The Premier League’s top four race for Champions League qualification analyzed by form, fixtures and Sky Sports pundits | Soccer News

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With Manchester City and Liverpool battling for the title and Chelsea on track to finish third, Man Utd, West Ham, Arsenal and Tottenham look set to battle for a place in the top four.

As things stand, there are still just seven points separating fourth-placed Manchester United and eighth-placed Wolves, setting up what looks to be an intriguing race to qualify for next season’s Champions League.

Here we assess the runners and runners in the battle for fourth place, their form and their encounters through the end of the season…

Table…

The light fixtures…

Manchester United

Position: 4th
Games played: 27
Points: 47
The four best Sky Bet odds: 9/4
Active cup competitions: Champions League

Back-to-back league wins at the start of Ralf Rangnick’s interim tenure were followed by three wins from six to put Manchester United firmly in the hunt for the top four.

After a disappointing loss to Wolves and a draw with Aston Villa, United bounced back with successive wins over Brentford and front four rivals West Ham, however, dropping points at Burnley and at home to Southampton saw United falter in his charge for a Champions League spot.

However, Man Utd picked up a vital 2-0 win at home to Brighton in what was a rearranged game before Christmas. Cristiano Ronaldo broke a worrying scoring drought with Bruno Fernandes adding a second to send United back to fourth place.

United followed up victory over Brighton with a thrilling 4-2 victory over rivals Leeds, but they stuttered again with a 0-0 draw with Watford at Old Trafford.

They are now entering a tricky second half of the season, with clashes against other top-four contenders in March and April. Having reduced the size of their squad with the departures of Anthony Martial, Amad Diallo and Donny van de Beek (all on loan) in January, United face a huge test of their Champions League credentials.

Main meetings: City of Man (A) – Sunday, March 6; kick-off at 4:30 p.m. (live on sky sports), Tottenham (H) – Saturday March 12; kick-off 5:30 p.m. (live on sky sports), liverpool (A) – Sunday, March 20; kick-off at 4:30 p.m. (live on sky sports), Leicester (H) – Saturday April 2; kick off 3 p.m. Arsenal (A) – Saturday April 23; kick off 3 p.m. chelsea (H) – Sunday May 15; kick off 3 p.m.

West Ham

Mark Noble celebrates with his teammates after scoring West Ham's (AP) third goal

Position: 5th
Games played: 27
Points: 45
The four best Sky Bet odds: 16/1
Active cup competitions: Europa League and FA Cup

West Ham have had a fantastic start to the season. Under David Moyes, the Hammers were flying high and looking like real contenders for the top four. Despite home wins against Liverpool and Chelsea, they suffered a minor blow with back-to-back defeats to Wolves and Man City in November before back-to-back defeats to Arsenal and Southampton in December.

They reacted well, however, and wins over Watford, Crystal Palace and Norwich put them firmly back in the race for Champions League qualification. But defeat to Manchester United on January 22 saw them concede fourth place on a weekend in which Arsenal dropped points and Tottenham lost to Chelsea.

A narrow victory over Watford put them back on track, but subsequent draws against Leicester and Newcastle saw their first four bids stutter before finishing February with three important points at home to fellow European challengers Wolves.

West Ham’s run-in for the season looks tricky, with trips to Liverpool, Tottenham, Chelsea and Brighton to come. They will also face Arsenal and Man City at home.

If they want to reach the top four, West Ham will have to do it the hard way.

Main meetings: liverpool (A) – Saturday, March 5; kick-off 5:30 p.m. (live on sky sports), Tottenham (A) – Sunday, March 20; kick-off 2 p.m. (live on sky sports), chelsea (A) – Saturday April 23; kick off 3 p.m. Arsenal (H) – Saturday April 30; kick off 3 p.m. City of Man (H) – Sunday May 15; kick off 3 p.m. Brighton (A) – Sunday May 22, kick-off 4 p.m.

Arsenal

Sound system - Mikel Arteta

Position: 6th
Games played: 24
Points: 45
The four best Sky Bet odds: 1/1
Active cup competitions: Any

Arsenal endured a torrid start to the campaign, losing their first three matches to suffer their worst start to the season in 67 years. They were at Premier League lows with Mikel Arteta under pressure, but the Spaniard oversaw a remarkable recovery at the Emirates Stadium.

The Gunners are currently in sixth place and have three games in hand against Manchester United. Their controversial New Year’s Day loss to Man City ended a run of four successive – and impressive – wins.

Their draw against Burnley prevented them from making any progress in the top four, but a bold win against Wolves – achieved despite another red card – and two 2-1 wins at home against Brentford and again against Wolves saw them through. kept within two points of fourth. -placed Man Utd.

Arsenal no longer participate in any cup competitions and will focus their efforts solely on securing a coveted Champions League spot.

Main meetings: Leicester (H) – Sunday, March 13; kick-off at 4:30 p.m. (live on sky sports), liverpool (H), Wednesday, March 16; kick-off 8:15 p.m. (live on sky sports), Brighton (H), Saturday April 9; kick off 3 p.m. Manchester United (H), Saturday April 23; kick off 3 p.m. West Ham (A) – Saturday April 30; kick off 3 p.m. chelsea (A) – to be confirmed, Tottenham (A) – to be confirmed

ARSENAL

Tottenham

Antonio Conte talks to Tottenham's Lucas Moura during the Europa Conference League Group G soccer match against Vitesse (AP)

Position: 7th
Games played: 25
Points: 42
The four best Sky Bet odds: 3/1
Active cup competitions: FA Cup

The wheels seemed to slip out of Tottenham’s top four under Antonio Conte after three straight league defeats, but a stunning 3-2 win at Manchester City had Spurs dreaming of returning to the Champions League once again.

The defeat at Burnley last week put another significant dent in Spurs’ bid for a top-four spot as Conte questioned his own future at the club.

Spurs have two games in hand against United and West Ham, after their fixture list has been complicated by postponements since Conte’s arrival, and a 4-0 win over Leeds in their last outing gave them a boost of hope.

There are also crucial games ahead as they take on top four rivals United at Old Trafford and host West Ham in March, while a date is yet to be confirmed for the revamped North London derby against Arsenal.

The ongoing fixtures still give Spurs, who are still battling in the FA Cup as they seek their first silverware since 2008, a ray of hope, but there is a lot of work to be done, especially when it comes to consistency. after such consequential damage. defeats against Chelsea, Southampton and Wolves, then the defeat at Burnley.

Main meetings: Manchester United (A) – Saturday March 12; kick-off 5:30 p.m. (live on sky sports), West Ham (H) – Sunday, March 20; kick-off 2 p.m. (live on sky sports), Brighton (H) – Saturday April 16; kick off 3 p.m. Leicester (H) – Saturday April 30; kick off 3 p.m. liverpool (A) – Saturday, May 7; kick off 3 p.m. Arsenal (H) – to be confirmed

wolves

Wolves defenders Romain Saiss, Max Kilman (centre) and Conor Coady have impressed this season (PA)

Position: 8th
Games played: 26
Points: 40
The four best Sky Bet odds: 33/1
Active cup competitions: Any

Wolves had a difficult opener to the season with three successive 1-0 defeats under new manager Bruno Lage which left them 18th in the league. One of those defeats came against Nuno Espirito Santo’s Tottenham, who left last season to take charge of the north London club.

However, Lage has since overseen an improvement in his side’s form with impressive wins over Aston Villa, West Ham and Brighton. Despite being the third-worst team in the division with 24 Premier League goals, their defense has been a key part of their rise in the standings. They have conceded just 21 times this season, a record only bettered by Man City Liverpool and Chelsea.

Their start to 2022 has been impressive, with successive wins over Manchester United, Southampton and Brentford.

Home and away defeats to Arsenal are setbacks, but they immediately responded to the Molineux loss to the Gunners with key wins over Tottenham and Leicester that keep Wolves firmly in the hunt for European qualification – well that it seems unlikely to be next season. Champions League after Sunday’s 1-0 defeat at West Ham.

Main meetings: City of Man (H) – Saturday April 16; kick-off 3:00 p.m.; Brighton (H) – Saturday April 30; kick-off 3:00 p.m.; chelsea (A) – Saturday, May 7; kick-off 3:00 p.m.; liverpool (A) – Sunday, May 22; kick off 4 p.m.

What are the experts saying?

Sky Sports’ Sue Smith

“West Ham had a bit of a stutter so I think it was important to get those three points [against Wolves on Sunday] and get back on track.

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FREE TO WATCH: Highlights from West Ham’s win over Wolves in the Premier League

“Wolves will be disappointed with two narrow defeats against the teams in and around them. I continue to give them a very good run of results and to hold on in and around them. [it to remain in the mix for a top-four place] but they will be very disappointed with the performance and the result.”

Stephen Warnock of Sky Sports

“More often than not what we’ve seen from Manchester United when they haven’t played well this year is that there’s been a lack of focus on the other side and they’ve turned off and conceded goals.

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FREE TO WATCH: Highlights from Manchester United’s draw with Watford in the Premier League

“The positive [from the goalless draw with Watford] was at least they didn’t concede, and they came out with a point. I think the big thing to watch is the points per game since Rangnick came in and that’s been a good comeback.

“I think when you think of the players they have, you would say they are really capable. I think they will get fourth place.

“I had some ups and downs as to who will do it, and I look at it and I think what they have is a better team. They have more depth within their squad and I think Rangnick has has done a decent job since joining the club.

“So I’m going to put my neck on the line and say they’ll make it into the top four.”

Watch the race for Champions League qualification unfold live on Sky Sports.

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