Who Will Finish Top 4 In The Premier League?
Which clubs will earn a top 4 finish in the Premier League this season? Today on the blog Amit Singh of Think Football considers each of the candidates for Champions League qualification as we head into the run home.
The race for fourth is getting close to reaching its climax. With 8 games left (7 for some) it is getting increasingly tight from 3rd-6th with four clubs vying to finish in the top four and only two positions available as United and City look a cut above in first and second respectively.
Will Chelsea Finish Top 4?
Chelsea's form has been somewhat up and down this season. They've played more games than the other sides competing for a top four finish and this is only going to get worse if they progress to the Europa League semi-final and if they beat Man City on Sunday to make the FA Cup final. Chelsea's squad is not what it used to be and is being put through its paces in the hunt for a top four finish, with so many different competitions to compete in.
The quest for trophies has arguably taken its toll on the clubs league form with them having lost to Southampton 2-1, only to beat United 1-0 two days later. Some fans feel that Benitez is targeting trophies to further his CV at the expense of the domestic campaign, but in truth it's a very difficult balancing act that with the club, as Benitez tries to carefully rotate the squad to keep players fresh.
Chelsea have by far the hardest run in with the Europa League fixtures, FA Cup games and tough trips to Manchester United, Liverpool and rivals Fulham as well as hosting Spurs and Everton. One thing that works in Chelsea's favour is the fact that in the four games they've played against Spurs, Arsenal and Everton, they've taken maximum points, which suggests that in the big games they can produce results.
The game in hand over Spurs is also crucial as if Chelsea win that and then beat Spurs they'll be in a very strong position to at least finish fourth. Their next two fixtures away at Fulham and Liverpool will be crucial.
The Odds: Chelsea are best priced at odds of 1.25 to complete a top 4 finish in 2013.
Will Tottenham Finish Top 4?
Having beaten Arsenal 2-1 a few weeks ago Spurs looked like they'd race off into third, leaving the other sides to battle it out for fourth. A few weeks and a few dropped points on and Spurs are fourth, level on points with Chelsea who have a game in hand. Now things look less likely for Spurs who have a tough trip to Chelsea coming up and their next league game is at home to City in what is essentially a must win game.
Finishing fourth is no longer in the club's hands given that Arsenal will over-take Spurs if they win their own game in hand. Meaning that Spurs could be left to rue their recent slump and rue the injuries to key players such as Kaboul and Sandro that have hampered them this season.
The loss of Gareth Bale has been softened by the fact that Spurs get this weekend off, as he should return for the Man City game. The main issue for Spurs is that the squad is very thin (compounded by injuries) and the demands of the Europa League are taking their toll. AVB doesn't rotate the squad (partly because of how thin it is) which means that the side often struggle with the duel demands of Europe and the league.
Finishing below their Northern London rivals Arsenal would be a bitter pill to swallow for Spurs fans given that the club beat them in that recent North London Derby.
The Odds: Spurs are best priced at odds of 2.38 to finish in the top 4 this season.
Will Arsenal Finish Top 4?
Arsenal looked down and out after they lost 2-1 to Spurs in the Premier League. A fixture that many felt had killed off the sides top four hopes, but since then they have won three on the spin which has pushed them up to fifth with a game in hand over Spurs (that if they win will take them above Spurs). Arsenal also have the easiest run in with their only notable fixture being at home to United. Other than that the fixture less is relatively straight forward.
Unlike Chelsea and Spurs they don't have to worry about European football and in Chelsea's case FA Cup demands. Arsenal actually play three times in the league before Spurs play again, meaning they could be seven points clear of Spurs before Spurs face Man City on the 21st April.
Beating Everton next Tuesday is a must for Arsenal and a victory in this game would surely kill off all hope Everton have of a top four finish.
The Odds: Arsenal are best priced at odds of 1.40 to complete a top 4 finish this season.
Will Everton Finish Top 4?
Everton are definitely outsiders in the race for fourth. One could argue it's in their hands to a degree with a trip to Arsenal and Chelsea coming up for them. In reality they'd need to take six points from these games which is quite unlikely. Even that wouldn't necessarily be enough with the club six points behind third place Chelsea and fourth placed Spurs (although they have a game in hand over Spurs).
Had they beaten Spurs at the weekend then they'd be right in it, but failure to do so has given them only an outside chance of finishing in the top four. The club have also got to go away to Liverpool and cannot afford any slip ups if they want to get into the top four.
The Odds: Everton are the long price of 13.00 to earn a top 4 finish in 2013.
The race for a top four finish is certainly getting tighter by the week. Everton's failure to beat Spurs will make it very difficult for them to finish fourth, even if they do beat Arsenal. In reality the club need near to a 100% record to creep into the top four.
The main candidates are thus Chelsea, Spurs and Arsenal. Arsenal are in form and have a relatively easy running so it's difficult to look past them at the moment. Chelsea have the quality but a huge number of games and chronic inconsistency has dogged them and may continue to. For Spurs, it is no longer in their hands having drawn against Everton and they may need to beat Chelsea at Stamford Bridge to finish fourth.
Regardless, there will be many twists left in the top four tale.
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