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The race to the top… 4

24 Feb | BY Betway | MIN READ TIME |
The race to the top… 4

James Tweddle takes a look at the five clubs chasing the two remaining seats at Europe's top table

Chelsea and Man City are nailed on for 1st and 2nd (although not neccesarily in that order) in the Premier League, right?

With the holy grail of the Champions League back in action tonight, which of the other current candidates for Top 4 have the best chance of making it to the pearly gates of Europe’s biggest competition next season?

ARSENAL – Arsene the questions

Currently sitting third, Arsenal are the perennial Champions League contenders. Sage French coat-model Arsene Wenger has, by hook or by crook, gotten Arsenal a Top Four finish every single year since he took over in 1996.

However, even he has recently admitted that this race has been the closest he can remember. With only four points between them and seventh-placed Tottenham, there’s barely room to breathe.

However, the Gunners look in the best shape to nab a spot. Their run in is by far the least daunting, with home ties against Chelsea and Liverpool, and away to Man United the only obvious stumbling blocks.

Their experience in the final furlong is well known, and will be difficult to beat.

With several key players recently returning from injury, it is hard to look past Arsenal reaching the Promised Land once more.

1/4 – Arsenal to finish in the Top 4

MANCHESTER UNITED – United we fall?

20 games. Two defeats. The stats are impressive, but cannot cover up what most Manchester United fans can see, that their team are woefully out of sorts.

The loss to Swansea at the weekend had been coming, and was going to happen sooner or later with a back three/four whose reliance on the stellar form of David de Gea to bail them out were finally undone.

The positives for Red Devils fans are that, going forward, they have some world-class players and a manager that, on paper, should be able to get the best out of them.

With City, Arsenal and Tottenham at home, as well as Liverpool, Chelsea and Everton away to come, Louis van Gaal will need to hope he can inspire some top performances to guarantee a Champions League place.

7/10 – Manchester United to finish in the Top 4

SOUTHAMPTON – Saints go marching on?

What a season so far for Southampton. Written off in the most sneering of manners after their so-called exodus of players and manager alike in the summer, the taste of humble pie must have been bitter to the mouths of many football journalists.

Winning seven of their first ten games and beating Arsenal, Man United and Everton to date, the team-spirit appears strong on the South Coast.

Despite the lack of big names like some of their Top Four rivals, they have as good a chance of any to snatch a European place.

A visit to Manchester City awaits on the final day, but with trips to seven clubs near the bottom before that, Ronald Koeman’s men must be hoping to cement their spot before then.

One large consideration must be their limited squad depth, with an overreliance on Morgan Schneiderlin’s fitness uppermost. Can they hold their nerve?

3/1 – Southampton to finish in the Top 4

LIVERPOOL – What a difference a week makes

Okay, maybe more than a week. Since they crashed out of the Champions League Group Stages in mid-December, Liverpool have slowly been regaining their footing.

Now unbeaten in their last ten games and with five consecutive away clean sheets for the first time in 30 years, they appear a side transformed under Brendan Rodgers, who seems a mile away from the intense pressure and scrutiny he was under back then.

The difficulties were always going to be there when Daniel Sturridge was out after the loss of Louis Suárez. With Sturridge back and replacement Balotelli apparently stirring into life, there is a renewed vigour around Anfield.

In fact, their new run of form could give them double the chance at a Champions League place, as they appear to be actively pursuing the Europa League title. But they will need to keep their foot on the gas to make it.

15/8 – Liverpool to finish in the Top 4

TOTTENHAM – Spurred into life

One loss in five. Those be impressive numbers as Tottenham head into the final stages of the season, but inconsistency seems to be a real problem for Pochettino’s men.

They can mount one hell of a comeback to snatch the derby from rivals Arsenal, but also need a late push to get any change out of West Ham.

What’s more, Harry Kane represents both a positive and a negative for Spurs fans. The positive being that he appears to be one of the deadliest young English strikers to emerge in many a long year, and a sight for sore eyes for any football fan.

The negative, by reversal is that without him Tottenham look sparse up front, with neither Emmanuel Adebayor nor Roberto Soldado able to find the net with a map and compass.

If they are to overtake Man United and Southampton when they visit both before the end of the season, they will need Eriksen to continue his form and Lamela to start chipping in with the occasional goal.

The question remains whether the team and their fans would trade their run at European football for a focus on silverware in the form of the Capital One Cup.

5/1 – Tottenham to finish in the Top 4

Who do you think will finish in the Top Four at the end of the season? Tell us via Facebook or @Betway on Twitter.