April is almost upon us and we’re beginning to get to the business end of the season where every football fan starts to scrutinise the league table. Despite Chelsea seemingly running away with the title, the battle for a top 4 spot is extremely competitive with 5 teams after 3 places. With that in mind, here’s how the run-in looks for the top 6.
*Some fixtures are still TBC so the order may not be completely accurate.
Some of you probably saw Chelsea and thought ‘what’s the point, they’ve already got the league wrapped up let alone a top 4 spot?’, but they could still play a big role in the top 4 fight. Chelsea still have to play both Manchester clubs so could put a huge dent in eithers’ Champions League hopes. United looked to have got the better deal out of this as City face them in 2 match weeks, but United in 4, by which time Chelsea might field a weakened team or put in a lacklustre performance.
Crystal Palace (H), Man City (H), Bournemouth (A), Man United (A), Southampton (H), Everton (A), Boro (H), West Brom (A), Sunderland (H), Watford (H) [TBC]
How Spurs end the season is absolutely crucial for the future aspirations of the club. They have a huge opportunity to send out a statement that they are going to be a force to be reckoned within the coming years, by not collapsing in the close season. Of their remaining 10 games Spurs only have 2 fixtures against sides in the top half of the league so you’d have to say they have by far the best run-in. Spurs need to get through the next 4/5 games without dropping too many points and then they’ll have the return of Harry Kane to boost them. I think they’ll be one of the teams to occupy a top 4 spot come the end of the season and Mauricio Pochettino will have the Champions League to think about next campaign.
Burnley (A), Swansea (A), Watford (H), Bournemouth (H), Crystal Palace (A), Arsenal (H), West Ham (A), Man United (H), Hull (A), Leicester (A)
Guardiola has endured a difficult debut campaign and has undoubtedly found the Premier League much more of a challenge than he anticipated, however, despite being out of the title race, City are still well amongst it for a top 4 spot. The loss of Gabriel Jesus for seemingly the rest of the season was a big blow but I’m sure City fans don’t mind Aguero starting up front too much. City have some really tough fixtures between now and the end of the season with trips to Arsenal and Chelsea next up. Combine this with a Manchester derby and tricky matches against Palace and Boro who’ll be desperate to pick up points to avoid the drop and Guardiola has a crucial few months to come. It may end up being a blessing in disguise that Monaco dumped them out the Champions League! Having said this, I still think they’ll hold on to a top 4 spot to retain Champions League football.
Arsenal (A), Chelsea (A), Hull (H), Southampton (A), Man United (H), West Brom (H), Boro (A), Crystal Palace (H), Leicester (H), Watford (A)
Despite a fairly slow start, Mourinho’s men have hung around the top 4 all season and looked to have been improving as the season goes on. I’d say United have the worst run-in with 7 of their 11 remaining fixtures coming against sides in the top half. It’s absolutely crucial that they pick up maximum points in their next 3 as they’re followed by matches against Chelsea, Burnley (who have shown themselves to be an incredibly tough nut to crack at home) and Man City. Shortly after that they’ve then got consecutive trips to North London meaning that of the 11 fixtures they have left, United will face 4 of the other top 6 sides. Mourinho doesn’t just have tricky fixtures to contend with as he will inevitably have to juggle the squad the deal with the fixture congestion they face as in between all this they’re still marching on in the Europa League. Despite this I think United have what it takes to ensure Champions League football returns to Old Trafford next season after a while out.
West Brom (H), Everton (H), Sunderland (A), Chelsea (H), Burnley (A), Man City (A), Swansea (H), Arsenal (A), Tottenham (A), Crystal Palace (H), Southampton (A)
Arsenal are another team with 11 games still to play in this season and they have some work to do. The Gunners seem to be crawling towards the finish line after a tough season that has seen problems on and off the pitch. Most fans want the season to just be over now but this won’t stop them wanting a top 4 spot. In the past the problem with Arsenal has been pretty evident and unsurprisingly I think this will determine whether Arsene Wenger maintains his record of securing top 4. Simply put, Arsenal need to perform against the big sides in order to make up the ground. If they can pull together and get a few solid results against City, Spurs and United then they have every chance of finishing in the top 4. However, I think this is the year they finally fall short and will miss out on joining Europe’s elite.
Man City (H), West Ham (H), Crystal Palace (A), Boro (H), Leicester (A), Tottenham (A), Man United (H), Stoke (A), Everton (H), Southampton (A), Sunderland (H)
Most teams would like the look of Liverpool’s run-in, however with the way their season’s gone so far, I don’t think Liverpool themselves will be too happy with it. The remaining fixtures involve none of the top 6, however Liverpool are unbeaten this season against the top 6 and it is against the lower sides they have struggled. Klopp will need to turn things around to stand a chance of a long-awaited return to Europe. Unfortunately for the Merseysiders, I think they’ll be one of the teams to miss out.
Everton (H), Bournemouth (H), Stoke (A), West Brom (A), Crystal Palace (H), Watford (A), Southampton (H), West Ham (A), Boro (H)
So there is the run-in for the top 6 teams. In my opinion, Liverpool and Arsenal will be the ones to miss out on a top 4 spot this campaign but anything can happen. You might feel I’ve been a bit easy on United, especially considering their tough fixtures, however the important thing about them playing others in the top 6 is that they can take points off them, the games are effectively 6 pointers.
What’s your top 4 prediction? Let us know in the comments below!