Although there is still a long way to go in the English football season, many predict that Liverpool and Manchester are set to once again go toe-to-toe for Premier League glory. With first and second place being competed for by last season’s winners and runners-up, that leaves the remaining two Champions League spots up for grabs, with the competition being fiercer than ever this time around. Aside from clubs in the traditional top six being in the running, the 2015-16 champions, Leicester City, have also entered the race for European qualification.
As a result, we’re going to look at which sides have the capabilities to finish in the final Champions League places.
Managed by former Liverpool boss Brendan Rodgers, Leicester City have made an unexpected start to the new season. While it was widely expected that the Foxes would prove to be a formidable outfit under the Northern Irishman’s leadership, their opening 11 fixtures have seen them become one of the favorites for Champions League qualification come the end of the season. During the summer transfer window, England international defender, Harry Maguire, departed the King Power stadium in an £80-million move to Manchester United, leaving the former champions of England with a sizeable void that needed filling.
Following this world-record move for a defender, Rodgers’ side weren’t being thought of as potential challengers for a European place, as, in recent years, they have struggled to replace other integral first-team players such as N’Golo Kante and Riyad Mahrez. However, despite being linked with James Tarkowski and Nathan Ake, the Foxes opted against bringing in a central defender to replace Maguire. In turn, Leicester have thus far seen the best of Caglar Soyuncu, who has seamlessly filled the boots of the imposing 26-year-old defender.
Along with shoring up the defense, the Scottish Premiership-winning manager has also been able to get the best out of Jamie Vardy, who currently leads the goalscoring charts with 10 goals in 11 matches. Due to these factors, Leicester find themselves in third place in the table, just two points behind reigning champions Manchester City. In achieving seven wins thus far in the campaign, the Foxes have put themselves in a strong position. At odds of 10/11 – as of November 8th – to finish in the top four in the sports betting online at SBO, they could be an intriguing way to use the £30 free bet welcome offer.
Much like Leicester, Chelsea have won seven of their opening 11 fixtures, losing only twice since the season began. However, unlike the 2015-16 champions, Frank Lampard’s side haven’t shown the same defensive resilience, conceding 17 goals, which is the most of any team in the top four as of the time of writing. To their credit, however, and in spite of their existing transfer ban, the fans at Stamford Bridge have supported the Englishman’s attacking style of play ever since he took charge of the club.
The imposed ban has seen several academy graduates such as Fikayo Tomori, Mason Mount and Tammy Abraham demonstrate their talents in England’s top-flight. Abraham, the 22-year-old striker, has scored nine goals this season, which is only one less than Vardy who leads the race for the golden boot. The combination of exciting football and fearless youth is one of the main reasons that Chelsea are currently looking good value to secure back-to-back qualification into the Champions League.
The Need for Consistency
Unlike Chelsea, Leicester, Liverpool and Manchester City, other members of the traditional top six have failed to demonstrate the same levels of consistency. At present, Manchester United and Tottenham, who sit in 10th and 11th respectively, have both won just three games, while fifth-placed Arsenal have won four.
After investing heavily in the summer transfer window, many expected Ole Gunnar Solskjaer and Unai Emery’s teams to be competing at the top end of the table having brought in players such as Aaron Wan-Bissaka, David Luiz, Harry Maguire and Nicolas Pepe. However, neither side have been able to find consistency in the opening stages of the campaign. Following injuries to first-team players and inconsistency among others, both managers have been altering their tactics from one week to another.
Tottenham were widely predicted to push on this season having reached the Champions League final during the last campaign. Mauricio Pochettino’s side looked set for another run at the Premier League title after adding the likes of Ryan Sessegnon, Giovani Lo Celso and Tanguy Ndombele to their squad in the most recent transfer window. However, prior to their season opener, Christian Eriksen stated his desire to leave North London before Spurs later lost Hugo Lloris after he suffered a dislocation to his elbow against Brighton back in October. There are no doubts that Tottenham have the quality required to finish in the top four, but having already fallen 10 points behind both Leicester and Chelsea, they’ll need to find some consistency if they are to achieve qualification.
An Interesting Battle Awaits
Despite the existing points difference between the sides in the hunt for Champions League qualification, it remains a very wide-open race. With the January transfer window fast approaching, Manchester United may opt to strengthen their squad, while consistency will be the key to a top-four finish for both Arsenal and Tottenham.
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