While many Reds fans will have been delighted with Jurgen Klopp’s appointment this October, it will take more than half a season for them to fully see the German’s potential. They have seen flashes of brilliance in his three months in charge, such as the impressive 3-1 victory against Chelsea at Stamford Bridge and the crushing 4-1 defeat of Manchester City. The Reds have also embarked on an impressive League Cup run and reached the last 32 of the Europa League as they look to claim their first piece of silverware in four years. However, Liverpool are still beset by the inconsistencies which have affected them in previous seasons, as their form both at home and away has been unpredictable this season. However, their cause has not been helped by injuries to key players. Their striking options in particular have been depleted by the ongoing injury problems troubling Daniel Sturridge and the serious injury picked up by summer signing Danny Ings. There is nonetheless still much to play for at Anfield.
Manuel Pellegrini’s side can look back on a positive start to the season across all competitions. As well as pipping Juventus to top spot in their Champions League group, they also remain very much in the race for the Premier League title in addition to still being in both domestic cup competitions. Although star striker Sergio Aguero has missed chunks of the season through injury, they have again been impressive in attack and are the league’s leading scorers. If they are to pull ahead in the title race, City must look to start taking more points from the teams around them in the table. They have failed to beat any of the other sides currently in the top seven this season, a record which includes four defeats against Arsenal, Tottenham, West Ham and Stoke. Their main challenges will be ensuring their involvement in the other major competitions does not affect their Premier League hopes, and also having to compete without captain Vincent Kompany; the Belgian has missed much of the season through injury and may not return until the latter stages of the campaign.
The Premier League giants are still trying to re-capture the consistency and class that has been largely absent since Sir Alex Ferguson’s retirement in 2013. There has been much speculation about manager Louis van Gaal’s future, but the former Netherlands coach remains at the helm. A disastrous run in December in particular increased the pressure on him, as United failed to win a game and suffered three consecutive defeats. Goals have been the main issue at times throughout the season so far, particularly at home where they have contested four goalless draws in the Premier League. Wayne Rooney has showed signs of finding his goal scoring form recently with six goals in his last six games in all competitions, including the winning goal away at fierce rivals Liverpool. Although a push for the title looks unlikely – their 3-0 defeat at Arsenal in October was an early indicator that top spot was likely to be beyond their reach – a top four finish is a must for van Gaal. United should also look to utilise the FA Cup to their advantage in order to appease frustrated supporters.
It’s been yet another erratic season on Tyneside so far. At their worst, Steve McClaren’s side have looked like a side destined for relegation. However, when they are at their best it is hard to believe that they are anywhere near the relegation places. It was tough start for McClaren as the Magpies had to wait until October for their first league win. Although staying up is far from improbable, Newcastle will have to significantly improve in the second half of the season. Only Aston Villa have won fewer games, and only north-east rivals Sunderland and Norwich have conceded more goals in the league. The nature of some of their wins and their recent performances have shown they do possess the necessary talent to survive. They have picked up wins against Tottenham and Liverpool, and only a superb performance from Petr Cech prevented them taking three points away at Arsenal at the start of January. Summer signing Georginio Wijnaldum will be key to the outcome of their campaign. The Dutch midfielder has been in impressive form this season and has eight goals to his name so far, including four in the 6-2 thrashing of Norwich in October.
The Canaries look to be facing a battle against relegation, but they have shown some positive signs this season. As well as claiming vital wins against their potential relegation rivals, they have also shown they are capable of taking points from the top teams in the division. Their 2-1 victory at Manchester United was a season highlight, while they have also taken points in games against Arsenal, West Ham and Liverpool. Though they have an impressive portfolio of midfielders, they have looked light up front and fans will be hoping the loan signing of Patrick Bamford will give them a boost. The East Anglian side also face a potentially tricky final few games to the season, so will be looking to secure their safety way in advance of those testing fixtures.
Though Ronald Koeman’s men have endured a largely mixed campaign so far, their recent good form has pushed them into the top half of the table. After a sluggish start, the Saints’ campaign then began to pick up after a six-game unbeaten run in the league, and they showed signs of their potential with their recent 4-0 rout of Arsenal. Although they have been eliminated from both the domestic and European cup competitions, this will at least allow them to concentrate fully on the league and attempt to replicate their impressive league finishes of previous seasons. Koeman deserves credit for continuing to keep the South Coast side stable, despite some of their key players from earlier campaigns having departed the club.