Assessing the race to secure Champions League qualification

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The race to finish in the top four and qualify for the Champions League is set to be one of the defining stories in the run-in of the season, with a host of teams competing in a crowded Premier League draw.

Manchester City and Liverpool have moved away from the chasing pack as the duo vie for the Premier League title, each needing an unthinkable meltdown to miss out on the Champions League.

However, Chelsea came close to congestion, with teams arguably third through eighth all with a reasonable chance of finishing in the top four.

Ahead of Arsenal meeting Wolves in a potentially crucial clash, we assess the race to secure Champions League qualification this season.

chelsea

  • Current position: 3rd
  • Games played: 25
  • Dots: 50
  • Remaining matches with rival teams: West Ham (M), Wolves (M), Man United (A), Arsenal (M)
  • Average position of all remaining matches: 12.46
  • Chances of being in the top four: 1/50

Chelsea started the disputed season as title contenders, having finished the 2020/21 season as European champions before spending a club-record £97.5million to sign Romelu Lukaku from the InterMilan.

Having won eight of their first 10 league games of the season – only Liverpool and Manchester City have blemished an otherwise perfect record – those claims seemed to have some merit.

However, Thomas Tuchel’s side have failed to match the consistency of City and Liverpool, while a run of just three wins from their last nine Premier League games has seen Chelsea slip back to the chasing pack.

However, few will consider Chelsea giving up the Champions League places, with the west Londoners possessing the strongest squad among the contenders and the best set of fixtures on paper.






There is still work to be done at Chelsea to catch up with the two dominant teams in the Premier League at present, but the Blues are a step above those desperately jostling for the top four.

Manchester United

  • Current position: 4th
  • Games played: 26
  • Points: 46
  • Remaining matches with rival teams: Man City (A), Spurs (H), Liverpool (A), Arsenal (A), Chelsea (H)
  • Average position of all remaining matches: 12
  • Chances of being in the top four: 13/8

Manchester United’s season hasn’t gone to plan with the Red Devils embroiled in a fight for Champions League football, with the summer arrivals of Cristiano Ronaldo, Jadon Sancho and Raphael Varane failing to turn the game around. team as title contenders.

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s reign ended in November with the appointment of Ralf Rangnick on an interim basis, with the German steadying the ship with just one defeat in 12 league appearances.

However, a succession of draws means the Red Devils face a tough task to finish the season in the top four, with only West Ham having more fixtures against sides currently in the top eight.

That run includes away clashes at Manchester City and Liverpool and the club will be hoping their decrease in squad size last month – allowing Anthony Martial and Donny van de Beek to leave on loan – will not return haunt them during the race. -in.

West Ham

  • Current position: 5th
  • Games played: 26
  • Points: 42
  • Remaining matches with competing teams: Wolves (H), Liverpool (A), Tottenham (A), Chelsea (A), Arsenal (H), Man City (H)
  • Average position of remaining matches: 9.75
  • Odds of being in the top four: 14/1

West Ham’s bubble appears to be bursting in terms of Champions League qualification, with problems at both ends of the pitch contributing to their wobble.

The Hammers have been uncharacteristically vulnerable defensively in the absence of Angelo Ogbonna, while the club’s overreliance on Michail Antonio has proven costly, with the striker scoring just twice in his last 17 league appearances .

Jarrod Bowen’s goalscoring form and Declan Rice’s continued excellence have kept the club in contention, but a tough run-in and the juggling of Europa League and FA Cup commitments will be difficult for a side that needed reinforcements in January.

Despite currently sitting in fifth place, success in Europe could be West Ham’s best route to the Champions League next season as their Europa League campaign resumes next month.

Arsenal

  • Current position: 6th
  • Games played: 23
  • Points: 42
  • Remaining matches with competing teams: Liverpool (H), Man United (H), West Ham (A), Tottenham (A), Chelsea (A)
  • Average position of remaining matches: 10
  • Chances of being in the top four: 11/8

Arsenal bounced back from the club’s worst start to the Premier League season, having lost each of their opening three games without scoring to sit bottom of the division in August.

The Gunners kept faith in Mikel Arteta and it proved a wise move, with the north Londoners just four points off the top four and with three games in hand at the sides directly above.

Arteta’s side have shown growing confidence and resilience throughout the season, with the defensive backbone of Aaron Ramsdale, Gabriel and Ben White providing a solidity that has been lacking in recent campaigns.

Only Ederson and Alisson have kept more clean sheets than Ramsdale this season and Arsenal’s defensive strength could prove vital given the absence of a proven goalscorer. Emile Smith Rowe leads with nine league goals, with Alexandre Lacazette – the club’s first choice at centre-forward – having just three for the campaign.


Arsenal are also distraction-free ahead of the break-in, with no European or cup commitments.

wolves

  • Current position: 7th
  • Games played: 24
  • Dots: 40
  • Remaining matches with rival teams: West Ham (A), Man City (H), Chelsea (A), Liverpool (A)
  • Average position of remaining matches: 11.14
  • Odds of being in the top four: 20/1

Wolves have quietly entered Champions League contention this season, with Bruno Lage enjoying an excellent first season at the helm.

Lage’s arrival was intended to move Wolves towards a more attacking brand of football, but the Portuguese manager retained the defensive principles of Nuno Espirito Santo, with only Manchester City having conceded fewer goals than Wolves this season.

However, only two sides – Norwich and Burnley 20th and 19th respectively – have scored less than Wolves’ 23 goals and it remains to be seen whether the club’s remarkable efficiency this season can last through the run-in.

Wolves started 2022 with five wins from six league games, including vital victories over Manchester United, Tottenham and Leicester. There is growing confidence in Molineux that Wolves can upset the odds this season.

Tottenham

  • Current position: 8th
  • Games played: 23
  • Points: 39
  • Remaining matches with competing teams: Man United (A), West Ham (H), Liverpool (A), Arsenal (H)
  • Average position of remaining fixtures: 11.86
  • Chances of being in the top four: 11/4

Tottenham’s victory over Manchester City last weekend breathed new life into their top-four challenge, with Antonio Conte admitting his side had just a 1 per cent chance of playing in the Champions League ahead of the trip to the Etihad.

Although these claims have been exaggerated given that Spurs have games in progress against their rivals, a three-game losing streak has dealt a damaging blow to their hopes.

There is, however, renewed optimism after a shock victory against the Premier League champions, with Harry Kane, Son Heung-Min and Dejan Kulusevski all excellent in a clinical performance from the North Londoners.

Consistency remains an issue for Conte and his team, but in Kane and Son the club have two talents who can send Spurs back to the Champions League next season.

Securing a top-four spot could prove crucial to the club’s project under the ever-demanding Italian.

Read – Five of the most underrated Premier League players right now

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