Premier League top-four race for Champions League qualification analysed by form, fixtures and Sky Sports pundit Alan Smith

With Manchester City pulling away on the summit and Chelsea and Liverpool on track for a top-three end, Arsenal, West Ham, Tottenham, Man Utd, Wolves, Brighton and Leicester look set to battle it out for a top-four end.

As it stands, 10 factors divide fourth-placed Arsenal and Tenth-placed Leicester, and if video games in hand are considered, there are seven sides in reasonable rivalry to complete fourth and qualify for the Champions League.

Here, with the assistance of Sky Sports’ Alan Smith, we assess the runners and riders within the battle for fourth, their type and their fixtures till the top of the season…

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The desk…

Smith: Top three look set

Sky Sports’ Alan Smith on present high three within the Premier League:

“There’s a seven level hole to Liverpool in third so it appears to be like like it is going to be tough to catch Jurgen Klopp’s facet, Chelsea and the league leaders Manchester City.

“I do know there are video games in hand for loads of groups however City, Chelsea and Liverpool are the three finest groups within the nation.

“Pep Guardiola’s side are the best by some distance, to be honest, but those three teams will make up the top three I’m sure.”

Arsenal

Position: 4th
Games performed: 20
Points: 35
Top-four Sky Bet odds: 9/4
Active cup competitions: Carabao Cup

Arsenal endured a torrid opening to the season, shedding their opening three matches to endure their worst begin to a season in 67 years. They have been all-time low of the Premier League with Mikel Arteta underneath strain, however the Spaniard has overseen a exceptional restoration on the Emirates Stadium.

The Gunners at present sit in fourth and are one of many in-form groups within the league, however they face a vital take a look at to their top-four credentials once they go to north London rivals Tottenham, reside on Sky Sports on Super Sunday.

Live Renault Super Sunday

Sunday sixteenth January 4:00pm

Key fixtures: Tottenham (A) – Sunday Jan 16; kick-off 4.30pm (reside on Sky), Wolves (A) – Thursday Feb 10; kick-off 7.45pm, Leicester (H) – Saturday March 12; kick-off 3pm, Brighton (H), Saturday April 9; kick-off 3pm, Manchester United (H), Saturday April 23; kick-off 3pm, West Ham (A) – Saturday April 30; kick-off 3pm, Chelsea (A) – TBC, Liverpool (H), TBC.

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  • Arsenal fixtures

Sky Sports’ Alan Smith:

“The Gunners look firmly in the mix for that last Champions League spot, especially if they can keep up the level of performance they showed against Manchester City last time out.

“I did have my doubts about Mikel Arteta’s facet. It was apparent they have been bettering underneath the Spaniard however as to whether or not they may clinch fourth was one other matter. However, I feel the Man City efficiency, no matter the end result, gave each Arsenal fan and anyone concerned within the membership a substantial amount of confidence.

“Now, there is not any motive why they cannot take a look at that fourth place and assume they’re in with an important probability.

“What Arsenal will need to do is shed that tag of being flat-track bullies and show they can continue to compete with the best, especially with trips to Spurs and Chelsea not far away.

“The indicators towards City have been very promising and the factor about Arsenal is there’s a stability about them by way of their crew. Apart from one or two locations possibly you may say what their finest crew is and Arteta is managing that nicely.

“At the moment, they’ve not had too many injuries to key players and if they can hold that all together there is a great understanding between them all. Everybody knows their individual roles and that has to stand them in good stead as we get into the final stages of the season.”

West Ham

Position: fifth
Games performed: 20
Points: 34
Top-four Sky Bet odds: 11/2
Active cup competitions: Europa League and FA Cup

West Ham had a unbelievable begin to the season. Under David Moyes the Hammers have been flying excessive and appeared actual contenders for the highest 4. However, regardless of wins at residence towards Liverpool and Chelsea, they did endure a little bit of a current blip with back-to-back defeats to Wolves and Man City in November earlier than successive defeats to Arsenal and Southampton in December.

They have responded nicely, although, and wins towards Watford and Crystal Palace of their final two outings have put them firmly again within the race for Champions League qualification. Their run-in to the season does look tough, nonetheless, with journeys to Manchester United, Leicester, Liverpool, Tottenham, Chelsea and Brighton to return. They additionally face Wolves, Arsenal and Man City at residence so if they’re going to attain the highest 4 they must do it the onerous approach.

Key fixtures: Manchester United (A) – Saturday Jan 22; kick-off 3pm, Leicester (A) – Sunday Feb 13; kick-off 4.30pm (reside on Sky), Wolves (H) – Saturday Feb 26; kick-off 3pm, Liverpool (A) – Sunday March 5; kick-off 3pm, Tottenham (A) – Saturday March 19; kick-off 3pm, Chelsea (A) – Saturday April 23; kick-off 3pm, Arsenal (H) – Saturday April 30; kick-off 3pm, Man City (H) – Sunday May 15; kick-off 3pm, Brighton (A) -Sunday May 22, kick-off 4pm.

  • West Ham fixtures

Sky Sports’ Alan Smith:

“The job David Moyes is doing at West Ham is quite something.

“They did have a little bit of a blip once they misplaced league video games to Arsenal and Southampton, and went out of the Carabao Cup by the hands of Spurs, however they’ve bounced again. They’ve obtained Michail Antonio again within the facet, which makes an enormous distinction to them.

“It’s not a big squad in terms of quality. I don’t think they can afford too many injuries, especially in those forward positions, but they have coped without Kurt Zouma and Angelo Ogbonna to a certain extent. Moyes has got a very tight grip on that squad.

“Once again, they’ve had an amazing season so far and they just keep on going. It’s been great to see because many people wrote Moyes off as yesterday’s man, but he’s shown everyone how good he is and he’s proved a lot of people wrong.

“They’ve coped with enjoying within the Europa League rather well thus far this season. They’ve taken the addition of that competitors of their stride with Moyes rotating fairly cleverly to get the job performed. They are a really particular contender for fourth. There is little doubt about that. They are a really hard-working facet, they’re definitely no pushovers anymore and defensively they know what they’re about.

“Having Europe to contend with has probably been a bit of a new experience for a lot of the West Ham players, but they’ve gone about it really well, and it should stand them in good stead as we approach the business end of the season.”

'January switch window can have an effect on high 4 race'

Sky Sports’ Alan Smith on the January switch window:

“We at all times say January is just not a straightforward month to enhance your squad however the recruitment groups throughout the numerous groups have clearly been working onerous on that over the previous couple of months.

“Sometimes you get a signing out of nowhere, that no person noticed coming and it may well make a giant distinction.

“It’s a very difficult thing to get done but what happens in the January transfer window could well decide what happens at the end of May.”

Tottenham

Position: sixth
Games performed: 18
Points: 33
Top-four Sky Bet odds: 15/8
Active cup competitions: Carabao Cup and FA Cup

Tottenham are wanting far more threatening underneath the steerage of Antonio Conte, however, because the supervisor himself has admitted frequently since arriving in north London, there may be nonetheless loads of work to be performed if they’re to complete contained in the Premier League’s high 4.

Their subsequent three league fixtures may show to be key to these possibilities as they host north London rivals Arsenal subsequent Sunday, reside on Sky Sports, earlier than travelling to Leicester three days later. They then journey throughout London to face Conte’s former employers Chelsea at Stamford Bridge, which can be reside on Sky Sports on January 23. They additionally face journeys to Manchester to face each City and United within the run-in, whereas in addition they face Liverpool at Anfield earlier than the season is out.

That’s to not point out the 2 video games in hand that also must be fitted in, which may result in fixture congestion as we attain the enterprise finish of the season.

Key fixtures: Arsenal (A) – Sunday Jan 16; kick-off 4.30pm (reside on Sky), Leicester (A) – Wednesday Jan 19; kick-off 7.30pm, Chelsea (A) – Sunday Jan 23; kick-off 4.30 (reside on Sky), Wolves (H) – Sunday Feb 13; kick-off 2pm, Man City (A) – Saturday Feb 19; kick-off 5.30pm (reside on Sky), Manchester United (A) – Saturday Mar 12; kick-off 3pm, West Ham (H) – Saturday Mar 19; kick-off 3pm, Brighton (H) – Saturday Apr 16; kick-off 3pm, Leicester (H) – Saturday Apr 30; kick-off 3pm, Liverpool (A) – Saturday May 7; kick-off 3pm.

  • Tottenham fixtures

Sky Sports’ Alan Smith:

“Antonio Conte has achieved quite a lot in a very short space of time at Tottenham.

“There remains to be quite a lot of work to do at Spurs however by way of the brief time period repair, Conte has gone about it cleverly with a purpose to give him a while. As he mentioned after the defeat to Chelsea within the first leg of the Carabao Cup semi-final, he wants time and persistence with a purpose to overhaul that crew and get it again to what it was at occasions underneath Mauricio Pochettino.

“I think there are a few more questions marks in the starting line-up than there is within West Ham and Arsenal. The defence can certainly be improved in terms of individual quality and he mixes and matches at times in midfield, but they do have a great three-man strike force.

“Conte has got his work cut out, though. To finish fourth would be a fantastic achievement for the Italian.

“Conte would be the key for Spurs if they’re to get into the highest 4. You’d think about he has funds to enhance the squad in any other case he would not have taken the job. So, it is going to be attention-grabbing to see what occurs in January and then in the summertime and what sort of participant he goes for.

“It was a sobering performance from Spurs against Chelsea at Stamford Bridge and it maybe made him realise the job is even bigger than he thought.”

Manchester United

Position: seventh
Games performed: 19
Points: 31
Top-four Sky Bet odds: 15/8
Active cup competitions: Champions League and FA Cup

Manchester United have picked up factors for the reason that arrival of Ralf Rangnick, however the performances underneath the German have flattered to deceive considerably. Defeat to Wolves at Old Trafford of their final outing cranked up the strain on Rangnick as he appears to be like to maintain United within the Champions League subsequent season.

It guarantees to be a tough second a part of the season for Cristiano Ronaldo and co as they appear to climb the desk and shut the hole to Arsenal and West Ham. They do have a recreation in hand, however with fixtures towards lots of the sides above them developing, and reported issues within the dressing room, United face an enormous take a look at of their Champions League credentials.

Key fixtures: West Ham (H) – Saturday Jan 22; kick-off 3pm, Man City (A) – Saturday Mar 5; kick-off 3pm, Tottenham (H) – Saturday Mar 12; kick-off 3pm, Liverpool (A) – Saturday Mar 19; kick-off 3pm, Leicester (H) – Saturday Apr 2; kick-off 3pm, Arsenal (A) – Saturday Apr 23; kick-off 3pm, Chelsea (H) – Sunday May 15; kick-off 3pm.

  • Man Utd fixtures

Sky Sports’ Alan Smith:

“It’s certainly not been the bounce we all expected when Ralf Rangnick arrived.

“I do know they’ve picked up a good quantity of factors within the league, however performance-wise, we have not seen a noticeable enchancment.

“There are still a lot of question marks swirling around Old Trafford these days. Rangnick says he hasn’t had time on the training ground due to Covid and the number of games, and you can sympathise with that. But the doubts about Rangnick is that he hasn’t been a manager too much over the last 10 years. He hasn’t been in charge of a top club so in many ways he could be feeling his way a bit and finding his feet at a club the size of Man Utd because that is certainly the biggest job he’s ever had.

“The jury remains to be out as as to if he can truly flip it round as a result of what we have seen thus far, he hasn’t had an impact actually.

“The hope for Rangnick was for him to steady the ship, grab fourth in the league and then appoint a manager, but it is not quite panning out that way at the moment. I do think that having an interim manager will affect some of the players and their attitudes and performances when they are taking instructions off somebody who they know isn’t going to be there as long as they are, at least in the dugout. He might move upstairs but certainly, I do think it can have an effect psychologically on certain individuals.

“It’s not splendid when you understand he’s simply there for the brief time period as a result of the supervisor must really feel virtually safer in his place than the gamers for him to have the ability to command that authority and respect. The reality he’s solely going to be there for one other 4 months or so, it isn’t the best scenario.

“But that is what Manchester United went for and it was a move they hoped would steady things down so that they could move on in the summer. It’s not worked out that way so far.”

Who else could possibly be within the combine?

It could also be seen as a little bit of a longshot for Wolves, Brighton and Leicester to interrupt into the highest 4, however after some good begins to the season, some eye-catching current outcomes and video games in hand to return, it’s removed from unattainable to see one and even a few these sides pushing up the desk within the coming weeks.

Sky Sports’ Alan Smith:

“You’ve got to be impressed with Wolves (position: 8th, games played: 19, points: 28, top-four Sky Bet odds: 80/1, active cup competitions: FA Cup) this season. Not too many people knew too much about Bruno Lage when he came in. I certainly didn’t, but he’s done brilliantly.

  • Wolves fixtures

“The objectives towards file is unimaginable. They definitely want to attain extra however they’ve made probably the most of that skill to defend their very own objective. To be in that place constitutes a unbelievable first few months for the supervisor. He wants so as to add some extra firepower to that, however the organisation his facet have proven factors to a really gifted coach certainly.

“It’s good to see as a result of after Nuno Espirito Santo’s spell you probably did marvel wherein path Wolves would possibly go, however they appear to have appointed very cleverly certainly. The future appears to be like brilliant for them and a push for Europe is the subsequent step. if they might sneak into Europe that will show to be a very good season for them. The win at Man Utd may have given them a substantial amount of confidence and who is aware of? You would not write them off as a result of any crew that provides objectives away very sparingly has at all times obtained an opportunity.

“I’ve seen Brighton (position: 9th, games played: 19, points: 27, top-four Sky Bet odds: 100/1, active cup competitions: FA Cup) a lot, commentating on many of their games and you never fail to be impressed with their system and their understanding of the game. Their press is always very effective and everyone knows exactly what is expected of them.

  • Brighton fixtures

“Graham Potter does change his system once in a while and they appear to have the ability to do it seamlessly. But I’ve seen so many video games the place they’ve created a load of possibilities and they have not been in a position to put the ball behind the online, and I’m positive that’s one thing that has consumed Potter as he appears to be like at who he may deliver into the membership to resolve that downside.

“Potter is one other very gifted and spectacular coach, although, who’s destined for huge issues in a couple of years. Maybe that isn’t at Brighton as a result of I feel he will likely be fairly wanted. It’s simple to neglect that Brighton have solely been within the top-flight for a restricted variety of years. This is their fifth season on the trot within the Premier League so for them to be the place they’re now is a superb achievement. The membership additionally made a intelligent appointment in Potter when Chris Hughton left so there may be loads of optimism across the place.

“A good run of form could propel Leicester (position: 10th, games played: 18, points: 25, top-four Sky Bet odds: 33/1, active cup competitions: FA Cup) into the mix, especially with their games in hand. The best is probably yet to come from the Foxes this season. It was a great win over Liverpool last time out and maybe that will trigger a bit of a run of form for Brendan Rodgers’ side.

  • Leicester fixtures

“It has been a bit underwhelming at occasions and Rodgers has had his issues on the King Power Stadium. You may argue they’ve overachieved over the previous couple of years, gunning for a top-four place, although they received the league not so way back. Maybe that is just a bit fall from grace however there’s a probability for them now to kick on and end strongly.

“James Maddison has come back and returned to form and Jamie Vardy has been scoring a few more goals this season. They have got very good players at the club but it has been the defensive side of the game that has let them down. They’ve had a lot of injuries in that area so if they can just steady the ship at the back they’ve got a great chance of climbing the table.”

Live Premier League

Tuesday eleventh January 7:30pm

What do the Sky Bet odds say?

Sky Sports’ Lewis Jones writes:

“With Manchester City, Liverpool and Chelsea away and gone, the top-four race is a tricky test for punters as only one club will be paid out as a winning bet from the seven teams mentioned above. And when assessing the odds, the exciting fight is being priced up as a three, maybe four, horse race between Manchester United, Tottenham, Arsenal and West Ham. Despite their constant wobbles, United are joint-favourites to be playing Champions League football next season at 15/8, alongside the rejuvenated Tottenham.

“Arsenal’s odds of 9/4 are more likely to take a whack or a lift after their conflict with Spurs on January 16, a recreation reside on Sky Sports, whereas West Ham’s probabilities of touchdown the percentages at 11/2 certainly relaxation on their skill to maintain Michail Antonio and Declan Rice match and firing. For people who wish to take all 4 of these on, you will get Leicester at 33/1, Wolves at 80/1 and Brighton at 100/1.”

The verdict…

Sky Sports’ Alan Smith:

“It’s a really difficult one to call.

“I am unable to see Manchester United doing it. I simply cannot see them getting there with the way in which they have been enjoying. There is perhaps a resurgence, we’ll wait and see, however there appear to be too many issues to repair at Old Trafford in the intervening time. For me, it would simply be between the 2 north London golf equipment, Arsenal and Tottenham, which might be very attention-grabbing. Perhaps West Ham’s squad would possibly simply not be robust sufficient, particularly if Michail Antonio picked up an harm.

“Obviously Spurs have got a couple of games in hand and were they to win those, they would go above the Gunners, but I’m just going to side with Arsenal. I’m going with Arteta’s side because they have come a long way this season and there’s a tight team spirit at the Emirates Stadium. There is less to sort out there than at Tottenham so that’s why I’ll go for my former team.

“The two sides face off subsequent Sunday in what is a big recreation on the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium. It’s a recreation that can have an enormous bearing on this race for fourth.

“Arsenal have not really been helped by the fact the game is now sandwiched by the two semi-finals against Liverpool. They can be a bit fed up about that with some justification the way it has turned out.

“It’s a recreation the Gunners cannot lose actually given the video games in hand Spurs have. It’s going to be a belter and if both crew wins that may simply be sufficient to provide them a push in the direction of that fourth spot.”

Watch the race for Champions League qualification unfold reside on Sky Sports, beginning with Arsenal’s journey to north London rivals Tottenham. Watch Tottenham vs Spurs reside on Super Sunday, reside on Sky Sports Main Event and Sky Sports Premier League from 4.15pm; kick-off 4.30pm.

Sourse: skysports.com

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