The Race for Europe: Which EPL Clubs Will Qualify for the Champions League?
As it the Premier League table stands at the moment, Manchester United are looking set to snatch back the trophy from the blue half of Manchester. Twelve points clear with 12 matches to play is a rather large hurdle, but in the immortal words of Yogi Berra, “It ain’t over till it’s over.” This is certainly true of positions 2-6 and who will get the Champions League/Europa League places.
What has made the top of the table so interesting this year is the continued form of both Tottenham Hotspur and Everton as well as the relative inconsistency of Manchester City and Chelsea. Tottenham are currently sitting in 4th place on 48 points followed by Chelsea with 49 points in third and City in second place with 53 points. That is only a 5 point lead for Manchester City with Tottenham set to play Chelsea on the road and City at home while Chelsea will also have to travel to Man City on Feb 24th.
These matches could lead to some interesting developments in the top four positions. Add to this the inclusion of Arsenal (44 points) and Everton (42) and the battle for European places gets very exciting indeed. Everton has already gotten their fixture with Manchester United out of the way and are set to play Arsenal (A), Manchester City (H), Tottenham (A) and then wrap up the season away to Chelsea. Meanwhile Arsenal have Tottenham (A), Everton (H), and Manchester United (H) yet to play. From the looks of it Arsenal might have an easier go of it.
Each team has the standard mid table and bottom of the table matches as well which could always lead to a slip-up. There is still plenty to play for in the middle of the table as well for spoilers like Liverpool, Swansea City, West Brom, and Stoke City so nobody is going to be able to relax.
Another thing to remember is that Arsenal is still involved in both the Champions League and FA Cup which could turn their heads and cause some tiredness (Arsene has already played this card earlier in the season). Everton has the FA Cup, but this could do more to give them confidence than anything in my opinion. The same is true of Manchester City. Tottenham may not have the FA Cup, but they are still in the Europa League, which could lead to some interesting team selections and form in the coming weeks. Chelsea could have it the worst off being involved in both the FA Cup and Europa League. Their FA Cup run could hinder them more than anything. Being dumped out by League One Brentford would not be helpful at all and could hurt their morale. Progressing would just add another match to an already busy fixture list.
Several of these teams are going to have some tough decisions to make in the coming weeks in terms of focus. I would say that Chelsea is going to have it the roughest which could open the door for Everton and Arsenal to battle for the fourth position. Tottenham will also need to decide if they are going to make a push in Europe this year, or make the push for a Champions League place. Manchester City seems likely to make a push for the FA Cup this year, but will this come at the expense of getting second?
The way I see it, the top four spots are wide open. This is going to be a crucial time for teams to make their push. If any team starts to slip, the others need to be ready to step up. I do not see Manchester City with a lock on second, nor do I see Chelsea with a lock on third. I would not be at all surprised by Tottenham and Everton moving up the table. City and Chelsea really need to cut out the mistakes if they want to maintain the status quo at the top.
What do you think? Will Manchester City hold the others off to maintain second? Perhaps Arsenal will make a push to claim a Champions League spot, or better yet, Everton?