London Rivals Set to Battle It out for Top 4 Finish in the Premier League
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Manchester United may have sealed their 20th top-flight title and 13th of the Premier League era with ease, but the tenacious battle for a prized top-four spot remains as intriguing and competitive as ever.
With Manchester City virtually assured of second place, one look at the latest EPL standings shows the compelling tussle for the two remaining much-coveted Champions League spots is in full flow between three London rivals: Arsenal, Chelsea and Tottenham.
Here is a look at the chances of each and who is likely to miss out headed in to the final weeks of the season.
Arsenal: Currently third—63 points after 34 games
Arsenal are gunning to finish in the top four for the 17th consecutive season under Arsene Wenger.
In recent years, this impressive record has been severely tested, but they always seem to unearth that little bit of extra quality at the end to ensure qualification to the Champions League.
Earlier in the campaign, their chances again looked slim but since mid-March, the Gunners have pocketed 16 points from a possible 18, meaning they are currently in pole position to finish in the top four, although both Chelsea and Tottenham have a game in hand.
Arsenal take on champions Manchester United at the Emirates on Sunday where they are expected to form a guard of honour for the newly crowned English Champions, including former player Robin van Persie, whose hat-trick secured the title on Monday night in his first season at Old Trafford after leaving the Emirates 12 months ago.
Who will miss out on an EPL top-four finish?
The Gunners then face a trip to QPR, followed by Wigan at home, before a final day voyage north to Newcastle.
All three teams may currently be situated in the bottom five places, but all will be sure to put up a ferocious fight as they are in the midst of a relegation dogfight, however, Arsenal should have enough to pick up the required points to finish third.
Chelsea: Currently fourth—62 points after 33 games
Chelsea finished way down in sixth last season, but after securing the Champions League and FA Cup double they wouldn't have minded one bit.
Winning Europe’s elite competition meant they qualified automatically for this season's competition. However, after getting dumped out in the group stages, the Blues will have to secure a top-four finish in order to book their place again next term.
Chelsea have endured a chaotic fixture list in 2013, which could ultimately count against them. Rafa Benitez’ men still have seven league and cup games remaining on their calendar, which could in fact be expanded to eight if they beat Basle and progress through to the Europa League Final.
Chelsea's reaming schedule is arguably the toughest of the three as it includes trips to Champions Man Utd, relegation-threatened Aston Villa, as well as Swansea City on the road, while they face a crunch clash at home to Tottenham, and a final-day meeting at Stamford Bridge with Everton.
Such a sequence of tough games will ensure caretaker manager, Rafa Benitez, has his work cut out to secure a Champions League place before him and Chelsea part ways at the end of the season.
Tottenham: Currently 5th—61 points after 33 games
Tottenham are definitely the most desperate of the three teams to finish in the top four. Despite finishing in fourth last season they were cruelly denied entry into the Champions League after rivals Chelsea won the competition; as defending champions the Blues qualified at the expense of Spurs, despite finishing the season in sixth.
That heartache would have been agonising, but they admiringly burst back, and up until early March they had looked like the hot favourites to clinch third. However, defeats to Liverpool and Fulham have allowed their London rivals to catch up, with Andre Villas-Boas’ men slipping to fifth in the table.
It has become a reoccurring theme at White Hart Lane in recent years as they struggle to match the tenacity and consistency they showed earlier in the campaign.
However, last weekend the return of Gareth Bale inspired the North London club to a stunning 3-1 victory at home to Man City, which will be a huge confidence booster ahead of a run-in, where they face Wigan, Southampton, Stoke and Sunderland, who are all in the bottom half of the table.
There is also the pivotal clash away to Chelsea on May 8, which will be a game that Andre Villas Boas will be keen to win given he was sacked by Chelsea after just 40 games in charge last season.
Winning the battle to finish in the top four over his former employers will act as a reminder that perhaps Chelsea owner Roman Abramovich was a little hasty in dismissing the young Portuguese manager.
Everton: Currently sixth—56 points after 34 games
Everton's defeat to Sunderland last weekend severely dented their chances of David Moyes' side securing a top-four finish for the first time since 2005.
However, they still have an outside chance of making a miraculous comeback if they win their final four games against Fulham, Liverpool, West Ham and Chelsea.
As it stands, Arsenal look to be in pole position to finish in the top four, with the remaining place likely to be largely influenced by the match between Chelsea and Tottenham at Stamford Bridge on Wednesday May 8.
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