The Premier League's all-time record goalscorer Alan Shearer says this year's title race is over - and is tipping Manchester City, Leicester and Chelsea in joining Liverpool in qualifying for next season's Champions League.
Shearer, speaking during a visit to Chichester to promote a new fitness initiative at Westgate Leisure, was part of the Blackburn Rovers side who won the PL title in the league's early days in the mid-90s and is well-placed to judge the present-day race in his role as a Match of the Day pundit.
He also had words of encouragement for Brighton and Hove Albion fans - saying they were on course to stay up and go on to establish themselves as a Premier League club
There may still be 16 PL games left to played this year, or 17 with Liverpool’s game in hand, but Shearer believes it’s all but won by the Merseyside giants.
He said: “I don’t see it being won now by anyone else other than Liverpool. They’ve been superb and pretty much have two hands on the trophy already, they just can’t put it above their heads yet.”
The Reds are 14 points clear ahead of Manchester City and although they have not won the league for 30 years - before the First Division became the Premiership - Shearer can’t see anyway for them to miss out now.
“It’s all but done and they deserve it," he said. "A club of that size need this trophy and its been a long wait to get it, but I think it could be wrapped up in March or April and they’ll finally have that title.”
The race for top four finishes is hotly contested, with Manchester City and Leicester strong favourites to claim second and third, while fourth is up for grabs by a number of clubs.
Tottenham, Wolves, Chelsea, Manchester United and Sheffield United are all pushing for an all important Champions League spot, but Shearer believes the final top four will feature the clubs in the bracket now.
“I think Chelsea will sneak the final spot and get fourth," he told us. "I’m sure they will do some business during the January transfer window to strengthen their side and ensure they stay where they are in the table.”
Lower down the table, Brighton are sitting 14th - but are only three points off the relegation zone. Manager Graham Potter signed a contract extension in November, extending his original deal, which ran to 2023, by two years.
Shearer believes Brighton are around the part of the table he’d expect them to be in but can see another season in the top flight.
“I feel they will be safe from relegation and Potter was brought in to shake things up and he’s doing a good job," Shearer said. “His style of football works and he’s done what he’s been asked and they’ll do enough to establish themselves as a Premier League club.”
As a regular on Match of the Day, one thing Shearer is constantly discussing is the use of VAR. It has drawn a lot of attention - and criticism - this season with a number of controversial decisions made and Shearer feels that unless it does what it came in for, it will constantly be talked about.
He said: “If it's run how they said it would be run, I don’t think it will (continue to dominate debate), but there’s been a lot more than teething with it and I can't see it changing too soon, so we’ll always talk about it.
“It’s not been run as we were told, they said it would be used for clear and obvious errors, but it’s causing more argument than it should have.”