Race for the top 4
The Premier League is now a 2 horse race. Most may argue that it always has been, and Tottenham’s midweek meltdown at Chelsea ended any hopes the North London club had of being included in that esteemed group.
With just 10 games left to go, and 2 crucial Champions League spots up for grabs, a look at the remaining fixtures of Tottenham, Arsenal, Manchester United and Chelsea could provide valuable insight over who will consolidate their place in the top 4.
Spurs look to prevent a 3rd loss in a row in the league when they play Arsenal tomorrow. It could be the first time they’ve lost 3 in a row since 2012 when they lost to… Arsenal. Spurs will want to gain ground on their North London rivals and try to cement their position in 3rd place and try to avoid being dragged into the fight for 4th place. Tottenham have 6 of their last 10 remaining games at home, although 3 of those are London derbies where current form has no relevance. Spurs will also have a big say on where the Premier League title could end up as they still have to travel to Liverpool and City before the end of the season. Spurs getting Harry Kane and Dele Alli back to full fitness will be key to their run in.
Key games: Liverpool, Manchester City
In contrast to Tottenham, Arsenal has just 4 of their remaining 10 fixtures at home, one of which sees the North London side face up against a resurgent Manchester United. If the Gunners were to lose that game it would see them lose ground to one of their top 4 rivals. Their next 2 fixtures are the North London derby followed by Manchester United’s trip to the Emirates. If Unai Emery’s men can come out of those 2 games still in the hunt, they will be encouraged by their remaining games as ‘on paper’ they have the most favourable run-in of the 4 sides. With the upturn in form of Ozil and Mkhitaryan, along with the always dangerous duo of Lacazette and Aubameyang, Arsenal will fancy their chances of a return to the Champions League for the first time in 3 years.
Key games: Tottenham, Manchester United
The Red Devils have six of their remaining fixtures at home starting with Southampton tomorrow afternoon. United will be hoping to build on their incredible run of form since Ole Gunnar Solskjaer took over from Jose Mourinho. They currently have the longest unbeaten run in the Premier League and have just broken Sir Alex Ferguson’s record for consecutive away wins with their 8th in a row coming via a comfortable 3-1 victory at Selhurst Park despite having an injury-ravaged squad. Confidence is obviously high and will need to be as United still have massive games on the horizon with Arsenal, Chelsea and a Manchester derby still to play. With noisy neighbours City still to play, that could have huge ramifications on their quest for a top 4 place. United will relish the challenge, seeing as though Solskjaer’s men have recently beaten Arsenal and Chelsea in cup competitions. The reverse league fixture against Sarri’s blues was frustrating for the North West giants after an undeserved last-minute equaliser from Ross Barkley stopped the Red Devils taking home all three points. United finish the season with 2 bottom-table sides in the shape of Huddersfield and Cardiff that barring a dramatic turn of events will already be relegated. They still have an array of talent to return, including Martial, Herrera, Mata and Jesse Lingard. Ole will hope this caps off his resurrection of the team and consolidate his push for the managerial position.
Key games: Arsenal, Chelsea, Manchester City
The Blues, like Arsenal, only have 4 home games left, the first of those being this weekend against a Wolves team that won the reverse fixture in December. However, the West-Midlands side lost midweek to struggling Huddersfield, whereas Chelsea go into the game after a big win over Tottenham at Stamford Bridge. After the embarrassing scenes in the Carabao Cup final, Maurizio Sarri will be hoping to get Chelsea back in the right mood and push for a spot in the top 4. Chelsea kicked off the season in extraordinary form but as time has gone on the future of the manager has been called into question with many Blues fans fed up with the Italian’s ‘Sarriball’ style of football and the placement of Ngolo Kante in the wrong position. Chelsea still has big games remaining, with trips to Liverpool and Manchester United still to play, and with their involvement in the Europa League, this could make their chances of securing a top 4 place difficult. However, should Chelsea win those games, everything looks good for the Blues. If the West London side could win the Europa League, it would grant Sarri’s side automatic Champions League qualification, rendering any Premier League slip-ups irrelevant.
Key games: Liverpool, Manchester United
An exciting end to the season is virtually guaranteed, and the race for those final Champions League places begins tomorrow!
Wayne Edge @oasis1711