Football

Top four chances rated as Liverpool and Man Utd falter in Champions League race


The race for the top four took more twists this weekend as Liverpool’s poor run of form continued and Manchester United failed to capitalise.

Manchester City look set to claim a third title in four years, but who finishes directly below them is anyone’s guess.

Leicester continue to go from strength to strength and will take huge confidence from their win over Liverpool.

The Foxes blew their lead last term, but look a far more polished outfit this season.

Chelsea continue to ride the new manager wave as Thomas Tuchel looks to deliver Champions League football having taken over from Frank Lampard.



Man City look unstoppable in their quest for the title
Man City look unstoppable in their quest for the title

Everton have the luxury of games in hand, but failure to beat lowly Fulham at home has dented their hopes.

Aston Villa’s impressive season continues and their heavy investment could result in European qualification – but for which competition.

Fellow claret and blue outfit West Ham are also in the mix and have the immensely experienced David Moyes calling the shots.

Both north London sides are also in with a shout, but have lacked consistency in recent weeks.

We take a look at each side’s top four prospects and rank their likelihood of finishing in the top four.

Man Utd



Man Utd missed the chance to take advantage against West Brom
Man Utd missed the chance to take advantage against West Brom

The Red Devils were seen as potential title challengers at the turn of the year, but that’s all changed now.

Their impressive run of form has come to an end and Ole Gunnar Solskjaer has now seen his side win just two of their last seven.

A late charge last term, inspired by Bruno Fernandes, saw them finish third, but this season they’re in danger of finishing slowly.

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The one thing they have on their side is firepower – they are capable of putting three or four past any team in the league.

Experience, quality and current league position puts them in the driving seat and you’d think that would see them finish in the Champions League positions.

4.5/5

Leicester



Leicester are full of confidence
Leicester are full of confidence

Saturday’s win was a major statement of intent.

Despite their obvious quality the Foxes are punching above their weight by sitting third.

But under Brendan Rodgers they have found a way of playing that suits them and ensures they are a match for their rivals.

Last season’s lessons could prove crucial this time round and they are a team brimming with confidence.

Their Europa League commitments could prove an issue going forward, but they have taken every challenge in their stride so far this term.

4.5/5

Liverpool



The Reds are in a poor run of form
The Reds are in a poor run of form

Where to start with the defending champions.

Jurgen Klopp conceded the title on Saturday and it is now a case of finishing in the top four and going again next season.

That is far easier said than done though and it is genuinely feasible that Liverpool could miss out.

Injuries have wrecked their season and the absence of key personnel in defence is a major issue, one that even their attack can’t cover up.

You keep waiting for Liverpool to just click into gear, but if that doesn’t happen in the coming weeks then this nightmare of a season could get even worse with their confidence clearly shot.

4/5

Chelsea



Thomas Tuchel has made an immediate impact
Thomas Tuchel has made an immediate impact

The Blues are on the rise under Tuchel and seem to have taken to his methods immediately.

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The German was handed a generous start with their win at Tottenham their only challenging fixture.

But Chelsea’s quality has never been in question – it was simply a case of getting the players to gel.

If Timo Werner can start firing then they really could be in business, but that appears a big if.

They are currently in the ascendancy at the right time and that could prove crucial.

4/5

West Ham



Jesse Lingard is hoping to inspire West Ham
Jesse Lingard is hoping to inspire West Ham

The Hammers have performed excellently this season regardless of where they finish.

Moyes has proved his doubters wrong and formed a team that embody his management style.

Currently they sit sixth but whether they can sustain that is up for debate.

They will certainly be able to do a number on the majority of the teams below them, but its whether they can win the six pointers against the teams around them.

West Ham’s performances against Chelsea and Liverpool in recent months, when both teams were there for the taking, suggests they maybe don’t quite have the quality maintain their current lofty league position.

1/5

Everton



Everton do not look consistent enough to mount a challenge
Everton do not look consistent enough to mount a challenge

The Toffees missed a glaring opportunity to put themselves back in the Champions League spots with their shock defeat at home to Fulham.

Carlo Ancelotti’s side can still leapfrog those above them if they win their games in hand – but that’s not a given.

Everton have really struggled for consistency since their impressive start to the campaign, while Dominic Calvert-Lewin’s form has also dipped.

Next week’s Merseyside derby is their chance to really stake a claim, but they’re just so Jekyll and Hyde with their performances that you never know which Everton will turn up.

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And it’s that kind of form which will likely cost them.

2/5

Aston Villa



Jack Grealish has been a leading light this season

Capable of a good performance on their day, Villa have been one of the surprise packages so far this season.

Dean Smith strengthened his squad well in the summer, and with one of the division’s best players, Jack Grealish in his ranks, anything is possible.

That said, consistency is a big issue in their ranks too.

It’s all very well beating the Arsenal’s and Southampton’s of the top flight, but if you can’t get results against the likes of Burnley, West Ham and Brighton, it’s not going to work.

A Europa League place is the best they can hope for.

1/5

Tottenham



Tottenham need their two forwards firing on all cylinders
Tottenham need their two forwards firing on all cylinders

Spurs’ season has been completely flipped on its head in the space of six weeks.

It was only before Christmas that Jose Mourinho’s side were top and being talked of as serious title contenders.

How much has changed since then.

Tottenham suddenly look battle weary, vulnerable in defence, and heavily reliant on Harry Kane and Son Heung-min to return to form.

It seems they’ve also lost faith in their manager’s tactics, while Mourinho himself appears confused with his own approach.

It doesn’t bode well. But if they can pull it together they still have a very talented squad and could just scrape it.

3/5

Arsenal



The return of Aubameyang has been a welcome boost for Arsenal
The return of Aubameyang has been a welcome boost for Arsenal

Much like their neighbours in North London, Arsenal have the players at their disposal to mount a top four challenge, but they’re just so flaky that an off day is always round the corner.

A 4-2 win over Leeds was a decent result, and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang’s return to form is a welcome boost, but there is still so much more to do.

The next eight games will give us a better idea, during which the Gunners meet Man City, Leicester, Liverpool, Tottenham and West Ham.

If they come through that still in with a shout, it sets them up to give it a good go at the finish, but there are stronger teams above them and they have their work cut out.

It’s more likely to be another year of Thursday night football.

3/5





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