Manchester United, City, Arsenal and Liverpool are all embroiled in a battle for a spot in the top-four, while Spurs are more than likely to finish 2nd, come the end of the season.
With the season drawing to a close, the top four race has taken centre stage in the Premier League – after all; it’s safe to assume the league title has already been won by Chelsea.
Manchester United began the season with a top-four finish being their main goal. Jose Mourinho was well aware of the enormity of the task with five other teams also looking to secure Champions League qualification.
After undergoing a difficult first season at Old Trafford, the Portuguese tactician looks set to utilise the Europa League as United’s route to the top four.
While Europe’s second rated competition is United’s priority, it’s worth noting that Mourinho has not completely neglected the Premier League due to how close (yet so far) the Red Devils are to fourth place.
United’s most recent Premier League outings have seen them play out a goalless draw with fierce rivals Manchester City, as well as a 1-1 draw at home to Swansea on Sunday.
Maximum points from those games would’ve been enough for United to launch themselves into prime contention for a place in the top four, but given their recent form, Champions League qualification via a top-four finish continues to grow unlikely.
Judging by the current league standings, Manchester City have the best chance of securing automatic qualification to the group stages of Europe’s elite cup competition.
The Citizens are currently three points behind 3rd-placed Liverpool, but they’ve also played one game less than the Reds. Just one goal separates both sides regarding their goal difference; hence City’s game in hand currently serves as a trump card.
Should Man City take full advantage of their game in hand while also getting maximum points from their upcoming fixtures (which is quite likely) they’ll go on to finish 3rd at the end of the season, thus leaving Liverpool and Manchester United to fight for the last remaining Champions League place.
Assessing United’s Top-Four Chances
Liverpool’s final three games are against Southampton (H), West Ham (A) and Middlesbrough (H).
They’re all tricky fixtures given Southampton are capable of toppling any big side on their day, West Ham’s form is sporadic, and Middlesbrough’s Premier League survival might hinge on them beating Liverpool on the final day of the season.
Also, Liverpool’s tendency to struggle against bottom-half opposition could see them drop points in one or more of their remaining fixtures thus giving Manchester United a chance to steal a 4th-place finish from right under their noses.
Like City, Manchester United have a game in hand, but because they’re scheduled to play Arsenal at the Emirates on May 7 and Tottenham on May 14, their outstanding fixture could have a minimal effect on their points tally.
Should United fail to pick up maximum points against the North London outfits, they’ll have to depend on the outcome of Liverpool’s remaining fixtures to secure a top-four finish.
After the games against Arsenal and Spurs, United travel to Southampton and play host to Crystal Palace on the last day of the season. Both fixtures are winnable on paper, but they’re somewhat difficult due to the temerity the Saints and Palace tend to show against bigger sides.
City’s route to a top four finish is pretty straight forward thanks to their upcoming fixtures; hence they’re poised to finish 3rd.
Liverpool and United, on the other hand, are likely to battle it out for the last remaining Champions League qualification spot.
Judging by their upcoming fixtures, Liverpool have a better chance of claiming 4th-place, but even one small slip would be enough for the Red Devils to overtake them and finish 4th.