Joleon Lescott column: Spurs will lose top-four spot to resurgent Reds
Tottenham have had the week from hell and I'm struggling to see how Antonio Conte can drive his squad towards a top-four finish.
The way Spurs crashed out of the Champions League in midweek was so poor. They went out with a whimper and never looked like turning the tie around.
Add in their recent FA Cup loss to Sheffield United and it really has soured the feeling among the club's supporters — the players will also be very flat.
At the end of the day, finishing fourth is a great achievement but it's not a trophy.
When players look back on their careers, they won't talk about the time they finished fourth. You want medals, accolades, glory.
This weekend's home clash with Nottingham Forest is a game they should be winning and it shows where Spurs are at when we're not convinced they're going to do so.
Conte continues to talk about needing patience and more investment in his playing squad but I think he's had ample time and backing.
His tactics have become very predictable and it's a style that generally relies on the opposing team to be on the front foot, attacking freely and leaving space for his side to exploit.
The thing is, 90% of these Premier League matches are games where Spurs are the team who should be dictating the tempo. He has to show more tactical flexibility.
On a human level, it's hard not to have a level of compassion for the Italian given the health issues he's had recently and the way he's been so keen to return to work.
I think if he stays put, Conte must try to at least get his team playing in a more attacking manner over the coming weeks.
If he does and they still fall short of fourth, at least he's tried to address the issue.
Something certainly has to change.
There are a few teams who will fancy pipping Spurs to fourth — with Liverpool leading the chase.
I backed them to beat Manchester United last week and while I didn't see that 7-0 scoreline coming, I wasn't surprised by the comfortable manner of the victory.
The Reds were excellent but I also feel Erik ten Hag underestimated the Anfield factor and the level of respect that fixture must be treated with.
It's understandable. His team were in great form, confidence was sky-high and they'd already beaten their rivals earlier in the campaign.
But Liverpool were always going to be desperate to put that right in front of their own fans and it was a naive approach by United, who were brutally punished.
You'd expect Jurgen Klopp's men to be too strong for Bournemouth this weekend but they face three stern tests after the international break.
Trips to Manchester City and Chelsea are followed by a home clash with league leaders Arsenal, all in the space of nine days.
Are Liverpool back in a place where they can realistically target nine points from that run? I don't think so — but no side are currently.
From a recruitment perspective, historical perspective and in terms of keeping their key men happy, Liverpool need Champions League football.
I just feel Klopp and his players will recognise the significance of this unexpected opportunity and grasp it with both hands.
Newcastle looked to have given themselves a huge chance of a top-four spot but their recent blip has dented their chances.
Still, it's been a great season for Eddie Howe's side and they deserve huge credit for reaching the Carabao Cup final, playing some great stuff and being so hard to beat.
The feel-good factor is back at St James' Park but they'll want to make sure it doesn't just fizzle out into nothing — Europa League qualification should be the minimum target.
Chelsea might be set for a more encouraging end to the campaign after a positive week, though I think the Blues have given themselves too much to do in terms of the top-four race.
The trio of Brighton, Brentford and Fulham are in a better position to sneak into the mix — especially the Seagulls, who are a joy to watch under Roberto De Zerbi.
Their results are impressive enough on their own but some of the goals and the attacking play has been from another planet.
Graham Potter did a great job on the South Coast and it would've been easy for the Italian just to try and continue that style of play.
What he's actually done is make them even more fluid, even more creative. It's not a surprise to see them beat any team now.
While I think Liverpool will ultimately finish fourth, Brighton have earned the right to dream of sneaking in against the odds.
Right, let's have a look at my predictions for this weekend's Premier League action.
Joleon Lescott's Premier League Matchday 27 predictions
Bournemouth vs Liverpool (Saturday, 12.30pm, BT Sport)
Liverpool will be full of confidence after that Manchester United result and this looks a perfect fixture for them to extend their positive momentum.
It's never nice losing in the last minute and while I think Bournemouth will dust themselves down after the 3-2 defeat at Arsenal, I just see them being outclassed by the visitors.
I'm leaning towards a comfortable away win.
Prediction: Bournemouth 0-3 Liverpool
Everton vs Brentford (Saturday, 3pm)
I'm not sure how I see this game going. Everton will respect how Brentford have been playing but they need points desperately — especially at home.
The Bees create so many chances and that's where the hosts have fallen down this year. They struggle when under sustained periods of pressure.
They'll need to score to get anything from this game. I hope they can!
Prediction: Everton 1-1 Brentford
Leeds vs Brighton (Saturday, 3pm)
Leeds are in for a tough afternoon. Home advantage should help a bit but I doubt it'll be enough.
Brighton's approach requires extreme confidence to be executed well and they have lots of that right now, so Leeds have to get their press absolutely spot on.
I think the visitors will be able to pick their way through the Whites' midfield.
Prediction: Leeds 0-2 Brighton
Leicester vs Chelsea (Saturday, 3pm)
Leicester are down in the bottom group of teams but I don't really consider them in the thick of the relegation battle.
They're having a poor season and lacking consistency. If Potter goes with an unchanged team from midweek, I think this is an opportunity for them.
You don't know whether he's going to do that of course but I'll plump for an away win.
Prediction: Leicester 1-2 Chelsea
Tottenham vs Nottingham Forest (Saturday, 3pm)
I'm not confident about Spurs bouncing back here. Forest will sit deep and it could make for a tough watch.
Brennan Johnson and Morgan Gibbs-White are proving extremely efficient with their chances and the visitors have very little to lose.
Don't be surprised to see an upset — especially if Steve Cooper's men score early.
Prediction: Tottenham 1-2 Nottingham Forest
Crystal Palace vs Manchester City (Saturday, 5.30pm, Sky Sports)
Like Leicester, I don't fear for Crystal Palace going down but it's been a disappointing season for them.
Their form is not good but there are three worse teams than the Eagles — though they'll struggle to get anything here.
I'm not expecting City to be utterly dominant but I think this will be a fairly comfortable evening for them.
Prediction: Crystal Palace 1-3 Manchester City
Fulham vs Arsenal (Sunday, 2pm, Sky Sports)
Some are saying Arsenal's late wins are the mark of champions but I'm not so sure.
These are games they should be negotiating fairly comfortably and I think the City changing room will be encouraged that a slip-up is around the corner.
Fulham have had a couple of shaky Premier League performances recently so I think the Gunners probably do enough.
Prediction: Fulham 1-3 Arsenal
Manchester United vs Southampton (Sunday, 2pm)
I think we're going to see a reaction from United.
That was a freak result at Anfield last week and while their egos will be a little bruised, sometimes a defeat like that sharpens your focus.
Back at home against a side battling relegation, I'd expect them to win with minimal fuss.
Prediction: Manchester United 3-0 Southampton
West Ham vs Aston Villa (Sunday, 2pm)
You just never know what's going to happen with these two teams, though Aston Villa are showing more consistency.
West Ham's heavy loss to Brighton was a blow but the Seagulls are flying. Lose like that again here and it could be curtains for David Moyes.
Knowing Moyesy, he'll be setting up not to concede and they may just grind out a precious win.
Prediction: West Ham 1-0 Aston Villa
Newcastle vs Wolves (Sunday, 4.30pm, Sky Sports)
This is another difficult one to call because Newcastle are not winning very often at the moment.
Wolves, on the other hand, are going about their business quietly but I've been really impressed with how they've approached games under Julen Lopetegui.
I'll go with my heart and plump for an away win.
Prediction: Newcastle 0-2 Wolves
Joleon Lescott was talking to Matthew Hill
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