EPL: Predicting the Champions League and Europa League Qualifiers for 2012-13
In a world where winning the Europa League nets you less cash than reaching the Champions League group stages, league position means everything.
The status quo has changed these days, and Newcastle have proved that you don't need to break the bank to have a chance of relative success.
This season's Premier League is still up for grabs, and the race for fourth is about as tight as it can get.
Here are my predictions come the end of the season.
First place: Champions League
Manchester City are currently top of the table and are about to welcome back both Kolo and Yaya Toure from the Africa Cup of Nations.
Their arrival—particularly Yaya's—should give Roberto Mancini's men the final push they need in order to clinch their first-ever Premier League trophy.
The Citizens home form has been the catalyst for their success this season and may go a long way in deciding the title as they entertain neighbours Manchester United on April 28th in a potential title decider.
Second place: Champions League
It's going to be second place for Manchester United this season as they don't have the strength in depth that City can call on.
As previously stated, United have to visit the Etihad Stadium late in April in order to stand a chance of retaining their title.
The power struggle has certainly ebbed and flowed this season but Manchester City seem to have overcome their dip in form whilst maintaining their position at the top of the table.
Manchester United will have be highly impressive from here on out if they want to surpass the Blues.
Third place: Champions League
I don't think even Tottenham fans expected to be in third position at this stage of the season, but anything further than that is a bridge too far for them at the moment.
The teams behind them don't look capable of catching Spurs, so it puts the London club in a unique position of being relatively pressure free.
Certainly entertaining enough this season, Spurs look destined for a third-place finish and qualification for the lucrative Champions League without too much trouble.
Redknapp will likely be given a transfer kitty in the summer so Spurs may look to go one better next season if they can keep hold of the likes of Modric and Bale.
Fourth Place: Champions League
Fourth place is where things start to get a little more unclear when it comes to qualification.
Arsenal, Chelsea, Liverpool and Newcastle United all have a decent shot at taking fourth, but I think Chelsea will be the most likely once they can call upon their Ivorian striker Didier Drogba.
Whilst Drogba is certainly past his best, the misfiring Fernando Torres is not offering anything to the Chelsea team right now and Drogba still knows how to finish.
Chelsea's capitulation against Manchester United at the weekend should stir them into being more defensive minded.
Fifth position: Europa League
Robin van Persie has been outstanding for Arsenal over the last year and he is showing no signs of slowing down in 2012.
Whilst Arsenal are not a one-man team, van Persie is their captain and inspiration that other players feed off.
Arsene Wenger perhaps should have played Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain earlier in the season as the young Englishman has looked assured since his first team debut and has contributed well.
It's going to be tight between Arsenal and Chelsea for fourth, but I have to give Arsenal fifth position.
Sixth place: Europa League
With a League Cup Final to play in and still going strong in the FA Cup, Liverpool are my tip for sixth place in the league.
I can't see Cardiff beating the Merseyside outfit at Wembley which means Liverpool will gain their Europa League spot by way of being League Cup champions.
Liverpool's home form has been their downfall this season. Too many draws will cost them their place in the Champions League next season.
Seventh place: Outside chance of the Europa League
Newcastle still have an outside chance of making the Europa League if FA Cup results go their way, but it becomes very distorted as to how it may happen.
Essentially an Arsenal FA Cup win is what the Magpies could hope for if they wanted a taste of Europe next season.
Newcastle are looking good and have purchased a new striker in Papiss Demba Cisse, but ultimately they may find their run-in too difficult.
It certainly looks set to be an interesting run-in towards the end of the season.
Of all the positions that I have declared, the biggest banker has to be Tottenham Hotspur finishing third.
Manchester United could surprise Manchester City, and it's anybody's guess who will take a firm grasp of the fourth Champions League spot.
With only four points separating fourth and seventh place, it may all come down to injuries and fixtures over form.
It will be interesting to see which sets of fans actually want Europa League football as some see it as more of a hindrance than a benefit these days.
We'll all just have to wait and see.
Still got FA Cup fever? Click here to read about the biggest upsets of all time. Some of them may surprise you!
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