With as tight a race for Champions League qualification as in the recent memory, Chelsea, Newcastle and Tottenham all have three games left to play to ensure a top-four finish. The Blues have the FA Cup final on Saturday and their Champions League finale clash with Bayern Munich coming up, but are the form side of the three. The Tyneside outfit have put an excellent string of results together of late, however were comprehensively beaten 4-0 last time out by Wigan. Spurs have had an end-of-season wobble, and are not looking like the side that were challenging for the title three months ago. The race is set to go down to the wire.
Chelsea’s resurgence under Roberto Di Matteo has saved their season, as the Italian interim boss has led the side through a winning run, with only one defeat in 16 games in charge. With the final of the Champions League to play on May 19th, the Blues have a second chance to compete in Europe’s top tournament next term even if they do not finish in the top four, and potentially end one of their rivals’ dreams.
Currently in sixth and a point behind the other two contenders, the west London outfit host Newcastle at Stamford Bridge on Wednesday. Chelsea won the reverse fixture 3-0 earlier in the season, and will look to build on a 6-1 victory over QPR from their last fixture. Fernando Torres scored a hat-trick in the rout to back up his strike against Barcelona from the game before, whilst Daniel Sturridge also got back on the scoresheet. Roman Abramovich will demand inclusion in the Champions League next term, and Di Matteo will need to ensure this to stand a chance of keeping his job on a permanent basis.
Newcastle’s heroics this season are well-documented and the praise afforded to Alan Pardew’s men fully deserved, but the Tyneside team are now starting to realise that they deserve their position amongst the country’s best. The likes of Yohan Cabaye, Demba Ba, Hatem Ben Arfa and Cheik Tiote have played out of their skin this campaign to delight the Sports Direct Arena crowd, whilst Papiss Cisse’s 11 goals in 11 games for the club have given the Toon faithful a new hero.
The game against Chelsea holds extra importance for the Geordies due to their tricky end of season fixture list; Pardew’s men still have Manchester City and Everton to play. A draw would be a good result for Newcastle to keep them above Chelsea, but a defeat has the ability to end their Champions League ambitions.
Tottenham’s capitulation over the last two months has seen the north Londoners slip from having a comfortable and dominant grip on third, to risk slipping all the way down to sixth. The White Hart Lane outfit have been adversely impacted by the speculation over Harry Redknapp’s future, but with Roy Hodgson having being appointed England manager the club’s fans will hope the side can refocus.
Spurs travel to take on Bolton at the Reebok Stadium on Wednesday, and will face a side struggling in the bottom three and desperate for points themselves. With Fabrice Muamba also expected at the game despite his health concerns, the Trotters will be motivated to get a result for their ill midfielder. However, should Spurs get a valuable three points they would open the gap between themselves and at least one of their two rivals, and move to within a point of third-placed Arsenal with Aston Villa and Fulham to play.
Teams’ fortunes are decided at the business end of the season, and Chelsea, Newcastle and Tottenham are only separated by a point in a tight and tense final battle. The London sides seem to have an advantage in the race, but the side to eventually finish fourth will become a bit clearer after the midweek fixtures.