With the Premier League in the final straight, the race for the Champions League is hotting up.
Chelsea probably have the Premier League all sewn up, but behind them, it’s all to play for. Just nine points separate Tottenham in second and Everton in seventh — so who is sealing a spot in the top four?
ESPN FC’s club bloggers discuss their team’s hopes for the remainder of the campaign and pick their qualifiers for next season’s Champions League.
Something cataclysmic would have to happen for Chelsea not to win the Premier League from this position. Ten points clear with 10 games remaining, the Blues could lose three times — the same amount that they’ve lost in 28 games to date — and still lift the title, even if their nearest challengers won every match until the end of the season. Antonio Conte’s relentless will to win has rubbed off on the players, who have responded with consistently excellent performances and have shown they can see off opponents by any means necessary. There have been dismantlings of major rivals (4-0 vs. Manchester United, 3-1 vs. Arsenal) as well as dogged, hard-fought victories such as last Saturday’s late 2-1 win at Stoke. All of which illustrates why Chelsea should be worthy Premier League champions come May.
Top four: 1. Chelsea 2. Tottenham 3. Manchester City 4. Manchester United — Phil Lythell
Spurs have never achieved successive top-four finishes in the Premier League, but that it is the least of their ambitions now. They proved last weekend against Southampton that they can win without Harry Kane, and their next five league games — Burnley, Swansea, Watford, Bournemouth and Crystal Palace — are winnable. Their pursuers will be taking points off one another as Manchester City face Arsenal, Chelsea and Manchester United in April. Tottenham will hope to have a cushion behind them by the time they face Arsenal and United in May.
Top four: 1. Chelsea 2. Tottenham 3. Manchester City 4. Liverpool — Ben Pearce
Stoke City have probably decided the destination of this year’s Premier League title. By drawing at the Etihad, then managing to lose at home to Chelsea in a game where they were going all out to score a second themselves, the league finally looks beyond City. Dropped points at home to Chelsea, Spurs and Liverpool, all games where the flow was with the home side but the referee was with the visitors, look to have made a crucial difference. A place in the top four looks on, though, which was the least expected.
Top four: 1. Chelsea 2. Manchester City 3. Tottenham 4. Liverpool — Simon Curtis
Liverpool are undoubtedly the most difficult to predict. Jurgen Klopp’s side can be brilliant one week and dreadful the next. On paper they have the easiest run-in, and for any other team, that would be a big advantage. With Liverpool, it might be the opposite, as they often find it much more difficult against the bottom clubs than they do against the top ones. If Klopp can keep his best XI on the field for the bulk of the remaining nine games, Liverpool should just about be able to secure a Champions League place as those around them take points off each other. It will be extremely close, though.
Top four: 1. Chelsea 2. Tottenham 3. Manchester City 4. Liverpool — Dave Usher
Manchester United look likeliest to finish fifth this season. Though they have enjoyed a long unbeaten run, their lack of goals looks as if it will cost them in the title-run in — although they will most probably see off Arsenal, who are enduring an ill-timed crisis of confidence. However, both Liverpool and Manchester City, though they both have significant defensive shortcomings, should still have enough firepower to keep Jose Mourinho’s men at bay, particularly with United’s eye-watering schedule of fixtures, thanks to their progress in the Europa League.
Top four: 1. Chelsea 2. Tottenham 3. Manchester City 4. Liverpool — Musa Okwonga
It is one of the last tenets of faith in Arsene Wenger that in his full seasons in charge, he has always delivered Champions League football. It is a mark of consistency which makes him proud and insulates him to a degree. This season, the run will end. The title has gone, and the top four now looks desperately tricky too. Arsenal are in their worst run of league form under the manager, and there are too many rivals jockeying for position. Chelsea, Tottenham and Manchester City will certainly take three spots, and Liverpool should be good enough for fourth, Arsenal fifth.
Top four: 1. Chelsea 2. Tottenham 3. Manchester City 4. Liverpool — Tom Adams
Even though an impressive 23 points from a possible 30 in 2017 have rescued a season that seemed lost in January, Everton are still very much the outsiders in the top-four race. A tough run-in includes games against four of the six teams above them; five of those six also have a game or two in hand. This improbable Champions League push likely rests on trips to Anfield and Old Trafford in the space of four days after the international break. Two wins, and Everton will have the confidence to push on while also taking crucial points off rivals. Anything less, and this pleasing but belated challenge is probably over.
Top four: 1. Chelsea 2. Tottenham 3. Manchester City 4. Liverpool — Luke O’Farrell
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