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Premier League

Premier League top-four race in focus as six contenders’ run-ins for two spots analysed


The Premier League title race is all-but done and dusted, while the relegation battle is slowly turning into a foregone conclusion.

Fortunately, with just six weekends of the season remaining, we have a furious top four chase on our hands.

Man City are set to be crowned champions (barring any ridiculous collapse), and Man Utd are well on course to follow them home in second.

Meanwhile a couple of those at the other end of the contest look to have fallen by the wayside, with Aston Villa and Arsenal no longer realistic prospects to obtain Champions League football next season.

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But the big question is: who else will?

Man Utd have virtually secured their top four place as they look to cement a runners up medal
Man Utd have virtually secured their top four place as they look to cement a runners up medal

There are six teams still in the hunt, all with varying form, fixture run-ins and expectations, with just two spots up for grabs.

Here Mirror Football have analysed each team’s top four chances for the remainder of the season.

Leicester


Position: 3rdGames Played: 31Points: 56

Last Seven Games: West Brom (H), Crystal Palace (H), Southampton (A), Newcastle (H), Man Utd (A), Chelsea (A), Tottenham (H)

You fear for Leicester, you really do.

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After going so close last season only to be denied on the final day, the Foxes are in danger of a heartbreaking repeat if they don’t get their act together.

Sunday’s defeat to West Ham reduced their gap over the chasing pack to just a point, with any delusions of finishing in second now replaced by sheer survival mode.

They only won two of their last nine fixtures last season and are now on a run of just two wins from their last six in this campaign.

Jamie Vardy has stopped scoring, several players including James Maddison have upset the apple cart with their Covid breach, and Leicester’s run-in is the worst by some distance compared with their rivals.

Even West Brom this weekend is difficult given the Baggies’ recent resurgence.

Palace, Southampton and Newcastle *should* garner maximum points – and Brendan Rodgers’ men will need them, as they finish with tough trips to United and Chelsea before the visit of Tottenham.

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And all of this is with a big target on their backs – which is not an easy place to be.

West Ham


Position: 4thGames Played: 31Points: 55

Last Seven Games: Newcastle (A), Chelsea (H), Burnley (A), Everton (H), Brighton (A), West Brom (A), Southampton (H)

This season’s surprise package, David Moyes’ side appear to be getting better with every week which passes.

The arrival of Jesse Lingard on loan has helped propel them into the top four, and they stand a decent chance of staying there.

On current form you’d expect three points apiece from the trips to Newcastle and Burnley, but the clashes with Chelsea and Everton could really determine just how serious this West Ham side are.

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Going forward they’re scoring goals in abundance. But keeping them out at the other end has not been so straightforward.

Losing Declan Rice and Michail Antonio through injury are big blows, but the pair may be back for the season’s finish.

West Brom has the potential to be a bit of a banana skin fixture if they’re still battling relegation, and tipping the Hammers to qualify for the Champions League seems to go against everything we know about West Ham.

But if they can get through the next four matches still with their top four status in tact, you’d fancy them to give it a good go.

Chelsea


Position: 5thGames Played: 26Points:54

Last Seven Games: Brighton (H), West Ham (A), Fulham (H), Man City (A), Arsenal (H), Leicester (H), Aston Villa (A)

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They’ve had easier run-ins for sure, but it may not be as tricky as it appears.

Thomas Tuchel has Chelsea firing again (aside from the shock defeat to West Brom) and they’ve got themselves in a good position to mount a strong challenge over the final furlong.

Two of the hardest games in their run-in are undoubtedly the trips to West Ham and Man City.

If things go Chelsea’s way, City may already have the title sewn up by the time they go to the Etihad, while the two sides also meet in the dress rehearsal FA Cup semi-final this weekend.

Cup competitions could prove a distraction for Chelsea as they still hunt silverware on two fronts, but they’ve got plenty of top players to weather any extra demands.

The crunch clash with Leicester in the penultimate fixture could well prove to be a decider, but with the Foxes faltering, you’d back Chelsea to make it over the line ahead of them.

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Liverpool

Trent-Alexander Arnold's late winner vs Aston Villa has kept Liverpool on track
Trent-Alexander Arnold’s late winner vs Aston Villa has kept Liverpool on track

Position: 6thGames Played: 31Points:52

Last Seven Games: Leeds (A), Newcastle (H), Man Utd (A), Southampton (H), West Brom (A), Burnley (A), Crystal Palace (H)

Things are starting to look a little more rosy at Anfield as the cloud of doom lifts over the red half of Merseyside.

It’s been a campaign to forget, and one which Jurgen Klopp will be keen to put behind him and move on.

The only way he can really do that though, without taking any baggage into next season, is by leading his troops into the top four.

Liverpool seem to have shaken off their dismal form and are beginning to find their groove again somewhat, and with a favourable run to come.

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You’d back them to pick up all three points in every remaining fixture, bar the clash with United at Old Trafford.

And unless they perform a Barcelona-shaped comeback, they won’t have the Champions League to consider, so all focus will be on the top four race ahead.

Of course, there is the small issue of their dodgy and depleted back line, which has the potential to throw a spanner in the works, but the road ahead is looking a lot smoother.

Tottenham

Harry Kane could look to leave Tottenham if they do not achieve a top four finish
Harry Kane could look to leave Tottenham if they do not achieve a top four finish

Position: 7thGames Played: 31Points: 49

Last Seven Games: Everton (A), Southampton (H), Sheffield Utd (H), Leeds (A), Wolves (H), Aston Villa (A), Leicester (H)

Jose Mourinho’s side have got their work cut out if they are to leapfrog their rivals and claim a Champions League spot.

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But with their Europa League campaign over, it could be their only hope of matching Harry Kane’s ambitions and continuing the recent upward trajectory of the club which currently looks to be stagnating.

They’ve got a pleasant selection of fixtures remaining too, and there is no reason why Tottenham can’t at least put themselves in the mix come the final day.

To do so would probably require a victory at Everton at the weekend however, while the visit of Leicester could clinch or scupper their hopes, and form is not really on their side.

Everton


Position: 8thGames Played: 30Points: 48

Last Seven Games: Tottenham (H), Arsenal (A), Aston Villa (H), West Ham (A), Sheffield Utd (H), Wolves (H), Man City (A) – plus Aston Villa (A): date TBC

Everton really are the epitome of the old adage: ‘points on the board are always better than games in hand’.

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The Toffees have seemingly been playing catch-up on their rivals in terms of matches played for half of the season, but failure to convert those into wins have wiped out any advantage they had previously.

Failure to beat Brighton on Monday is indicative of their inconsistent form, and they are now four games without a win in the Premier League.

In short, it would take a mammoth effort from here to get in the top four.

Their run of games isn’t the worst, but they will almost certainly drop points, and they’d need an almost perfect finish to stand a chance.

Europa League qualification seems more likely providing they can force Tottenham out of the picture.





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