Sports

EPL top-four race reaches boiling point

 

With the Premier League title now down to a two-horse race between Manchester City and Liverpool, the fight for fourth spot has heated up.

Chelsea look set on finishing third while the battle for fourth is one that the next few matchdays will be crucial in deciding as candidates are set to play each other.

Tottenham and Arsenal are favourites to battle for the fourth spot while West Ham and Manchester United are in with a shout.

SuperSport.com puts the contenders and pretenders under the microscope as the race for UCL spots takes an intriguing turn…

*With Arsenal losing to Brighton and Tottenham winning comfortably at Aston Villa, the Gunners chances of finishing in the top four has dropped to just 37%, with Spurs’ now at 62% according to our predictor model.

*Everton’s win against Manchester United, coupled with Burnley’s loss at Norwich, has increased the Toffees’ chances of staying up to 65%, with the Clarets now 66% likely to go down.

*West Ham still have a slim chance of finishing in the top four, though according to our predictor model they are currently most likely to finish the season in seventh place.

*Newcastle have spent 150 days in the relegation zone this season, with only Norwich and Burnley spending longer in the bottom three. However, the Magpies’ recent form under Eddie Howe means there’s now just a 1.2% chance of them being relegated (according to our predictor model).

Chelsea
Position: Third
Games Remaining: Eight
Points: 60

After being knocked out of the Uefa Champions League, Chelsea can now focus on the battle to secure their place in Europe’s elite club competition next season.

After their embarrassing loss to Brentford that opened the door for other challengers for the third spot, Thomas Tuchel’s charges bounced back with 6-0 drubbing of Southampton.

The Blues were early title contenders but suffered some setbacks and in November they failed to record back-to-back league wins after a 1-1 draw against Burnley.

The off-the-field turmoil with Roman Abramovic being forced to sell the club and an upcoming FA Cup final against Liverpool could distract the team’s focus in the league, but they are still favourites for that third spot as they have two games in hand over other contenders.

Tottenham
Position: Fourth
Games Remaining: Six
Points: 57

After their 5-1 victory over Newcastle, which propelled them into fourth, Tottenham’s inconsistencies kicked in again this past weekend as they succumbed to a 1-0 loss against Brighton.

Spurs’ lead over Arsenal in the battle for fourth place in the Premier League remains three points, but the Gunners have a game in hand.

Antonio Conte’s men had won four consecutive games, starting with a 2-0 win at Brighton last month, to turn around the Italian’s rollercoaster first season in charge, but slipped again at the weekend.

Brighton did Tottenham a big favour the other week by beating Arsenal, but Conte’s man failed to capitalise as they also lost to Graham Potter’s charges.

Manchester United
Position: Fifth
Games Remaining: Six
Points: 51

With Tottenham Hotspur and Arsenal losing to Brighton and Southampton on Saturday, the door was open for Man United to close in on the Champions League qualification places with victory over bottom side Norwich and they narrowly took advantage.

The win, United’s first in four games in all competitions, moved them above Arsenal, who lost 1-0 at Southampton, into fifth on 54 points from 32 matches, with Spurs now just three points ahead.

Having finished as Premier League runners-up last season, alongside losing the Europa League final on penalties, the hope of further progress under Ole Gunnar Solskjaer was fuelled by the summer acquisitions of Jadon Sancho, Raphael Varane and Cristiano Ronaldo.

But they were out of the Carabao Cup in September before being humbled on home soil by Liverpool and Manchester City, with the 4-1 loss at Watford leading to Solskjaer’s exit in November.

Interim boss Ralf Rangnick may have lost only two Premier League games but there have been too many draws and disjointed displays, plus they are out of the FA Cup and Champions League which means they can fully focus on the top-four tilt.

Arsenal
Position: Sixth
Games Remaining: Seven
Points: 54

After suffering their worst start to a season in 67 years, seeing Arsenal rock bottom of the table and Mikel Arteta under pressure, the Spaniard masterminded a remarkable recovery to challenge for top-four honours, but things have taken an about-turn in the last few match weeks.

Arteta’s side have slipped to sixth place in the standings on 54 points, level with Manchester United and three behind north London rivals Tottenham Hotspur, but with a game in hand over both teams.

The Gunners’ 3-0 defeat at Crystal Palace and 1-0 loss to Brighton have raised questions about whether they can complete the job, especially with their star play Thomas Partey’s season seemingly over due to injury

West HamPosition: Sixth
Games Remaining: Five
Points: 52

West Ham are seventh with 52 points after 33 games but David Moyes’ side will be slightly disappointed that they were unable to beat a manager-less Burnley team that would have boosted their chances of playing in Europe next season.

The Hammers’ run-in looks tricky, with trips to Chelsea and Brighton to come. They also face Arsenal and Man City at home. If they are going to reach the top four, West Ham will have to do it the hard way.

With the race for fourth seemingly difficult, David Moyes and his charges have another route to play in the Champions League next season, which would be winning the Europa League, having secured a semifinal spot against Eintracht Frankfurt.

*Courtesy: SuperSport

 

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