English Premier League: Top Two, Bottom Two, Big Four: Mind the Gap
Arsenal Chelsea Liverpool Man Utd
Aston Villa W West Brom W Bolton W Stoke W
Man City W Newcastle W Fulham W Aston Villa D
Chelsea D Arsenal D West Ham W Man City W
Wigan W Bolton W Blackburn W Sunderland W
M'brough D West Ham W Hull W Tottenham D
Liverpool D Everton W Arsenal D Stoke W
12 16 16 14
Up and coming 6 matches for the top four in the Premier League
(Single letter denotes predicted result and final number is total points)
United, currently eight points behind Chelsea but with a game in hand, face two tough away games in coming weeks.
Aston Villa held Liverpool in a goalless draw earlier in the season and have only lost one game at home, taken by Chelsea (2-0). With recent mistakes haunting the Villa defence, focus should be exemplary.
The Manchester derby provides a second challenging tie where player emotions and crowd amplitude can mean all sorts. United may lose between one and four points from these games.
Subsequent fixtures include Sunderland at Old Trafford, Spurs in London and Stoke at Stoke. From these three games I'd expect a run of victories, although an upset is possible at White Hart Lane.
United may only pick up 14 points from 18, a few realistic draws or a loss could dent any further progress.
Liverpool look towards a seemingly brighter future.
Two home games, hosting Fulham and West Ham, should see Benitez pocket six points. The big match at The Emirates in the closing fixtures of the six match run represents their only real hurdle, although Hull's remarkable form may frustrate.
Liverpool can be expected to take 16 points, with a defeat at Arsenal lightening numbers.
Arsenal will face two of the 'big four' in their run of six matches, these are potential crunch games. With an away game at Middlesbrough nestled between these clashes, maximum points may prove hard to come by.
Chelsea's fixture list suggests a relatively straight forward stretch of opponents, making them tied with Liverpool as majority point takers.
In reality there may be many more draws than predicted and the big games may benefit one of the top teams the most (Arsenal pulling out two wins against rival opponents).
Looking at the short term future of the Premier League, I'm not hesitant to say Arsenal and Manchester United will not make significant head way in closing the gap between themselves and the current top two. If anything the leading duo will extend their superiority.
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