It is not often that the Premier League has two vital set of critical battles at the top going on till this time of the year. On one hand we have the race to win the League title. Since the three horse race became a two horse race we shall look at the other battle. The race for the final Champions League spot.
The contenders this year were many but the favourites are; Manchester City and Tottenham, with Villa and Liverpool hanging in there if the impossible occurs.
Manchester City's fixture list reads; United, Arsenal, Villa, Tottenham, and West Ham. The continuous stretch means they could at worst come home with only three points off their final match. United will be a tough cookie to beat but City has enough passion and quality to test them. The first three fixtures will surely contain one guaranteed loss and two draws. Also the strength of the schedule means that the Tottenham match is more difficult than normally would have been. I can see City winning only against Villa and West Ham with an optimistic draw against Arsenal or United or both. So a safe seven or eight points from a maximum of 12 is a realistic prediction. (Im not counting the Tottenham vs City encounter).
Tottenham may have beaten their arch rivals Arsenal, but did they spend too much energy doing so? Their fixture list reads Chelsea, Manchester United , Bolton, City, and Burnley. I see two guaranteed wins and a bit of break before their clash against Manchester City. What about their game against Chelsea and Manchester United. Given the fact that they just had a tough encounter recently, I see them struggling against Chelsea. A draw will be an optimistic prediction. But a loss is all I see against Manchester United. Manchester United's game against City the earlier week will mean either they will be in a winning mood with lots of energy and enthusiasm or in a belligerent mood if the result did not go Untited's way. Either way it is bad news for Spurs. Expect a loss for sure. Spurs should wrap up Bolton and Burnley but the game against City is going to be pivotal. Again seven or eight is a realistic prediction since I do not see the Spurs winning against Chelsea or Manchester United.
Aston Villa are a far throw away from the fourth spot but if lady luck decides to really really love the Villans then they just might get in there. They are seven points behind the fourth placed City. They play Portsmouth, Hull, Birmingham, City, and Blackburn. That is an easy fixture list for them if they can get it right. A win against City is absolutely vital for their fourth campaign. Not only can they close in the gap but they can also take three points and set up a must win for the Tottenham-City clash for City. They should overcome Portsmouth and Hull and draw against Birmingham or the defensively rejuvenated Blackburn. Eight or nine points is a realistic prediction but will that be sufficient to knock both Tottenham and City out of the top four? Also keep in mind that this is the one team that could potentially score 15 out of the 15 available points given their easier schedule and their opponents' tougher schedules. A draw between Spurs and City can easily turn this into a three horse race.
Liverpool can easily get nine points out of their potential 12 points. The game against Chelsea will be very hard to win not only because they are facing Chelsea but also because they are facing Atletico Madrid just three days before. And the UEFA cup is something that can still salvage Liverpool's fallen season. Liverpool, like Aston Villa too, need City and Tottenham to slip up as they are six points and a game behind the fourth placed Spurs.
There are too many variables to determine who will get the fourth spot but I think it will all boil down to one game: Manchester City versus Tottenham on Wednesday May 5th, 2010.
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