man Utd 2. Man City 3. Arsenal 4. Tottenham

Who will win the title, and why?

"I think United will win it now. If they beat QPR on Sunday they will be eight points clear before City play Arsenal."

What is the runner-up lacking?

"City's form has simply not held up and their away form has let them down. Consistency and the fact United time their run exactly right most years has been the difference. A harmonious squad has also been a factor. Too many distractions don't help the cause."

Who else will finish in the top four?

"I think Arsenal and Spurs will get the two last Champions League spots. Arsenal's form has been superb, although they had a wake-up call at QPR.

"Tottenham's fixtures are the easiest out of the contenders so they may well pip Arsenal to third. Arsenal's games versus Chelsea and City are key. Chelsea to finish fifth."

MARK LAWRENSON, MATCH OF THE DAY

Mark Lawrenson

1. Man Utd 2. Man City 3. Tottenham 4. Arsenal

Who will win the title, and why?

Antonio Valencia celebrates his late goal at Blackburn
Antonio Valencia celebrates his goal at Blackburn

"United, because they are the best team and they keep on doing what they do best - win, even when they don't play well.

"They sometimes score late in games but it is not down to luck. They make the pitch as big as it can be, they have stacks of pace and they keep attacking so they just wear teams down.

"City did not play well against Swansea and Stoke in recent weeks and they dropped points. United would have overcome that and won those games."

What is the runner-up lacking?

"City boss Roberto Mancini has got too many things wrong, particularly away from home where he has set his team up badly in recent weeks.

"They lost their momentum and some of their key players have lost form. David Silva was their key to opening up teams earlier in the season but he looks exhausted and these days they struggle to break teams down.

"In contrast to United, they look very narrow if Adam Johnson doesn't play and, although they get their full-backs forward, teams know how to play against that."

Who else will finish in the top four?

"I can see Tottenham and Arsenal going on a really good run between now and the end of the season.

"Chelsea have got some ground to make up and, with the Blues in the Champions League and FA Cup, I think the number of games they are going to have to play will hold them back."

ROBBIE SAVAGE, BBC RADIO 5 LIVE

Robbie Savage

1. Man Utd 2. Man City 3. Arsenal 4. Tottenham

Who will win the title, and why?

"United may not always have played well but they always win games, especially at this stage of the season.

"They have the experience of winning titles and the momentum they have at the moment means that by the time they go to the Etihad Stadium on 30 April, United could be well clear."

What is the runner-up lacking?

Manchester City midfielder Yaya Toure
Toure missed a month of the season to play at the Africa Cup of Nations

"City have lacked the mental strength to get over the line and, recently, their away performances have been poor.

"Losing Yaya Toure for the Africa Cup of Nations for a month from the middle of January was a huge blow and, since then, I think too many of their players have gone off the boil at the wrong time of the season.

"Look at City's squad. There are not too many players there who have won major league titles. Not having the mentality of getting over the line will hurt City this year.

Who else will finish in the top four?

"Tottenham going to Stamford Bridge and getting a point was a huge result for them in getting a top-four finish.

"For me, Chelsea are going to have to win the Champions League to qualify for it again and I cannot see them doing that. Missing out might affect who their new manager can attract to the club in the summer."

PAT NEVIN, BBC RADIO 5 LIVE

Pat Nevin

1. Man Utd 2. Man City 3. Arsenal 4. Tottenham

Who will win the title, and why?

Manchester United boss Sir Alex Ferguson
Ferguson is chasing his 13th Premier League title

"Since the turn of the year I've changed my mind. I thought City before then, but just looking at the way it has gone in 2012, United are doing what Manchester United always do.

"They've just put their foot on the gas and started to power ahead. And they are used to it. They've been there so many times before.

"It's hard to tell you what the reasons are for this. Player for player, I don't think there's a great deal between United and City.

"Everything else being equal, it's the gaffer. It's Sir Alex Ferguson. He's been there so many times and he seems to know what you have to do at certain points to win games at this time of the season. It doesn't mean Roberto Mancini is a poor manager but just that Sir Alex is special."

What is the runner-up lacking?

"I think it's probably experience more than anything else. Next season could be a bit different for them because they had a brilliant run at the start of the season and their home record has been fantastic, but their run over the last four or five weeks has been really poor.

"Having been there once before, they will know that they can do it and it just needs something extra in the end to keep them going. I'm not saying they are definitely not going to win the league but I would suggest that next season David Silva and Sergio Aguero will last the whole season before their form dips as they will be used to it.

"They maybe got a little bit unlucky with a couple of injuries as Vincent Kompany got injured at an important time and whoever the manager is, and I hope it's Mancini, they may well bring in a little bit more strength in depth in that centre-back area."

Who else will finish in the top four?

"This is a tricky one. I just think Chelsea are coming back to form at a decent time. Newcastle are right in there and your heart might want them to do it but there are only two spots up for grabs and the top four is probably beyond the Magpies.

"With Chelsea still in the Champions League, I think they will probably falter too. Will it be the end of the world if they finish fifth? No. I'm old enough to remember that Chelsea didn't always get into the Champions League and survived.

"I shrug my shoulders and say 'rebuild'. I get a bit bored of people talking about the top four - give me the FA Cup anytime."

THE BOTTOM OF THE TABLE

ALAN HANSEN, MATCH OF THE DAY

Alan Hansen

18. Bolton 19. QPR 20. Wolves

Who is going down?

"Wolves have gone for me, but the relegation battle is the most difficult of all to predict because suddenly QPR, Bolton and Wigan have started to get results and Blackburn have been decent pretty much every time I've seen them.

"I think Blackburn have got enough to stay up and I think Wigan have started to play very well so I will say Wolves will finish bottom, followed by QPR and Bolton. I should add that I make that prediction with no confidence whatsoever because I genuinely feel it can go any way."

What will keep the other teams up?

"Wigan have experience of this situation and have started to perform while I do think Blackburn have shown enough all season to suggest they can get the points needed."

ALAN SHEARER, MATCH OF THE DAY

Alan Shearer

18. Wigan 19. QPR 20. Wolves

Who is going down?

"This is a tough call. Aston Villa are in dreadful form but I think they are safe because they just need another win. Wigan have given themselves a chance by winning their last two games but I think they will go down with Wolves, who just concede too many goals to stay up.

"And QPR are in big trouble. They are without striker Djibril Cisse for another couple of games and they have got a really tough run-in so they are going to struggle to pick up points."

What will keep the other teams up?

Yakubu and Junior Hoilett
Between them, Yakubu and Hoilett have scored 20 Premier League goals this season

"A couple of weeks ago, I would have said that Blackburn were out of trouble but other teams winning means they have been dragged back into the relegation battle.

"I hope Rovers stay up because they are one of my former clubs. And they have got two guys in Junior Hoilett and Yakubu who can score goals, which is why I have got a little bit more hope for them more than the other sides.

" but the near-tragic events at White Hart Lane when Fabrice Muamba collapsed with a cardiac arrest, and his subsequent recovery, might spur them on."

LEE DIXON, MATCH OF THE DAY

Lee Dixon

18. QPR 19. Wigan 20. Wolves

Who is going down?

"I don't see Aston Villa being dragged into the scrap at the bottom. Wolves are down and QPR and Wigan will join them in the Championship next season."

What will keep the other teams up?

"Blackburn can score goals, and that will save them. Bolton have a relatively easy fixture list compared with QPR and Wigan so that could save them too."

MARK LAWRENSON, MATCH OF THE DAY

Mark Lawrenson

18. Wigan 19. QPR 20. Wolves

Who is going down?

"Wolves have gone. They never look like scoring and they concede some really soft goals under pressure.

"Defensively, QPR also have problems and they will miss suspended striker Djibril Cisse in part of their run-in. Wigan have given themselves a chance of staying up with a mini-revival in their last four games but I can't see it lasting."

What will keep the other teams up?

"Blackburn have got a goal threat in Yakubu and they are also in pretty much every game they play - they are rarely beaten out of sight like some of their rivals.

"Bolton are timing their improvement in form just right and I think the situation with Fabrice Muamba and his subsequent recovery has brought the whole club together even more."

ROBBIE SAVAGE, BBC RADIO 5 LIVE

Robbie Savage

18. Wigan 19. QPR 20. Wolves

Who is going down?

"Wolves, who seem to lack a leader on the pitch and QPR, who have the hardest run-in out of the clubs down there, look in deep trouble.

"Blackburn and Bolton have more chance of getting out of it than Wigan."

What will keep the other teams up?

"The goals of Junior Hoilett and Yakubu will keep Blackburn up. You are only as good as your strikers and, in those two, Rovers have got players who can score goals. They concede a lot but Rovers are among the highest scorers in the Premier League."

"Fabrice Muamba's recovery will inspire Bolton because it will give them a boost and they will want to stay up for him as much as for themselves."

PAT NEVIN, BBC RADIO 5 LIVE

Pat Nevin

18. Blackburn 19. QPR 20. Wolves

Who is going down?

"I would kick out Wolves right away. I just don't think they have got enough left and they are too far behind.

"QPR are just seem to be up and down, despite having a decent quality squad. Aston Villa will be dragged into it but they will survive. I think it's Wolves, QPR and, after that it's really tough, but I'll say Blackburn.

QPR boss Mark Hughes
Hughes took charge at Loftus Road in January

"QPR have been so changeable. It's not really Mark Hughes's team yet. He's just basically trying to patch something together. It wouldn't be a reflection on Hughes if they went down.

"Blackburn's dependency on Yakubu has been too extreme. Junior Hoillett has also done well and is a fabulous player but I don't know if they have enough between them to save them."

What will keep the other teams up?

"Good management from Bolton and Wigan and a belief in the system they are playing.

"Lots of people were writing off Wigan but I really argued strongly against that. When they were faltering about three or four weeks ago I spoke to manager Roberto Martinez. I'd also watched them a bit and thought they were playing quite well. They've had a really good run and got it together and I rate their manager highly."

Top Stories