How the race for a Premier League top-four finish is shaping up
The battle for Champions League qualification in the Premier League had more twists and turns last weekend, with five of the sides involved claiming victories.
Here, the PA news agency takes a look at the runners and riders in the race to finish in the top four.
Leicester – 3rd on 53 points
A 4-0 win over Aston Villa on Monday has Leicester back in the driving seat for a return to Europe’s elite competition. Brendan Rodgers’ side have struggled for form in recent months and had only obtained 12 points from their last 12 league games before getting the better of the Villans. The Foxes’ brilliant start ensured they still had a cushion over their top-four rivals, but it has closed significantly since the turn of the year. Everything remains in the hands of Leicester, though, with four of their final five matches against sides also looking to secure Champions League football.
Chelsea – 4th on 48 points
Similarly to Leicester, Chelsea enjoyed a strong start to the campaign under Frank Lampard and looked on course for a top-four finish until a recent dip in form. Injuries affected their progress, but Olivier Giroud has produced the goods in wins over Everton and Tottenham. With other key players like Tammy Abraham and Christian Pulisic set to return during the month, the Blues are expected to be part of the Champions League next season, especially with games to come against strugglers Aston Villa, West Ham, Watford and Norwich.
Manchester United – 5th on 45 points
After back-to-back league defeats in January, Manchester United have turned things around and are currently on a 10-match unbeaten run in all competitions. Bruno Fernandes’ arrival has helped and it means Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s men are in prime position to make the most of any slips. Tottenham and Leicester are the only top-four rivals they still have to face, with the majority of their matches against teams in the bottom half. Can the Red Devils continue their momentum or will they have to rely on winning the Europa League to get back into Europe’s elite competition?
Wolves – 6th on 43 points
Wolves remain in the hunt for Champions League qualification, although like United they could also qualify via the Europa League. Nuno Espirito Santo’s side have played a number of the teams in the race for the top-four in 2020 and achieved positive results. It leaves them on the peripheral ahead of a favourable set of fixtures with West Ham, Bournemouth and Aston Villa up next, but after that they have Sheffield United, Arsenal and then Chelsea on the final day, which may prove decisive.
Sheffield United – 7th on 43 points
Chris Wilder’s newly promoted side have been one of the stories of the campaign but they are determined not to drop off now. A steady start to 2020 and three wins from their last four games in the Premier League has Sheffield United arguably as one of the best-placed teams to finish in the top four. Dean Henderson has starred and will be important if they are to give their fans a European tour to look forward to. With a game in hand on the clubs above them and fixtures against Tottenham, Wolves, Chelsea and Leicester left, the Blades are in control of their own destiny.
Tottenham – 8th on 41 points
Ahead of hosting Chelsea on December 22, Tottenham were looking likely for Champions League qualification, but injuries to Harry Kane and Son-Heung Min have hit them hard and they now look big outsiders. Poor results have followed with defeats to Chelsea and Wolves costly. A loss on Sunday to Manchester United could be the final nail in the coffin for Jose Mourinho’s side. Even with Kane closing in on a return, it seems Spurs may miss out on the top four for the first time since 2014-15.
Arsenal – 9th on 40 points
When Mikel Arteta took over in December, Arsenal’s main focus was to move away from the relegation zone, but with the Spaniard shoring up the Gunners defence, they can target loftier ambitions. Even though they have a big deficit to reduce, a win in their game in hand at Manchester City on Wednesday would blow open the top four battle. With goals not only coming from Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, Arsenal are in the mix and consecutive games against Wolves, Leicester and Tottenham in April appear crucial.