Manchester City will win the Premier League by two points, in one of the closest and most exciting seasons for years.
And if winning the league by two points wasn’t close enough, Arsenal and Chelsea can only be separated by alphabetical order as both clubs match each other on points, goals and even head-to-head results! The Gunners finish second and Chelsea third, both on 79 points with a +32 goal difference.
These predictions come courtesy of simulation games firm Football Manager 2014, the football management series.
Their analysts conducted a state of the art simulation and predicted how the Premier League and Championship will look come May – based on team’s form and squads, and with their most tipped transfer activity in January put in to play.
This is how they see it panning out:
“It’s despair for Sunderland who sink to relegation finishing 20th on just 27 points.
“They’ll be joined in the Championship by West Ham and Crystal Palace who finish 18th and 19th respectively, both on 32 points.
“In the increasingly important fight for European Football, the coveted Champions League places go to top dogs City, Arsenal, Chelsea – who’ll be joined by Spurs (4th place, 71 points) after Tim Sherwood manages to turn their form around with the help of January signing Javier Hernandez (from Manchester United).
“Hernandez asserts himself as Spurs’ best striker with 7 goals in 15 games, including a hat-trick against Everton.
“That means more disappointment for David Moyes in his difficult first season at Manchester United, who qualify only for the Europa League, finishing 6th with 67 points – 22 points less than last season! With an alarming 11 defeats, not even the signing of Leighton Baines (from Everton) in January can shore up United’s dodgy defence.
“To add insult to injury for Moyes, Everton finish one spot above in 5th, 2 points clear of United. The final Europa League spot is taken by Liverpool, whose over reliance on star player Luis Suarez sees their season fade.
In the Championship another City will claim top spot, with Leicester storming to promotion and finishing a massive 14 points clear with 97 points for the season.
“The Foxes will be joined by two returnees in the Premier League next season, with Harry Redknapp guiding QPR straight back up (2nd place, 83 points) and Nottingham Forest returning for the first time since 1999 via the play-offs (4th place, 75 points).
“While it will be a closely fought battle to avoid the drop for a host of teams, ultimately this season’s strugglers – Bournemouth (22nd, 45 points), Yeovil (23rd, 44 points) and Barnsley (24th, 39 points) – will go down to League 1.”
Tom Davidson, Football Analyst for Sports Interactive said: “This is one of the tightest, closest seasons in memory. At both ends of the table, there’s only the slightest of margins for teams between glory and failure.
“That makes the January Transfer Window more important than ever. What clubs do before it slams shut can seal their fate.
“Our simulation, based on proposed transfer activity, uses Football Manager’s unprecedented level of player data and unrivalled game engine to reveal the winners and losers in the Premier League and Championship.
“It’s been a fascinating experiment in two of the world’s most competitive and popular leagues. And we can clearly see that things are going to be as close come the end of the Premier League season as they are now! Manchester City’s superb form over the first half of the season helps them push on to claim their 2nd league title. But it’s a closely fought contest with Arsenal and Chelsea pushing them all the way. Things are a little different in the Championship, with Leicester the clear cut winners.”
Barnsley win just four games after January and their fixture list is peppered with draws. They draw their final four games when a couple of wins could have guaranteed them safety.
Key signing: Jacob Butterfield (from Middlesbrough)
Becomes a regular starter under Danny Wilson and scores 1 goal for the club but he can do little to steer them away from the drop.
Birmingham are still struggling in the league until mid-March when an upturn in form sees them lose just once more until the end of the season. They manage to beat Reading, Wigan, Forest, Blackburn and Leeds in that run.
Key signing: none
Despite finishing in 6th and scraping into the playoffs on goal difference, Blackburn manage to reach the playoff final after two convincing performances against Burnley. They lose the playoff final 3-1 to Forest.
Key signing: none
The club’s winless run stretches until the end of January until they beat Blackburn 2-1. They go on a good run after that beating Birmingham, Watford and Bournemouth in succession before their form becomes patchy again. They wrap up a unremarkable season with a 2-1 win over Charlton.
Key signing: Jamie O’Hara (from Wolverhampton Wanderers)
O’Hara becomes an important part of the midfield making 16 appearances and scoring 2 goals.
Bolton continue to struggle in the second half of the season but get important wins against Watford, Blackpool and Huddersfield. Three straight losses at the end of the season push the club very close to relegation.
Key signing: Joe Mason (from Cardiff City)
Starts 9 times for Bolton but scores just once and is dropped towards the end of the season.
Burnley sustain their title challenge until the very last month of the season when 2 losses and a draw in their final 3 games costs them automatic promotion. They then lose to Blackburn in the playoff semis.
Key signing: none
McClaren struggles to get the best out of his young team in the second half of the season as they suffer costly defeats against Burnley, Sheffield Wednesday and Ipswich which push them out of playoff contention.
Key signing: none
Doncaster’s form picks up after February with draws against Middlesbrough and Brighton and wins against Barnsley and Yeovil. They save their best form for the last 7 games of the season winning 4 of them to move away from the relegation zone.
Key signing: Nick Proschwitz (from Hull City)
Proschwitz scores 4 in 15 to help Doncaster move towards safety including the winning goal against Derby.
Huddersfield’s best run is between mid-February and mid-March with wins over Birmingham, Sheffield Wednesday, Barnsley, Doncaster and Blackpool which lifts them into the top half. They maintain a 10th place position until the end of the season.
Key signing: Cyrus Christie (from Coventry City)
Christie becomes Huddersfield’s first choice right-back and performs very well for the club. He creates 3 assists and earns an average rating of 6.80
Leeds’ struggle defensively until March as they concede 3 against Yeovil and 4 against both Brighton and Middlesbrough. They recover somewhat towards the end of the season with wins against Bournemouth, Doncaster and Blackpool but it’s only enough to lift them into 16th place.
Key signing: Luke Moore (from Sanica Boru Elazığspor)
Moore makes 9 appearances for the team and scores 3 goals but fails to dislodge McCormack as first choice striker.
Leicester lose four and draw four games during the simulation as they embark on a brilliant run of form to seal the title. They eventually seal the championship after a 1-0 win against Reading.
Key signing: none
Some good performances between January and March include victories over Leicester, Ipswich, Forest and Leeds but their form deserts them at the end of the season and 3 consecutive losses to Burnley, Millwall and Reading move Boro back down to 9th.
Key signing: Daniel Ayala (from Norwich City)
Ayala cements a place in Boro’s starting XI with some outstanding displays and earns the Player of the Match award against Doncaster and Huddersfield.
Forest continue their form from the first half of the season losing just 5 games but drawing a number of important games namely against QPR, Derby, Ipswich, Leeds and Brighton. They go on to play Brighton in the playoffs but rely on penalties to get them into the final where a very good performance at Wembley gives them a 3-1 win over Blackburn.
Key signing: Danny Graham (from Hull City)
Graham fares much better than Dorrans. He makes 13 appearances and scores 6 goals as the Reds finally have the natural striker they’ve been craving. He also scores one of the goals in the playoff final win.
Queens Park Rangers
QPR only lose 3 times in the second half of the season but draw too many times to keep up with Leicester at the top of the table. They draw against Burnley, Forest and Leicester when a win would have pushed them much closer.
Key signing: Carlton Cole (from West Ham)
Charlie Austin’s 13 goals between January and May keep Cole out of the first team and he makes just one substitute appearance all season.
Buoyed by the thrashing of Leeds, Wednesday go on a good run of form beating Millwall, Barnsley, Wigan and Derby within the space of a month. They go on to suffer 5 defeats in 7 games shortly after as their momentum wains but recover at the end of the season with 2 draws and 2 wins out of their last 5.
Key signing: none
Sannino doesn’t get the best out of his players as they drop points against teams they need to beat such as Doncaster, Barnsley and Bolton. They do manage to beat Burnley, Leeds and Derby later on in the season though.
Key signing: Samba Diakite (from Queens Park Rangers)
Diakite is rotated in Watford’s midfield and starts 5 times under Sannino. He scores a consolation goal in a 2-1 defeat to Blackburn.
Wigan struggle to find any sort of consistency with every win seemingly followed by a draw or loss. When it looks like they might make a move up the table after a 3-0 win over Watford they get beaten 3-0 by QPR and failed to win again until late April.
Key signing: Jonathan Parr (from Crystal Palace)
Parr becomes Wigan’s first choice left back with 17 apppearances, making 1 assist and a 6.70 average rating.