Just about every team in the Premier League is involved in a battle of some kind, and it looks a long way before we will see such a thing as a “nothing game” in this year’s tight competition.
As we approach the business end of the 2017/18 season, the fight for the top four – or rather the 2nd, 3rd and 4th places – is certainly tightening up, and it’s the usual culprits involved.Embed from Getty Images
With Manchester City so far ahead of the pack, it’s up to five other teams to battle it out for the remaining Champions League positions. Manchester United lead the fight in second place on 56 points, Liverpool sit in third with 54 points, Chelsea and Tottenham closely follow on 53 and 52 points respectively, and Arsenal trail slightly, currently holding sixth place with 45 points.
Over the last few fixtures, all five of these teams have had varying form, and it’s incredibly difficult to predict who will miss out on Champions League football next season. In this article, I weigh up each team’s chances of finishing inside the all-important top four places.
2nd – Manchester United – 56 pointsEmbed from Getty Images
United remain the closest to their Mancunian rivals, as they have done for much of the season, but some inconsistent results throughout December left them ultimately out of the title race.
January was a good month for the Red Devils however, and they won every game right up until the very last day of the month. Thanks to this, United remain in pole position in the top four clash.
An impressive performance from Newcastle on Sunday meant that United suffered a slight hiccup which has kept the top six closely packed, and with some crucial fixtures remaining, the 1-0 defeat certainly wasn’t ideal for Mourinho. Games against Chelsea, Liverpool, Manchester City and Arsenal still to come will surely prove pivotal in United’s hopes of retaining 2nd place.
3rd – Liverpool – 54 pointsEmbed from Getty Images
It’s the other Reds of the North West who closely follow Manchester United, now falling behind their bitter rivals by just two points after seeing off a struggling Southampton closed the gap by three points on Sunday.
Liverpool know how to put on a spectacle, as they have shown on a number of occasions this season. It’s clear that attack has been their strong point over the campaign, with Mohamad Salah having an awe-inspiring debut season at Anfield. The lethal front line (with or without Coutinho) have propelled Liverpool to their well-deserved position.
With seven of their remaining games being bottom-half opposition, you have to fancy Liverpool’s chances of getting the goals to push them past the line.
4th – Chelsea – 53 pointsEmbed from Getty Images
It’s the big teams of the south who are rather appropriately occupying the southern portion of the top six. Chelsea currently lead the herd of Londoners after steadying their balance on Monday Night. Previous heavy defeats to Bournemouth and Watford left some fearing for head coach Antonio Conte’s role.
The defending champions face some very tough opposition in the coming weeks. After playing Hull in the FA Cup, Chelsea must face Barcelona, Manchester United and Manchester City in consecutive matches.
But the Blues are certainly capable of holding the line, especially with their impressive defensive record (14 clean sheets). Álvaro Morata returning to fitness is a promising factor for Chelsea, who have scored the most headers this season – Morata getting six of them.
5th – Tottenham Hotspur – 52 pointsEmbed from Getty Images
Spurs haven’t quite had the same season they had the last couple of years. The excitement of being in two consecutive title races has raised the expectations of the fans. Though they have so far impressed greatly in the Champions League, there is some doubt that the Lilywhites will be in the competition next year.
Personally, I can see Spurs battling it out with Chelsea for a top four place right until the end of the season. Out of the top four contenders, they probably have the “easiest” run-in of Premier League matches to play, but with the bottom half of the table even closer than the top, no game can truly be classified as easy.
If Tottenham can continue their current purple patch throughout the rest of the season, they have an excellent chance of pushing into a Champions League position. As is the case for all teams, consistency is key.
6th – Arsenal – 45 pointsEmbed from Getty Images
Of course, we can’t write Arsenal off just yet. They have fallen behind the rest of the pack, and with seven points between them and anyone above or below, sixth place is where they’ll sit for at least a couple more games.
However, there’s still eleven more games to play, and a twist in fortunes during that time could completely change the shape of the table. Even if they fail to reach the top four, qualification by winning the Europa League is still a very real prospect for the Arsenal fans.
It’s the Gunners’ away form that has been their downfall, with just three wins on the road this Premier League season. They will probably need to add to this tally if they hope to end up in the top four.
I will leave you with what the bookies have predicted to be the final top four. As of writing, Bet365 have Manchester United (1/7) and Liverpool (1/7) tipped as equal favourites to reach Champions League football next year, with Spurs (2/5) completing the quartet at the top. Chelsea (4/5) will have to settle for fifth and Arsenal (14/1) are strong favourites to miss out.
But, with nothing set in stone, it’s all still to play for. The title may have been won long ago by Manchester City, but the rest of the table presents plenty of opportunities for excitement right until the very last day.
Written by Harry Mahon.