The race for the Champions League: Tottenham, Arsenal, Manchester United and Chelsea are battling it out for just two spots… but who will make it into Europe’s elite next season?
- Spurs, Arsenal, Manchester United and Chelsea could all finish in the top four
- Tottenham’s defeat at Chelsea ended their chances of lifting the Premier League
- All four teams are separated by seven points as we enter the final few months
- Sportsmail assesses their chances of clinching Champions League football
Liverpool and Manchester City have pulled clear of the chasing pack but, as we enter the final stage of the season, the battle to secure Champions League football is just as tense.
Spurs, Arsenal, Manchester United and Chelsea are separated by just seven points as they look to join Europe’s elite next season. Here, Sportsmail assesses their chances of clinching those remaining two places in the top four.
Spurs, Arsenal, Manchester United and Chelsea could all finish in the top four this season
Form: Most fans would have thought Harry Kane’s return to action from injury would have coincided with a dazzling run to the title for Spurs. It has not panned out at all like that though with Mauricio Pochettino’s side losing at Burnley and Chelsea to leave their title chances in tatters.
Spurs had won four league games in a row without their leading marksman and they will be hopeful they can halt the slide sooner rather than later.
Squad depth: This is potentially the area that could cost Spurs the most. Without Kane, Son Heung-min stepped up and scored in three games in a row but there was always a sense that he surely couldn’t maintain that level of form.
They have a largely fit squad at present but star man Dele Alli has an unknown return date and that is cause for concern.
Harry Kane’s return from injury has prompted two defeats for his side in the last seven days
Mauricio Pochettino’s side lost at Burnley and Chelsea to leave their title chances in tatters
Distractions: Spurs were knocked out of the FA Cup by Crystal Palace in round four and that leaves them fighting on two fronts. They have an impressive three-goal lead over Borussia Dortmund in their Champions League last-16 tie and look set to move through to the quarter-finals with the return leg on March 5.
Remaining fixtures: A game Spurs wouldn’t fancy after two straight defeats is Arsenal but a north London derby is what awaits them on Saturday lunchtime. They also face daunting away trips to both Liverpool and Manchester City and host Everton on the final day of the season.
SPURS’ REMAINING FIXTURES
March 2 – Arsenal (H)
March 9 – Southampton (A)
March 31 – Liverpool (A)
April 7 – Brighton (H)
April 13 – Huddersfield (H)
April 20 – Manchester City (A)
April 27 – West Ham (H)
May 4 – Bournemouth (A)
May 12 – Everton (H)
TBC – Crystal Palace (H)
Form: Since losing at West Ham at the start of the year, Arsenal’s form has been rather impressive. In their last five games they have recorded four wins and one defeat – a 3-1 loss at Manchester City.
Unai Emery’s side climbed into fourth place with a 5-1 thrashing of Bournemouth on Wednesday and that comes after routine wins over Southampton and Huddersfield.
Squad depth: The Gunners are pretty much injury free aside from Hector Bellerin and Danny Welbeck, who will both miss the rest of the season. They have two world-class strikers in Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang and Alexandre Lacazette and a good supply chain in Henrikh Mkhitaryan, Alex Iwobi and Mesut Ozil.
January signing Denis Suarez is yet to show his true colours while Aaron Ramsey didn’t even get off the bench on Wednesday with Lucas Torreira and Matteo Guendouzi impressing in midfield.
Unai Emery’s side climbed into fourth with a 5-1 thrashing of Bournemouth on Wednesday
Unai Emery gives his players the thumbs up after watching them move into fourth place
Distractions: Arsenal and Chelsea have a lifeline for Champions League football in the form of the Europa League and both are serious contenders. The Gunners have a favourable draw in the last-16 against French side Rennes and Emery has pedigree in the competition having won it three times at Sevilla.
Remaining fixtures: If Arsenal can get through their next two games unscathed then there is definitely cause for optimism. They face Spurs on Saturday before hosting United on March 10. Every game is winnable after that though with trips to Wolves and Everton the most challenging games left.
ARSENAL’S REMAINING FIXTURES
March 2 – Tottenham (A)
March 10 – Manchester United (H)
April 1 – Newcastle (H)
April 7 – Everton (A)
April 15 – Watford (A)
April 20 – Crystal Palace (H)
April 29 – Leicester (A)
May 4 – Brighton (H)
May 12 – Burnley (A)
TBC – Wolves (A)
Form: United’s win over Crystal Palace ensured the Red Devils claimed a club record eighth consecutive win away from home and extended their unbeaten league run under Ole Gunnar Solskjaer to 11 games.
They are the league’s form team, having dropped points against just Burnley and Liverpool in the league since the Norwegian’s arrival in December.
Squad depth: United were missing eight first-team players at Selhurst Park but still managed to win, showing the strength in their squad.
Jesse Lingard, Ander Herrera, Juan Mata, Anthony Martial, Nemanja Matic, Phil Jones, Antonio Valencia and Matteo Darmian all missed the trip to Palace and most remain doubts for Saturday’s game at home to Southampton.
Wednesday’s win extended their unbeaten league run under Ole Gunnar Solskjaer to 11 games
United were missing eight first-team players at Selhurst Park but still managed to win easily
Distractions: United appear to be on their way out of the Champions League after Paris Saint-Germain scored two unanswered away goals in the first leg of their last-16 tie. They are in the quarter-finals of the FA Cup though and most would fancy them to win at Wolves and reach a Wembley semi-final.
Remaining fixtures: United probably have the toughest run of fixtures between the top-four rivals. They’ve still got three ‘top-six’ teams left to play and travel to both Wolves and Everton.
UNITED’S REMAINING FIXTURES
March 2 – Southampton (H)
March 10 – Arsenal (A)
March 30 – Watford (H)
April 2 – Wolves (A)
April 13 – West Ham (H)
April 21 – Everton (A)
April 24 – Manchester City (H)
April 28 – Chelsea (H)
May 4 – Huddersfield (A)
May 12 – Cardiff (H)
Form: Inconsistent form has left Maurizio Sarri on the brink of the sack but a morale-boosting 2-0 win over Spurs on Wednesday looks to have bought the Italian some time. The Blues were thrashed 6-0 by City and 4-0 by Bournemouth earlier this year and also lost at Arsenal.
Squad depth: Sarri has a lot of talent at his disposal but it seems the former Napoli boss has opted to select from a core group of around 14 players. The front three looks to be formed around four players while Jorginho and N’Golo Kante are guaranteed midfield starters with Mateo Kovacic and Ross Barkley rotating for the other place.
Chelsea claimed a much-needed 2-0 win over bitter rivals Tottenham at Stamford Bridge
Inconsistent form has left Maurizio Sarri on the brink of the sack but he seems safe for now
Distractions: Similarly to Arsenal, Chelsea have a real opportunity to get into the Champions League via this season’s Europa League. After cruising past Malmo in the last 32, they have been drawn to play Dynamo Kiev next and will be favourites to progress.
Remaining fixtures: Chelsea have to go to both Liverpool and Manchester United, two games that could have a major influence in the races for the title and Champions League football. They do have a game in hand on their rivals but Eden Hazard and Co will fancy themselves to take maximum points from games against weaker opposition.
CHELSEA’S REMAINING FIXTURES
March 3 – Fulham (A)
March 10 – Wolves (H)
March 17 – Everton (A)
March 31 – Cardiff (A)
April 8 – West Ham (H)
April 14 – Liverpool (A)
April 22 – Burnley (H)
April 28 – Manchester United (A)
May 4 – Watford (H)
May 12 – Leicester (A)
TBC – Brighton (H)