Eight teams have led the Premier League already this season - will Manchester City make it nine when they play Aston Villa on Wednesday?
The title race is so close that four different clubs could spend time in first place this week alone but, so far, Pep Guardiola’s side are the only side in the top eight yet to hit the summit in 2020-21.
“Sooner or later, City will be top,” said BBC football expert and former Liverpool defender Mark Lawrenson. “For me, they are the favourites now to win the league, and they are playing well and on a roll.”
|Days||Team||Last on top|
|7||Man Utd||18 Jan|
Lawro is making predictions for all 380 Premier League matches this season, against a variety of guests.
For this week’s Premier League fixtures, from Tuesday to Saturday, he is up against a Manchester City fan - Lou Cotterill, bassist with Macclesfield indie band Cassia.
“I watched City beat Crystal Palace on Sunday night and we are looking back to our best now,” Cotterill told BBC Sport.
“If we can keep this form up, then the title is coming back to Manchester - and the blue side as well.”
Cotterill is a City fan because his dad was a Blue, but says his older brothers chose Arsenal and Manchester United instead.
“When I was younger Alex, the United fan, was giving it the big one but he has been pretty quiet about football for the past few years,” he said.
“It’s only recently he has come out of the woodwork again with United back at the top of the table, but that’s more than I can say about Mark, who supports Arsenal. He’s not got much to say about them at all these days.”
Cotterill and the rest of the band spent much of last year recording in Berlin but he is used to watching City whenever he is in the UK, and is looking forward to returning to Etihad Stadium once fans are allowed back in.
“It’s been hard for us not being able to tour, and the live scene is non-existent at the moment because of Covid,” he added. “We’re still writing and releasing music, though, and hoping we can hit the road again when things get back to normal.
“Going to City games again will be part of that for me too. Of course, not having a crowd there makes a difference. In the past few weeks, City have got some of their old intensity back but, at the start of the season, I think the players missed our fans at times in games when the crowd would have got them going.”
|West Ham v West Brom||x-x||2-0||1-0|
|Leicester v Chelsea||x-x||0-2||1-1|
|Man City v Aston Villa||x-x||3-0||3-0|
|Fulham v Man Utd||x-x||0-2||1-2|
|Liverpool v Burnley||x-x||2-1||2-0|
|Aston Villa v Newcastle||x-x||2-0||1-0|
A correct result (picking a win, draw or defeat) is worth 10 points. The exact score earns 40 points.
West Ham v West Brom (18:00 GMT)
West Brom got a really good win at Wolves on Saturday, which will lift them, but they need to try to build on that this time.
The Baggies got a confidence-boosting draw at Anfield just after Christmas, then shipped nine goals in their next two league games.
This is going to be tough for them too, and what happens here will tell us a lot about their character and their chances of getting out of trouble.
West Ham are going well and they don’t concede many - Saturday’s win over Burnley was their fourth consecutive clean sheet in all competitions.
I know David Moyes well, and the improvements the Hammers have made this season do not surprise me. Give him long enough at a club and he will always sort the squad out.
Moyes always looks to get teams right defensively first, then builds from the back. That’s what he is doing with West Ham at the moment, and I think they will be too strong for the Baggies.
Lawro’s prediction: 2-0
Lou’s prediction: I have been impressed by West Ham this season, they have looked pretty solid. Getting Michail Antonio fit again gives them a huge boost in attack too. If he plays, they will win this one. 1-0
Leicester v Chelsea (20:15 GMT)
Leicester will go back to the top of the table for the first time since 20 November if they beat Chelsea, and they played very well when they beat Southampton at the weekend.
I just have a feeling the Foxes might slip up this time, though. Aside from that win over Saints, their home form is generally not that great and they have a fitness doubt over Jamie Vardy too.
Vardy has a sore hip that flared up on Saturday and, although he might be fit to start this game, the only way to clear it up completely is to rest him, which is hard when games come thick and fast like they are at the moment.
Chelsea are hardly flying either, mind you. They got a much-needed win over Fulham on Saturday but it was not exactly convincing, despite them being against 10 men for the whole of the second half.
The Blues were in poor form before that game but I always thought they were capable of going on a good run, like they did at the start of the season.
Having watched them, I am not so sure, but I do fancy them here. Weaker teams than them, like West Ham, Aston Villa and Fulham, have all gone to King Power Stadium and won in the league this season, and I’m backing Chelsea to do the same.
Lawro’s prediction: 0-2
Lou’s prediction: Chelsea are not on the best of runs, and Leicester probably go into this game as favourites. Chelsea have to get something out of this game though, otherwise their season is not looking too promising. 1-1
Man City v Aston Villa (18:00 GMT)
A coronavirus outbreak at Aston Villa means their first team have not played since they went to Old Trafford on New Year’s Day, which was the best part of three weeks ago.
The Villa players who did not test positive will still have trained so they will be fit but match sharpness will be an issue - you lose your touch when you don’t play for that amount of time. For the ones who did have Covid-19, we don’t know if they will be suffering any long-term effects.
Their situation is far from ideal in any circumstance, but it’s especially tough with them going to Etihad Stadium to face a Manchester City side who are going extremely well.
By beating Crystal Palace on Sunday, City became the first top-flight team to win five successive league games this season and I am backing Pep Guardiola’s side to make it six in a row here.
That should probably be enough to send them top - for a couple of hours at least.
Lawro’s prediction: 3-0
Lou’s prediction: Villa have a bit of time off and I don’t think it will help them much. City are on a good run and our whole team is playing well so I think it will be pretty comfortable for us. Let’s hope so anyway. 3-0
Fulham v Man Utd (18:00 GMT)
Fulham were a bit unlucky to be beaten by Chelsea on Saturday - before Antonee Robinson’s red card, they looked capable of holding out for what would have been their sixth draw in a row.
Even with 10 men they still had a go and they have made themselves difficult to beat. That’s a mark of the improvement the Cottagers have made but Manchester United have been like a machine on the road this season, with seven wins and two draws from nine games.
United boss Ole Gunnar Solskjaer said after Sunday’s 0-0 draw at Liverpool that he was disappointed with a point but that goes down as a good result for them - I am telling you now that Manchester City will happily settle for the same when they go to Anfield at the start of February.
Yes, United midfielder Bruno Fernandes will have to be a lot more influential here, but surely he cannot play as poorly again as he did at the weekend - and their defence is looking pretty solid in any case, which is a big plus for them.
I’m going with Solskjaer’s side to win here, which will be enough to put them back on top regardless of how Leicester and Manchester City get on beforehand.
Lawro’s prediction: 0-2
Lou’s prediction: This will be tight, because I don’t think Fulham are as bad as the table suggests. 1-2
Liverpool v Burnley (20:00 GMT)
Burnley were playing pretty well at the turn of the year but they have just lost two on the spin against Manchester United and West Ham and it is hard to see them getting anything at Anfield either.
They will make things difficult for Liverpool at both ends, of course - I remember Sheffield United putting a lot of balls into the box when they came to Anfield in October, in the first league game after Virgil van Dijk was injured, and I suspect the Clarets will do the same to test out any defensive weaknesses.
Sean Dyche’s side will dig in and make it hard for the Reds to play through them too.
People have started to notice now that the Liverpool front three has lost its spark but that is related to what is happening behind them.
Yes, Fabinho and Jordan Henderson have done well to fill in at centre-back, but they have been badly missed in midfield and that has not helped the front three.
I still don’t think Liverpool are playing that badly, though. They have just gone four league games without a win for the first time since February 2017, but I don’t see that run reaching five.
Lawro’s prediction: 2-1
Lou’s prediction: 2-0
Lou on the title race: The title race is so hard to call. I thought City were out of it earlier in the season because I didn’t think we could put a run of four or five wins together like we have done. Consistency is the key, but Liverpool - if they click again - are certainly capable of it, and so are Manchester United. I am not convinced United have got enough to win it but, fair play, they are better than they have been for a while, and they seem to have found a way of digging out results. I’d still pick City if you asked me to choose a winner now, though.
Aston Villa v Newcastle (20:00 GMT)
This is Aston Villa’s second game of the week as they look to catch up on games they have missed because of an outbreak of coronavirus at the club - although this one was postponed because of an increase in cases at Newcastle back in November.
It has taken the Magpies a long time to get over that, with Jamaal Lascelles and Allan Saint-Maximin suffering from the long-term effects of the the illness, which should be a warning for Aston Villa too. It is clearly not just a case of recovering and returning to action as normal.
So, we will have to see what Villa look like, and a game like this should tell us more about that than Wednesday’s trip to Etihad Stadium will do. What should help them that Newcastle are all over the shop at the moment and look like they are short of confidence too.
Lawro’s prediction: 2-0
Lou’s prediction: This is a tough one to call. Villa should have the edge if they are fully fit and Jack Grealish will make the difference. I genuinely think he is world class and I’d definitely take him at City. 1-0
Lawro was speaking to BBC Sport’s Chris Bevan.
How did Lawro do last time?
From the last set of Premier League games, Lawro got six correct results from nine matches, including one exact score, for a total of 90 points.
He beat You Me At Six drummer Dan Flint, who got five correct results with one exact score, to give him a total of 80 points.
GUEST LEADERBOARD 2020-21
|110||Sister Bliss, Amy Macdonald, Steve White|
|90||Adam Devonshire, Becky Hill|
|80||Dan Flint, Raye|
|77||Lawro (average after 19 weeks)|
|70||Celeste, Peter Hooton|
|50||Declan McKenna, Paul Smith, DJ Target|
|40||Gavin ‘Mo’ Edgeley|
|30||Rick Astley, Fraser T. Smith|
|20||Charlie Forbes, Dougie Payne|