The top four of the Premier League has been a target for many teams for several years. For nearly a decade, the same four clubs occupied the Champions League qualification spaces, but now there are new challengers as Liverpool and Arsenal struggle to regain lost ground.
Tottenham Hotspur have threatened to take Arsenal’s top four place for a few years, but ultimately failing towards the business end of the season. Arsenal’s superior experience both on and off the field has consistently helped them overlap Spurs to qualify for the Champions League. However, last season, Spurs did finish fourth, but were demoted to the Europa League due to Chelsea’s Champions League success.
Again, this season, the Lilywhites from North London are threatening to overthrow the reign of power in North London by overtaking Arsenal to finish in the top four.
With six games remaining, Arsenal sit in third place, one point ahead of Spurs, who lie in fifth.
Arsene Wenger’s men looked out of the race for the top four after losing to Spurs just last month but with a record of 10 wins in their last 12 games, coupled with Spurs losing points since the derby, Arsenal now find themselves with the upper hand.
With a considerably easier fixture list to complete, Arsenal will surely seal their place in the top four, pushing either Spurs or Chelsea out.
Do Spurs now focus on overhauling Chelsea, who they are level on points with? The Blues are in the Semi-Finals of the Europa League, and as I am writing this, are to play their Semi-Final of the FA Cup with Manchester City.
Rafael Benitez and his team have their eyes on other prizes, but they cannot afford to miss out on Champions League qualification.
Tottenham and Andre Villas-Boas know they have a fight on their hands as their star player Gareth Bale fights his way back from an ankle injury sustained on midweek European duty.
AVB must wrestle with Man City, Stoke, Wigan, Southampton and Sunderland – three teams fighting for their lives at the bottom of the table – to gain a top four place.
Arsenal, meanwhile, have to play Everton, a lethargic Fulham, a Man Utd who could already have won the title, QPR (who might already be doomed to relegation), Wigan and Newcastle United.
Chelsea’s seven remaining matches are as follows: Fulham, Liverpool, Swansea City, Man Utd, Aston Villa and Everton.
For all three teams, there are matches in their run-in that one would expect them to win with ease. But, on the other hand, they could all easily slip up and lose points. It will be tight and I expect it to go right until the final minutes of the season. One thing’s for sure: it will be riveting.
Prediction: Arsenal and Chelsea, 3rd and 4th respectively.