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Arsenal

Paul Merson picks his top two contenders for fourth spot as Chelsea are snubbed


Paul Merson has backed Jurgen Klopp’s Liverpool to put their inconsistencies behind them and clinch a place in the top four come the end of the season.

The defending champions have slumped down the table this campaign and currently find themselves in seventh place, three points behind fourth-place West Ham, with eight games remaining.

However, Sky Sports pundit Merson believes the Reds will find their form between now and May, helping them leapfrog not just the Hammers, but also Chelsea and Tottenham.

“Obviously, Manchester City and Manchester United are in,” he claimed. “And I think Leicester make it.

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“For the final spot, it’s between West ham and Liverpool, and I’m just sticking Liverpool, but it’s going to be so tight.”

David Moyes’ side have been the surprise package in the division this term and have their destiny in their own hands going into the run in.

Merson says Liverpool's Champions League woes could work in their favour. (Photo by Gonzalo Arroyo Moreno/Getty Images)
Merson says Liverpool’s Champions League woes could work in their favour. (Photo by Gonzalo Arroyo Moreno/Getty Images)

Merson believes the Hammers have the most favourable fixtures of all the teams in the hunt, but has questioned whether they will be able to cope with injuries to key players.

“I like West Ham. I like their fixtures for the run-in,” he added “They are a really kind set of games. If they were Liverpool, Chelsea or Spurs’ fixtures, you’d say they were a shoo-in for the top four, but it’s West Ham and there’s this nagging doubt. You just don’t know how they will stand up to the pressure of the run-in.

“An injury here and an injury there and all of a sudden, they could be in trouble. They already have Declan Rice out and Michail Antonio picked up an injury on Monday, so they won’t want to lose too many more players.”

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West Ham have performed beyond all expectations so far
West Ham have performed beyond all expectations so far

Despite a damaging Champions League quarter final first leg defeat to Real Madrid, former Arsenal midfielder Merson thinks Liverpool potentially exiting the competition could actually help them clinch the last spot.

He added: “One thing in Liverpool’s favour is that they do have some nice fixtures. But will they be fully focussed as they look to turn the Real Madrid tie around?

“If there was a full house at Anfield, I’d fully expect them to do it, but behind closed doors, it’s a tough ask. I’m not sure they can do it and that could help their bid for the top four.”

In contrast, Merson believes Chelsea’s European adventures and tough run of games in the league will be their undoing in the chase, while he also ruled out Spurs completely.

“ Brighton at home is a dangerous game,” he said in relation to Thomas Tuchel’s Blues side. “West Ham away is a tough game and there’s a London derby against Fulham.

“They also have Man City away and Arsenal at home and European commitments, where they have a great chance to reach the semi-finals and potentially a final.

“I don’t give Tottenham any chance of reaching the top four at all.”

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