The battle for the top four is set to go right down to the wire with only five points separating the teams from 3rd-7th with 10 games of the 2014-15 Premier League season to go.
Chelsea are on course to win the title and Manchester City, four points above Arsenal are also expected to finish in the top four this season, being the top two.
For Arsenal (3rd, 54 points), Manchester United (4th, 53 points), Liverpool (5th, 51 points) and Tottenham Hotspur (6th, 50 points) it’s nail biting stuff going into the business end of the season.
Few give Southampton a chance of finishing in the top four after a poor run of form recently, though they head into the weekend’s game only one point below Spurs.
So who will finish in the top four? Taking a look at each team’s remaining fixtures will help us make a prediction.
Arsène Wenger’s side have at least one more game left in this season’s UEFA Champions League. It’s going to be a tough ask for them to score three goals in Monaco having been thrashed 3-1 at home.
There’s also a good chance the Gunners will have two more matches in the FA Cup as they will be heavily favoured to beat either Reading or Bradford City in their semi-final. They already have a postponed match with Sunderland to fit in, so there are a couple of midweek games and long weeks for Wenger’s side between now and the end of the season.
A trip to Newcastle four days after they’ve played in Monaco doesn’t seem too attractive on paper especially with Wenger’s record after Champions League away games. However, Newcastle are pretty poor under John Carver right now. Arsenal also go to Manchester United late in the season, whilst have home games against both Liverpool and Chelsea.
Of the 10 games remaining for Arsenal, the teams they face have averaged 38.6 points this season, giving them the second ‘easiest’ remaining schedule. However, the 1.43 points per game based on the home and away fixtures (for example, West Ham have averaged 1.15 points in their away games this season), is the lowest points tally amongst these four teams, giving Wenger’s side a big advantage, at least on paper.
Louis van Gaal’s side have been getting the points of late despite some poor performances on the pitch. Their defeat to Arsenal in the FA Cup on Monday night has left a number of fans worrying they’re going to end the season outside of the top four places.
That defeat does leave the Red Devils to fully concentrate on the league as they’re in no other cup competitions – an advantage they have over both Arsenal and Liverpool in that respect.
United do however have to face the other five teams in the top six – three of these games are at home though which you could argue leaves it in their own hands. Trips to Liverpool and Chelsea are on the cards though, and Arsenal are the only one of these who could have a position locked in before they meet. United fans will be hoping Hull are safe before the final game of the season if they’re still battling for a top four place.
Of their 10 games remaining, Manchester United have the toughest fixture list with their opponents currently averaging 41.6 points this season – that’s 3 whole points more than Arsenal’s remaining fixtures and virtually six more points than Tottenham’s remaining opponents. Their opponents’ average of 1.47 points per game based on remaining home/away fixtures is also the highest in this comparison.
Brendan Rodgers’ side will have been disappointed to have drawn 0-0 at home to Blackburn Rovers in the FA Cup last weekend, leaving them with an extra game on their fixture list. Being dumped out of the Europa League by Beşiktaş should work in their favour though.
On paper, Liverpool have the most favourable run in. They’re almost the in-form team in the Premier League right now, unbeaten and having collected more points in 2015 than any other side. Beating Manchester City recently shows what they’re capable of and sitting two points outside the top four with 10 games remaining, many fans have them down as favourites to clinch a Champions League spot.
There are trips to both Arsenal and Chelsea to negotiate as well as a big clash with Manchester United at Anfield next weekend which will have a big say in the top four places. Other than that though, Reds fans have to fancy their side’s chances of picking up maximum points from their other fixtures.
Liverpool’s fixtures are actually the third toughest of these four teams, although their remaining opponents’ average of 39.6 points per game is only one more than Arsenal’s, whilst is two less points than United’s remaining fixtures. Home fixtures against Manchester United and Newcastle should benefit Rodgers’ side and their final two games could be against teams with nothing to play for.
Can Mauricio Pochettino mastermind a magnificent finish for Tottenham? A trip to Old Trafford this weekend may have a big say on the final positions and the London side should go to Manchester in confidence with recent results against the Red Devils and both side’s performances of late.
After they play Manchester United’s it’s three consecutive fixtures against sides currently in the bottom four. Pochettino’s side also finish the season against three teams who have nothing to play for in terms of relegation and European places – often considered a bonus when you have something significant to play for.
Starting the weekend three points out of the Champions League places a victory away to Manchester United would be massive in their fight for a top four finish, especially with United facing Liverpool the following weekend. Defeat however could be disastrous especially if Arsenal beat West Ham.
On paper, Tottenham’s fixtures are the easiest of these four sides – opponents have averaged 35.7 points per game this season. Their average of 1.44 points home/away is second to Arsenal though.
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