Tottenham and Aston Villa’s wins on Sunday, combined with Manchester City’s draw with Liverpool has seen more change in the top four.
The Champions League qualification spot is now occupied by Spurs, but Villa are only a point behind in seventh and they along with City both have a game in hand on us and Liverpool.
It all points to a close finish. Even if all four teams aren’t in it to the death, you would imagine that it’s highly likely that at least a couple will be battling it out on the last day of the season.
A lot depends on the remaining games that the fourth placed rivals have left to play. I’ve had a scan through the fixtures to find the likely stumbling blocks that may result in dropped points.
Everton (h) February 28th
Man City (a) March 6th
Stoke (a) March 20th
Arsenal (h) April 10th
Chelsea (h) April 17th
Man Utd (a) April 25th
There’s no doubting that we’ve got some tough fixtures left. In-form Everton travel to White Hart Lane on Sunday, having won at our ground in each of the last three seasons. We then face an away ‘six-pointer’ against Manchester City the following weekend.
An away trip to Stoke in March is winnable, but the fact remains that very few teams come away from the Britannia with all the points. Then comes a trio of fixtures in April against London rivals Arsenal and Chelsea at home, before a daunting trip to Old Trafford. We took four points from these fixtures last season and any advance on that would be reason to crack out the bunting.
Chelsea (a) February 27th
Spurs (h) March 6th
Fulham (a) March 20th
Man Utd (h) April 17th
Arsenal (a) April 24th
Aston Villa (h) May 1st
City have an extremely tough away game next weekend at Chelsea, who have not lost and only drawn once at Stamford Bridge this season. They then play host to us the following week.
The trip to Craven Cottage in March has the potential for dropped points, as Fulham are in good form and win a large percentage of their home games. The Manc derby against United takes place in April, a week before an away trip to Arsenal. May sees a potentially decisive match against Aston Villa.
Man Utd (a) March 21st
Birmingham (a) April 3rd
Chelsea (h) May 1st
An away trip to Old Trafford to face a Manchester United team hell bent on revenge, looks like a like a tough place to pick up even a point. In April, Liverpool travel to St Andrews, where only two sides have won this season, while May will see an Anfield visit for a possibly title chasing Chelsea.
Overall though, Liverpool have got the easiest run in of the four contenders. Of their remaining eleven games, they will play seven teams who are currently in the bottom half of the table. Let’s hope that those relegation battlers can pick up some points and that Liverpool go on a distracting run in the Europa League.
Stoke (a) March 13th
Chelsea (a) March 27th
Birmingham (h) April 25th
Man City (a) May 1st
Of Villa’s remaining fixtures, the away trips to Stoke, Chelsea and Manchester City all look tough, while there’s a Brum derby at Villa Park against Birmingham in April.
Yet it’s not a bad run in for Villa and they have a game in hand. What might derail their bid is the fact that they have a weaker squad than their rivals and the distraction of the Carling/FA Cups.
The reason that this battle for fourth place is so tight, is that the team involved have not just dropped points in the games that you’d expect them to, but have been charitably handing them out to all and sundry.
Given their run in and their experience, it’s no surprise that Liverpool remain the bookies’ favourites to preserve their Champions League place for at least another season. They might be a bit rubbish, but they remain the team to beat.