Manchester City v Tottenham v Chelsea – who will play in the Champions League next season?

With just three months left in this year’s Premier League season, the race for the last two Champions League spots is still tight. Manchester City, Tottenham and Chelsea are all fighting on multiple fronts, but regardless of what happens in Europe or the FA Cup, not qualifying for the Champions League next season, given their respective seasons so far, would constitute as a failure / disaster / disappointment (choose your degree of alarm).

Manchester City and Tottenham have 11 games each to go, with 49 and 47 points respectively. Chelsea, on 45 points, have a game in hand, but that game in hand falls against league leaders Manchester United, so it’s not an automatic 3 points in the bag for them.

All three teams may consider themselves as having outside shots at the league title (with Chelsea playing Manchester United twice), but Arsenal and United are 7 points ahead and at this stage, it would be considerably optimistic to count the three as serious title challengers (although they are bound to have a say in the title race).

So let’s look at the remaining fixtures for the three teams and try to predict whether they’ll be playing Champions League football next season or not.

Manchester City

Current league position: 3rd
Games played: 27
Points: 49

Manchester City are in a strong enough position in terms of squad depth and talent to be winning 6 of their 11 remaining games. The 5 problem fixtures that stand out are:

Chelsea v Manchester City – 20 March 2011
Liverpool v Manchester City – 10 April 2011
Manchester City v Tottenham – 16 April 2011
Everton v Manchester City – 7 May 2011
Bolton v Manchester City – 22 May 2011

Everton away and Bolton away are games City need to be winning if they want any chance of challenging for the league title or cementing their Champions League spot – whether they can get those results will depend a lot on their forward line being fit and consistent in the final weeks of the season. Liverpool may not be in contention for the Champions League (although if they win all their remaining 11 games, it puts them on 71 points, which might be good enough) but they’ll be very difficult opponents for City.

Then there are the big away games to their direct CL rivals Chelsea and Tottenham – Spurs may seem easy pickings in the Premier League right now with their strikers lacking form but that game is still a month and a half away. Chelsea haven’t been as strong at Stamford Bridge as they would have liked in recent months, and City certainly have the players to unsettle Chelsea, but again it isn’t a game that you would put City going into as favourites.

City should get at least 20 points from their last 11 games, but realistically they need to look at 25 if they are to challenge for a top-two spot.

Predicted points at end of season: 69


Current league position: 4th
Games played: 27
Points: 47

At the start of the new year, Harry Redknapp said it would be a miracle if Tottenham were to contest for the title in the closing months, claiming that they lacked the firepower to dominate the Premier League in that fashion. This week he’s set his sights lower, saying that it would be a miracle if Tottenham were playing in the Champions League next season given the lack of goals from their forwards.

Tottenham’s loss at Blackpool, a game they should have won if the players were on form and would have put them a point ahead of City in the league table, offers an interesting insight into Tottenham’s relative European success. While teams in the Premier League are more capable of nullifying / countering / beating Tottenham at a high-tempo game, European teams, playing at a lower tempo, are sometimes unable to contend with Tottenham. They’ll need to learn how to dominate games more and kill them off without leaving themselves open to suicide goals if they want to play in top four of the Premier League at a regular basis.

Tottenham have a slightly easier run-in than Manchester City, but their tough games are all away and all against top quality opposition:

Manchester City v Tottenham – 16 April 2011
Chelsea v Tottenham – 30 April 2011
Liverpool v Tottenham – 15 May 2011

So you can expect Tottenham to be winning those remaining 8 games (they certainly shouldn’t be losing any of them), perhaps a couple of draws that push them down to a 20 point total after 8 games. With leaves us with the three games mentioned above – and I think Spurs would do well to avoid defeat in all three games – 5 points would be a fantastic result.

Predicted points at end of season: 70


Current league position: 5h
Games played: 26
Points: 45

Chelsea’s two biggest remaining games are against Manchester United home and away, but they also have testing away games to Blackpool and Everton, plus home games against City and Tottenham.

Chelsea v Manchester United – 1 March 2011
Blackpool v Chelsea – 7 March 2011
Chelsea v Manchester City – 20 March 2011
Chelsea v Tottenham – 30 April 2011
Manchester United v Chelsea – 7 May 2011
Everton v Chelsea – 22nd May 2011

The remaining six games include tricky away games to West Brom and Stoke, but Chelsea should be strong enough to negotiate all of them, as well as the Blackpool game, with wins. The City, Spurs and Everton games will be very interesting, but I don’t see Chelsea losing any of them (wins are a different matter though). The United games will test Chelsea’s claims that they are still in the title race and if nothing else, will have a definite say in the title race.

Chelsea should be looking at a minimum of 25 points from their other 10 games, and then against United it’s upto Terry, Drogba, Torres and co to prove that they are still good enough to challenge for the league title.

Predicted points at end of season: 70

Champions League 2011/2012

The above predictions point to Chelsea and Tottenham finishing tied on 70 points each – and here Chelsea’s goal difference will give them an edge. Manchester City would end at 69 points and out of the Champions League spots, which seems very strange given their strong performances throughout the season. All three teams will be playing each other before the season ends, and the results of those games could easily swing the Champions League race in the favour of one of these three teams.

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Update: Fixed the Tottenham predictions.

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