1. Leicester not to make the top four
CLAUDIO RANIERI HAS admitted that his team’s target at the start of the campaign was to avoid relegation, and already in that regard, the season has been a success, with the Foxes claiming the 40 points generally needed to avoid the drop. Some people have tipped them to finish in the top four, which seems realistic, given their current position of second, but as amazing as their success has been, it’s not unheard of for a team with limited resources to be overachieving at the midway point of the season.
This time last year, for instance, Southampton were in the top four. Leicester lack the squad depth of their rivals, and so with key player Jamie Vardy set for surgery, they could set for an anti-climactic end to what has been a phenomenal season overall.
2. Harry Kane to lead the England attack at Euro 2016 at the expense of Wayne Rooney
Harry Kane scored 27 Premier League goals in 2015 — more than any other player. Wayne Rooney, over the same period, managed six. Unless there is a dramatic reversal of both players’ fortunes prior to the Euros in June, then Kane surely deserves to start as the main striker ahead of the Man United star.
Even Jamie Vardy has more of a claim to figure than the 30-year-old, though with Roy Hodgson generally preferring to play with one striker, Vardy is probably more likely to start in one of the wide roles if at all.
3. Mesut Ozil to be named player of the year
Along with Jamie Vardy and Riyad Mahrez, Mesut Ozil has been the Premier League’s standout attacking player so far this season. The German international and 2014 World Cup winner already has racked up 16 assists — twice as many as his closest rival (Man City’s Kevin De Bruyne) and just two less than last season’s assist king (Cesc Fabregas).
If Ozil can maintain this form and help Arsenal launch a sustained title challenge, then it seems likely that the former Real Madrid star will claim the PFA Player of the Year gong at the end of the season.
4. Louis van Gaal to remain as Manchester United manager until the end of the season
Louis van Gaal has been under immense pressure, owing to his dull style of football and an underwhelming campaign that has seen Man United knocked out of the Champions League at the group stages.
However, newspaper reports have recently indicated that the board has no intention of sacking the Dutch manager anytime soon, and the Red Devils have shown signs of life lately, putting in improved performances in the 0-0 draw with Chelsea and the 2-1 victory against Swansea.
5. Rob Elliot to keep his place in the Newcastle side until the end of the season and win a Euro 2016 Ireland squad place
Rob Elliot has been a fringe member of the Ireland squad at best throughout his career, with David Forde, Shay Given and Darren Randolph all preferred to the Newcastle goalkeeper at various points. However, unlike those aforementioned names, Elliot is now starting regularly in the Premier League, with the Magpies’ usual number one Tim Krul out with a long-term injury.
If Elliot can keep his place in the Newcastle side until the end of the campaign, then Martin O’Neill faces a difficult decision: does he stay loyal to the players who have got him to the Euros, or does he opt for the stars that are showing the better form? Surely, if Elliot continues his current level of performance, there will only be one sensible option.
6. Man City to win the Premier League
There’s arguably never been a more open Premier League, with Arsenal, Man City, Tottenham and even Leicester being mentioned as possible contenders in recent weeks. Of those teams, however, only City know what it feels like to have won a Premier League in the last 10 years.
Moreover, on top form, Vincent Kompany, David Silva and Sergio Aguero are still probably the best players in England in their respective positions, so Manuel Pellegrini’s side are conceivably the best equipped team to go all the way.
7. Alan Judge to be a Premier League player by the end of the year
Alan Judge has been on fire for Brentford this season, registering eight assists (more than any other player in the league apart from Birmingham’s Clayton Donaldson) and 10 goals (which makes him the joint fourth highest top scorer in the Championship).
The 27-year-old Dublin-born midfielder and former Ireland U21 international has never been in better form and will surely be playing in the Premier League sooner rather than later. Whether it’s with Brentford, who are chasing promotion, or one of the host of top-flight clubs he has been linked with, remains to be seen.