With six weeks left in the Premier League season, nine points separate third place from sixth.
Chelsea and Tottenham are competing for the title, leaving Liverpool, Manchester City, Manchester United and Arsenal to fight over the remaining top four places.
There may be no top four trophy for those that succeed, but there will be Champions League football and the windfall that comes with it.
In 2015/16, the four English teams involved in Europe’s top tier competition earned an average of €61,145,000 (£52,174,996) each. By contrast, those involved in the Europa League earned less than half that.
And it is not just money at stake. For Arsenal, finishing in the top four could mean the difference between key players signing new deals or being sold. Similarly, United are unlikely to be able to keep hold of Zlatan Ibrahimovic without Champions League football.
So, taking form, injuries and fixtures into consideration, which teams look likely to miss out?
Current position: 3rd
Games played: 32
Remaining fixtures: West Brom (a), Crystal Palace (h), Watford (a), Southampton (h), West Ham (a), Middlesbrough (h).
Currently third in the league and with a relatively easy run-in, Liverpool look a safe bet to finish in the top four. Of their six remaining fixtures, only this weekend’s trip to the Hawthorns will be a big concern Jurgen Klopp. Liverpool’s injury list will worry some fans, particularly with Sadio Mane now ruled out for the season, but their 2-1 win away to Stoke shows they have enough depth to see them over the line.
Predicted points from remaining games: 14
Current p osition: 4th
Games played: 31
Remaining fixtures: Southampton (a), West Brom (h, PSTP), Manchester United (h), Middlesbrough (a), Crystal Palace (h), Leicester City (h), Watford (a).
This season has not gone as expected for Pep Guardiola, who failed to make semi-finals of the Champions League for the first time in his managerial career. At least he looks likely to get the chance to rectify that next season. City still have to play rivals United and also have a tough trip to St Mary’s. Nevertheless, Gabriel Jesus will soon return from injury and they are, excluding Spurs and Chelsea, the bookmakers’ favourites for the top four.
Predicted points from remaining games: 17
Current p osition: 5th
Games played: 30
Remaining fixtures: Southampton (a, PSTP), Chelsea (h), Burnley (a), Manchester City (a), Swansea City (h), Arsenal (a), Tottenham (a), Crystal Palace (a).
Jose Mourinho’s United have the toughest run-in and biggest injury list. Of their remaining eight games, only one looks like a sure three points. They still face trips to City, Arsenal and Spurs and host Chelsea this weekend. Staggeringly, United have drawn nine home matches this season — it would be remarkable if that did not end up costing them a top four spot.
Predicted points from remaining games: 13
Current p osition: 6th
Games played: 30
Remaining fixtures: Southampton (a, PSTP) , Middlesbrough (a), Sunderland (h, PSTP), Leicester City (h), Tottenham (a), Manchester United (h), Stoke (a), Everton (h).
Technically, Arsenal’s fate is still in their own hands. Win all of their remaining games and they will, with a good enough goal difference, make the top four, but it is not quite that simple. Arsenal face trips to Southampton, Spurs and Stoke – all grounds where they have struggled in recent years. On top of that, they have to host United, Chelsea, Everton and resurgent league champions Leicetser. Fans don’t seem sure they can do it. After Monday’s defeat at Crystal Palace, Arsene Wenger may not either.
Predicted points from remaining games: 15
3rd – Manchester City (78 points)
4th – Liverpool (77 points)
5th – Manchester United70 points
6th – Arsenal (69 points)
Which two teams will make the top four?
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