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Breaking Down the Race for Champions League Qualification in the EPL

Dan TalintyreSenior Analyst IIApril 10, 2013

Breaking Down the Race for Champions League Qualification in the EPL

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    With the Premier League title all but guaranteed for Manchester United this season, our attention turns to the second-biggest race in the league—that of the top four and Champions League qualification next year.

    Finishing inside the top four can drastically change a team's chances for the year ahead, with the transfer window, finances and fan support all driven by the opportunity of playing European football in the most prestigious tournament in the world.

    And this year—like every year—the race will come down to the final week.

    Which teams are going to finish inside the top four this year, and which teams are going to see their season end in heartbreak? Read on as we break down the race for the top four in the EPL this year.

Current League Table

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    Let's start off with a quick look at the league table, and for those that can't quite gain everything from the details on the image to the left here, we'll quickly run through the top six teams in contention.

    Manchester United lead the league with 77 points—suffering just four losses all year—and will go on to win the league, thus qualifying for the Champions League.

    The same will likely happen for Manchester City who, with the three points they picked up from their derby win last week, find themselves seven points clear of Chelsea and Tottenham and nine clear of fifth-placed Arsenal. Given the talent they have on hand, it seems incredibly unlikely that the defending champions would suffer consecutive shock defeats and slip out of the top four.

    So both Manchester clubs are through, leaving us looking at two remaining spots.

     

    3rd: Chelsea, 58 points

    Chelsea currently sit in third spot on 58 points but have two ongoing tournaments at the moment they must also manage (FA Cup, Europa League), which could make their squad reduced for the run home and could see them drop points to teams they would normally beat.

     

    4th: Tottenham Hotspur, 58 points

    Tottenham are in fourth (on the same number of points) and are also playing in the Europa League as well. With only one win from their past four matches, Spurs are somewhat struggling to stay in touch with the top four and face a very big month ahead.

     

    5th and 6th: Arsenal, 56 points and Everton, 52 points

    Arsenal and Everton currently sit just outside the top four—two and six points back, respectively. Both are on a roll at the moment, however, having gone undefeated in their last three games, and will be breathing down the necks of Spurs and Chelsea for a chance at a top-four berth.

     

    All four teams vying for those last two spots have a big chance to finish inside the top four. Let's break down those teams even more closely now, and explore their season so far as well as their run home in the remainder of the 2012-13 season.

Chelsea: 3rd (58 points)

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    Season so Far

    After starting the season with eight games undefeated, the Blues have had a somewhat tumultuous year, with their Champions League exit bringing about the dismissal of Roberto Di Matteo and the arrival of Rafa Benitez—something that many Blues fans have disagreed with.

    Benitez's best move with the Blues was to bring in Demba Ba over the winter transfer window, with the striker playing a significant part for the West London club since his arrival.

     

    Performances Against Top Six

    1st: Manchester United (lost 3-2, home)

    2nd: Manchester City (draw 0-0, home; loss 2-0, away)

    4th: Tottenham Hotspur (win 4-2, away)

    5th: Arsenal (win 2-1, home; win 2-1, away)

    6th: Everton (win 2-1, away)

     

    Remaining Fixtures

    HOME AWAY

    vs. Tottenham Hotspur

    vs. Swansea City

    vs. Everton

     

    vs. Fulham

    vs. Liverpool

    vs. Manchester United

    vs. Aston Villa

     

    Projected Points Total: Best Case (15 Points), Worst Case (9 Points)

    Several big fixtures remain for the Blues this year, but you have to think they'd be disappointed if they didn't walk away with at least five points from their home games this year. Throw in away games to Fulham and Aston Villa, and that total should be at least up to nine points—at worst.

    Away games to Liverpool and United won't be easy, but if the Blues could snare a point or two from those, that may well be enough to see them through this year.

Tottenham Hotspur: 4th (58 points)

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    Season so Far

    Spurs' season this year has been defined by streaks—starting off with an undefeated streak that saw them lost just one game between Week 2 and 10. However, after that they recorded just four wins from their next nine matches—leaving them well outside of the top four this year.

    Since then, Tottenham have lost just two games and have shown real toughness at the back, with Gareth Bale the star of the show going forward for Spurs.

     

    Performances Against Top Six

    1st: Manchester United (draw 1-1, home; win 3-2, away)

    2nd: Manchester City (loss 2-1, away)

    3rd: Chelsea (loss 4-2, home)

    5th: Arsenal (win 2-1, home; loss 5-2, away)

    6th: Everton (draw 2-2, home; loss 2-1, away)

     

    Remaining Fixtures

    HOME AWAY

    vs. Manchester City

    vs. Southampton

    vs. Sunderland

    vs. Chelsea

    vs. Wigan Athletic

    vs. Stoke City

     

    Projected Points Total: Best Case (14 Points), Worst Case (8 Points)

    Tottenham have one of the nicer runs home this year, with several bottom teams remaining on the schedule. At home, you'd expect them to chalk up wins over Southampton and Sunderland, with a worst-case scenario of five points from those three remaining fixtures.

    Away from home, the game against Chelsea is shaping as a difficult affair, but they may catch a break with that depending on Europa League and/or FA Cup. Even still, worst-case scenario from those remaining away games is looking like five points also, whilst nine points is very realistic.

Arsenal: 5th (56 points)

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    Season so Far

    It's been an up-and-down year for the Gunners, but their play over the last few months has been superb and sees them making a strong run at the top four once more.

    Just one defeat in their past nine games.

     

    Performances Against Top Six

    1st: Manchester United (loss 2-1, away)

    2nd: Manchester City (loss 2-0, home; draw 1-1, away)

    3rd: Chelsea (loss 2-1, home; loss 2-1, away)

    4th: Tottenham Hotspur (win 5-2, home; loss 2-1, away)

    6th: Everton (draw 1-1, away)

     

    Remaining Fixtures

    HOME AWAY

    vs. Norwich City

    vs. Everton

    vs. Manchester United

    vs. Wigan Athletic

    vs. Fulham

    vs. Queens Park Rangers

    vs. Newcastle United

     

     

    Projected Points Total: Best Case (19 Points), Worst Case (9 Points)

    With a game in hand, Arsenal are poised to make a very strong run at the top four, with nine points definitely attainable from their home games remaining. That number could well go to 10 or even 12 depending on their performance against Manchester United.

    Their away run is also helpful, with all three very winnable games. QPR (playing for relegation) and Newcastle (tough away trip) will be difficult games, however.

Everton: 6th (52 points)

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    Season so Far

    Everton have had as many draws as they've had wins this year (13), which could well cost them in the end this season. However, with just five losses recorded all season (and only two in 2013), the Toffees are more than capable of making a strong run home at the top four this year.

     

    Performances Against Top Four

    1st: Manchester United (win 1-0, home; loss 2-0, away)

    2nd: Manchester City (win 2-0, home; draw 1-1, away)

    3rd: Chelsea (loss 2-1, home)

    4th: Tottenham Hotspur (win 2-1, home; draw 2-2, away)

    5th: Arsenal (draw 1-1, home)

     

    Remaining Fixtures

    HOME AWAY

    vs. Queens Park Rangers

    vs. Fulham

    vs. West Ham

     

    vs. Arsenal

    vs. Sunderland

    vs. Liverpool

    vs. Chelsea

     

    Projected Points Total: Best Case (16 Points), Worst Case (10 Points)

    Home games should be a breeze for the Toffees, who would feel frustrated if they did not emerge with all nine points on offer there given their home form this year.

    However, away from home presents a very tough ask indeed, with no easy games left. Best-case away would be probably six or seven points, with the worst-case scenario being one or two.

Biggest Games Remaining in 2013

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    Despite there only being a month or so of Premier League action left, several big games still remain for the four teams gunning for a top-four spot this year, with their outcomes likely to have a profound impact on who does and does not qualify for the Champions League.

    Let's have a look at each team's biggest remaining game.

     

    Chelsea's Biggest Remaining Game

    Home vs. Everton—Sunday, May 19 at 11:00 a.m. ET

     

    Tottenham Hotspur's Biggest Remaining Game

    Away vs. Chelsea—Postponed from Sunday, April 14

     

    Arsenal's Biggest Remaining Game

    Home vs. Manchester United—Sunday, April 28 at 11:00 a.m. ET

     

    Everton's Biggest Remaining Game

    Away vs. Liverpool—Sunday, May 5 at 8:30 a.m. ET

Projected Finish: Winners and Losers

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    Well, with all of that in mind, it's time to take a look and make our predictions for how the 2012-13 English Premier League season will unfold for the teams in contention for the top four.

     

    6th: Everton, 65 points

    Everton will finish in sixth this year courtesy of their draws throughout the season and a horror run home that sees them with some incredibly difficult away fixtures.

    Defeat to Arsenal will be the nail in the coffin for the Toffees.

     

    5th: Tottenham Hotspur, 68 points

    Whilst Spurs have been very good this season, their away trips over the final few weeks aren't what you'd call easy, and with the threat of relegation, their opponents will prove much harder than the start of the year—even with the top four in touching distance.

    Even with Gareth Bale doing what he does, Spurs will be left to rue missed opportunities this season that saw them drop a number of points in the final minutes of games.

    In the end, it will cost them this year.

     

    4th: Arsenal, 69 points

    Having that extra game in hand proves the difference for Arsenal, who will no doubt be very gracious and winners over their North London rivals (or perhaps not!).

    The Gunners' good form of late has given them the confidence to shine this year, and they should do over the final few weeks of the season—scraping into the top four with a big final game of the year.

     

    3rd: Chelsea, 71 points

    This is a good team with good players that should have done a lot better than it did this year, but in the end, it too will be glad to be back in Europe.

    Hopefully, they'll do better there in 2013-14 than they did this year.

     

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