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Liverpool Favourites in Top Four Race and on Form to Challenge Arsenal for Third

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After seeming destined for mid-table in the autumn, Liverpool’s form in recent months has them positioned to not only make the top four but to challenge Arsenal for third in the final table.

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Outside of 2013-14’s unexpected title challenge, in recent years Liverpool have tended to enter the second half of the season chasing the top four. To even call the position they’ve typically been in one where they’re chasing the top four has most often been exceptionally generous. The lot of the fan may at times be hope, but reason and common sense has typically said Liverpool’s recent seasons have been done by January.

In the past, when Liverpool have entered into January and February in a trailing position, they have not only needed title winning form to challenge for the top four and a Champions League spot—they’ve also needed three or four sides ahead of them to stumble. This time around, though, thanks to their improved form from the start of December onwards, the picture is a very different one. This time around, they really are in the chase.

On current form or anything near it, they actually appear favourites. Late in January, after roughly six weeks as the Premier League’s form side, Liverpool had inserted themselves back in the top four conversation. They weren’t the best positioned side, but they at least appeared in the running to achieve the 68-70 points that it seemed would likely be the minimum threshold for a club wanting to make the top four this season.

At the end of November, Liverpool had managed 17 points after 13 games, for a points per game average of just 1.31—good for a disappointing 50 points season. Since, they’ve managed to raise their season average to 1.73 points per game, which would be good for a 66 point season, meaning even falling off their current form to the point they only earn roughly seven points every four games the rest of the way would keep them in the mix.

Accepting that there’s always the risk of injuries, dips in form, or simple bad luck, that now seems the minimum expectation for this Liverpool side: 66 points. The maximum expectation would involve continuing their stellar form, which has seen them earning 2.42 points per game so far in 2015. With 12 games still to play, that would mean another 29 points added to the 45 they’ve earned so far this season and a year end total of 74 points.

Season points per game averages barely warrant mention—the side with the fourth best average will obviously be fourth in the table today—but running through the competition with an eye to how they’ve done in 2015 projects third place Arsenal to end with 70 to 74 points, fourth place Manchester United to get between 66 and 69 points, fifth place Southampton to get 67 to 68 points, and seventh pace Tottenham to get 64 to 66 points.

Barring a monumental collapse by Liverpool or two of the other sides in the mix earning 2.5 or more points per game the rest of the way, that makes the Reds slight favourites over United and Southampton and heavy favourites over Tottenham for fourth. It also makes Liverpool, despite that they’re currently in sixth, the only side on form to challenge Arsenal for third in the final table.