London (AFP) – Liverpool host derby foes Everton and Manchester City visit ailing Arsenal this weekend as the battle for Champions League qualification takes centre-stage in the Premier League following the international recess.
With Chelsea 10 points clear at the top of the table and seemingly destined for the title, five major clubs are scrapping over the three remaining Champions League berths.
Here’s how they shape up:
2nd: Tottenham Hotspur (Played 28 Points 59)
Following an unsteady start to the season, Tottenham clicked into gear in mid-December and have only dropped points against Manchester City, Liverpool and Sunderland in their last 13 games. Their run in-features only two meetings with other members of the top six and both are at home: against north London rivals Arsenal and Manchester United, in what stands to be the last game played at White Hart Lane. But manager Mauricio Pochettino will hope 19-goal top scorer Harry Kane recovers from his ankle injury quickly.
Run-in: Burnley (away), Swansea City (a), Watford (home), Bournemouth (h), Leicester City (a), Crystal Palace (a), Arsenal (h), West Ham United (a), Manchester United (h), Hull City (a)
3rd: Manchester City (P28 Pts 57)
City’s seven-game unbeaten run in the league faces successive tests in London over the next week as Pep Guardiola takes his erratically performing team to Arsenal and Chelsea. City have tightened up at the back, conceding only two goals in their last six games. But they are now having problems at the other end, as demonstrated in the recent 0-0 draw at home to Stoke City and 1-1 draw at Liverpool. “We always have chances to score,” said midfielder Yaya Toure. “We missed them against Liverpool, but sometimes you have to accept that because we’ve been playing a lot of games.”
Run-in: Arsenal (a), Chelsea (a), Hull City (h), Southampton (a), West Bromwich Albion (h), Manchester United (h), Middlesbrough (a), Crystal Palace (h), Leicester City (h), Watford (a)
4th: Liverpool (P29 Pts 56)
Liverpool have the kindest run-in of any team in the top six, but that may not necessarily be a good thing. Jurgen Klopp’s men have thrived against their main rivals, avoiding defeat in the 10 head-to-heads against the other teams in the top six. But they have struggled to break down sides near the bottom of the table, losing to Burnley, Bournemouth, Swansea City, Hull City and Leicester City. But next up they face Everton, who have Champions League ambitions of their own after moving level on points with Arsenal, albeit having played two games more.
Run-in: Everton (h), Bournemouth (h), Stoke City (a), West Bromwich Albion (a), Crystal Palace (h), Watford (a), Southampton (h), West Ham United (a), Middlesbrough (h)
5th: Manchester United (P27 Pts 52)
United manager Jose Mourinho has complained long and loud about his club’s packed fixture schedule and there is no let-up in sight. Unbeaten in 18 league outings, United must squeeze in 11 league games plus a two-legged Europa League quarter-final against Anderlecht, and injuries are starting to bite. Paul Pogba, Chris Smalling and Phil Jones are currently sidelined, while top scorer Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Ander Herrera are suspended.
Run-in: West Bromwich Albion (h), Everton (h), Sunderland (a), Chelsea (h), Burnley (a), Manchester City (a), Swansea City (h), Arsenal (a), Tottenham Hotspur (a), Crystal Palace (h)
6th: Arsenal (P27 Pts 50)
Besieged by questions about his future, Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger faces a huge battle to steer his team into the Champions League for the 19th season running. Beaten four times in their last five games, Arsenal are at the lowest ebb of Wenger’s 21-year tenure, with fans bitterly divided over whether or not the Frenchman should be allowed to stay. “Our season will now be decided by the next two months,” Wenger conceded on Thursday.
Run-in: Manchester City (h), West Ham United (h), Crystal Palace (a), Middlesbrough (a), Sunderland (h), Leicester City (h), Tottenham Hotspur (a), Manchester United (h), Stoke City (a), Everton (h)
Saturday (1400 GMT unless otherwise stated):
Burnley v Tottenham, Chelsea v Crystal Palace, Hull v West Ham, Leicester v Stoke, Liverpool v Everton (1130 GMT), Manchester United v West Brom, Southampton v Bournemouth (1630 GMT), Watford v Sunderland
Arsenal v Man City (1500 GMT), Swansea v Middlesbrough (1230 GMT)
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