Who will prevail in the EPL Top 4 race?

There are plenty of questions surrounding both managers heading into the match.

With just eight games remaining in the English Premier League season, Adam Dow takes a closer look at who will finish where in their attempt to secure UEFA Champions League qualification after the completion of 38 rounds of the English Premier League.

I’m hardly going out on a limb here by anointing Chelsea as 2014-15 Champions with eight games still to play – they’ve actually got a game in hand, against bottom side Leicester City, so it would be a shock if they don’t go nine clear of their closest challengers, Manchester City, following that match.

City themselves have had an inconsistent season to say the least – with indifferent form in the cups and on the continent, as well as struggling at times in the league – but it would take a brave man to suggest that the Civilians won’t finish in the top four. In saying that, they’re only two points better off than fourth-placed Manchester United, and so they can hardly be ruled out of these calculations. It’s football, and you just never know. In any case, it’s hardly inconceivable that City couldn’t finish anywhere between 2nd and 4th.

I’ve predicted the results of Manchester City, Arsenal, Liverpool, Southampton and Tottenham to give an end of season points tally. Given my history with football tipping and unsuccessful EPL Multi-bets, this article could basically be disregarded entirely from hereon.

MANCHESTER CITY

Current Position: 2nd

61 Points, +34 GD

City returned to winning ways with a routine 3-0 victory at home to West Brom at the weekend, after a difficult spell which saw them exit the Champions League at the Round of 16 for the second year running to Barcelona, as well as losses away to Liverpool and Burnley in the space of three weeks.

Though the pressure mounts on Manuel Pellegrini with rumours rife that he will be replaced at season’s end, the big sides tend to find results at the end of the season and I’d be surprised if City didn’t finish closest to Chelsea. They’ve got a slightly tricky run-in, facing Spurs and Swansea away, which I expect to be really tough fixtures, but their season could be defined by the result against Manchester United at Old Trafford. Defeat in that game could see United go above City, and though I fancy that happening, United must travel to Chelsea. In the end, it could come down to goal difference, and with City boasting a better difference by nine goals, United are unlikely to overhaul that in just eight games.

The title looks all but gone for Pellegrini and City, and even a 2nd-placed finish may not be enough to save his job.
The title looks all but gone for Pellegrini and City, and even a 2nd-placed finish may not be enough to save his job.

The Run-In:

Crystal Palace (A) W
Manchester United (A) L
West Ham (H) W
Villa (H) W
Tottenham (A) D
QPR (H) W
Swansea (A) W
Southampton (H) W

Predicted tally: 80

ARSENAL

Current Position: 3rd

60 Points, +27 GD

I think Arsenal probably have the toughest run-in of the top five sides, maybe along with United, and though the Gunners have won their last six matches, only one of those has come against a team in the top half, and that was against a badly fading West Ham. Wenger’s men have built some momentum heading into the final part of the season – at a stage where they always seem to do enough – but talk of challenging for the title is farcical and embarrassing to the juggernaut that is Chelsea.

The Gunners face Liverpool, Chelsea and Manchester United in the final eight fixtures, so while much of their fate is in their own hands as to finishing in the top two, I’m just not sure the North London side have enough to win these three matches, which they’ll probably need to do. They also travel to Hull and Burnley, two sides desperate to avoid relegation and they’ll be counting on getting something from their home matches, even against the top sides. Their match against Manchester United could decide who finishes 3rd and 4th.

The Run-In:

Liverpool (H) D
Burnley (A) W
Chelsea (H) D
Hull (A) W
Swansea (H) W
Manchester United (A) L
Sunderland (H) W
West Brom (H) W

Predicted tally: 77

MANCHESTER UNITED

Current Position: 4th

59 Points, +25

Manchester United’s victory over Liverpool at Anfield is a timely reminder that the Red Devils are not yet a spent force. Louis Van Gaal seems to have settled on a defensive combination, whilst Juan Mata’s upturn in form, combined with Michael Carrick’s persistent presence in midfield, has United on track for a return to the Champions League.

It’s a tough run for United, but all of their big matches are at home, aside from a trip to Stamford Bridge, where any result will be a bonus. I expect them to rise to the occasion against cross-town rivals City at Old Trafford, and their fixture against Everton should come at a time where the Toffees have secured Premier League status for next season. As I’ve mentioned already, their match against Arsenal could decide where the two sides finish, but United will have a huge advantage playing at home and I just think United are carrying good enough momentum to climb above Arsenal.

Wayne Rooney’s form will have a big say.

Rooney missed a penalty at Anfield on Sunday, but his recent form overall has been just what LVG needed.
Rooney missed a penalty at Anfield on Sunday, but his recent form overall has been just what LVG needed.

The Run-In:

Villa (H) W
City (H) W
Chelsea (A) L
Everton (A) W
West Brom (H) W
Crystal Palace (H) W
Arsenal (H) W
Hull (A) W

Predicted tally: 80

LIVERPOOL

Current Position: 5th

54 Points, +12

Brendan Rodgers has said that Liverpool can still finish in the top four – and they can – but losing to Manchester United makes things really tough. They’re five points behind United and six behind Arsenal, and their inferior goal difference almost makes them a point worse off. The Reds have to travel to Chelsea but their biggest match is this weekend against Arsenal at The Emirates, and their confidence will be shot to bits.

Losing to United is one thing, but losing to United at home, amidst the Steven Gerrard red card debacle, has to knock them down. Daniel Sturridge scored against United and he will be the man to soar Liverpool up the table – but their fate is no longer in their own hands. They also play five of their remaining eight games away from Anfield and though I’ve tipped them to have a pretty good run of form, I still don’t think it will be enough.

Enjoy Thursday night football, Reds fans.

The Run-In:

Arsenal (A) D
Newcastle (H) W
Hull (A) W
West Brom (A) W
QPR (H) W
Chelsea (A) D
Crystal Palace (H) W
Stoke (A) W

Predicted tally: 74

SOUTHAMPTON

Current Position: 6th

53 Points, +21

Koeman’s men have fought valiantly to hold onto a Champions League place for much of the season, but in truth they never really had the depth to continue to compete. Graziano Pelle’s honeymoon period is over, and Saints have won only two of their past sixth to all but fall out of contention for the top four. They’ve got a really tricky fixture list to contend with, and despite a brilliant performance at Stamford Bridge against Chelsea two weeks ago, they’d have to be perfect from here and have the rest drop plenty of points.

Whatever happens, it’s been an incredible season for the Saints, particularly given the dystopia that was presenting itself at the season’s beginning following the departures of Lovren, Lallana and Lambert.

The Run-In:

Everton (A) L
Hull (H) W
Stoke (A) D
Tottenham (H) D
Sunderland (A) W
Leicester (A) W
Villa (H) W
Manchester City (A) L
Predicted tally: 67

TOTTENHAM

Current Position: 7th

53 Points, +5

In hindsight, I can’t believe I’ve tipped Tottenham to go undefeated for the rest of the season, because there’s no way their defence is equipped for that sort of run. Copping three in a dreadful performance against Manchester United was one thing, but they also leaked three against bottom side Leicester at home on the weekend and if it wasn’t for Harry Kane, Tottenham would be languishing in mid-table.

Even still, it’s been a par season for Mauricio Pochettino, who should get enough time (please, Mr Levy) to build for next year and really challenge for a top four spot. Tottenham have the easiest run in of the top sides but they’re six points back with an awful goal difference, and one of City, Arsenal and United would have to absolutely collapse now for Spurs to make the top four, plus they’d have to overhaul Southampton and Liverpool.

Harry Kane’s league form will provide Spurs fans with just enough hope that he might fire them to a top four position next season – only to fall just short, no doubt.

He's the master of fortunate goals, but if Kane continues scoring Spurs might just have a chance of moving up the ladder.
He’s the master of fortunate goals, but if Kane continues scoring Spurs might just have a chance of moving up the ladder.

The Run-In:

Burnley (A) W
Villa (H) W
Newcastle (A) D
Southampton (A) D
Manchester City (H) D
Stoke (A) D
Hull (H) W
Everton (A) W

Predicted tally: 69

PREDICTED TABLE

1 Chelsea
2 Manchester City 80
3 Manchester United 80 (inferior GD)
4 Arsenal 77
5 Liverpool 74
6 Tottenham 69
7 Southampton 67

So with my predictions the top four remains the same, though with United pushing City to the limit and Arsenal dropping back into their comfort zone – and presumably Wenger’s first-choice position – of fourth place. Liverpool and Tottenham should secure European football as well – perhaps in a competition more suited to their current squads and one in which they should have a real crack at winning if they take it seriously (and they should) – and if there is no major upset in the FA Cup and either Liverpool or Arsenal lift the trophy, Southampton will also make an appearance on the continent for the first time since 2003/04.

About Adam Dow 33 Articles
Adam is an Editor at The Blog FC and focuses most of his writing on the English Premier League. An avid Everton fan, he divides his time between writing about football and bartending at a cocktail bar in Sydney. Consequently, he doesn't mind the 3am kickoffs and also takes special interest in the lesser known Aussies plying their trade abroad.