Champions League

Premier League quartet to battle it out for Champions League football

Manchester United, Tottenham, Chelsea and Arsenal are in a fierce four-way race to secure Champions League football next season.

The quartet are jostling for two positions in European football’s premier competition with Liverpool and Manchester City looking increasingly likely to finish as the top two.

But who will finish in those remaining spots and who will have to make do with the consolation of the Europa League? Sportsmail takes a closer look at each team’s chances, what is in their favour and what could prevent them from here.

3. TOTTENHAM

Played 23; Points 51; Goal difference +25

What’s their form looking like?

Spurs returned to winning ways in dramatic fashion on Sunday with Harry Winks netting a stoppage time winner to get the better of Fulham. Before that they had been beaten in their last two home matches against Manchester United and Wolves with a victory over Cardiff sandwiched in between. Prior to the Wolves defeat, Spurs had won five in a row after losing at Arsenal.

Christian Eriksen and Co appear to be just out of the title race but are currently in third place

Christian Eriksen and Co appear to be just out of the title race but are currently in third place

Christian Eriksen and Co appear to be just out of the title race but are currently in third place

Reasons to be cheerful?

Tottenham’s problematic new stadium appears to be drawing closer to completion with the club hopeful their game against Crystal Palace in March will be the first at their new home. It will finally mean moving away with Wembley and fans can get excited about returning to White Hart Lane for the important final months of the campaign. 

Reasons to be fearful?

He’s the one player Spurs would not want to get injured but Harry Kane is expected to be out until March after suffering ankle ligament damage during the 1-0 defeat by United. Kane is attempting to make a return ahead of schedule but the worst case scenario could see the striker miss the second leg of the Carabao Cup semi-final, both legs of Tottenham’s Champions League tie against Borussia Dortmund, as well as the next round of the FA Cup and Premier League fixtures against Chelsea and Arsenal.

Harry Kane is expected to be out until March after suffering ankle ligament damage 

Harry Kane is expected to be out until March after suffering ankle ligament damage 

Harry Kane is expected to be out until March after suffering ankle ligament damage 

Potential distractions?

Spurs have a good chance of progressing in the Champions League but do face a tough tie against Borussia Dortmund in the last-16. They are also leading their Carabao Cup semi-final with Chelsea ahead of Thursday night’s second leg and are in the fourth round of the FA Cup with a game against Crystal Palace on Sunday. 

Top six games left? (Fixtures listed are subject to change)

Chelsea (A) February 27, Arsenal (H) March 2, Liverpool (A) March 30, Manchester City (A) April 20. 

4. CHELSEA

Played 23; Points 47; Goal difference +21

What’s their form looking like?

The Blues have been a mixed bag in recent weeks. They claimed away wins at Watford, Brighton and Crystal Palace but were beaten at home by Leicester and held by relegation-threatened Southampton. ‘Sarri-ball’ has hit a bit of a roadblock and the club are desperate for firepower to turn their possession into goals. 

Chelsea boast one of the league's best players in Eden Hazard and he could be the difference

Chelsea boast one of the league's best players in Eden Hazard and he could be the difference

Chelsea boast one of the league’s best players in Eden Hazard and he could be the difference

Reasons to be cheerful?

Any team with Eden Hazard in it have a massive chance of reaching the top four. The Belgian is unplayable on his day and the arrival of Gonzalo Higuain should enable him to move back out onto the left instead of occupying the ‘false nine’ role. Maurizio Sarri got the best out of Higuain when he was at Napoli and the Italian will be hopeful he can get him firing quickly on English soil. 

Reasons to be fearful?

It seems a lot of teams have worked out how to play against Sarri’s system. If you can nullify conductor Jorginho then you’ve got a good chance of reducing Chelsea’s threat and causing problems of your own. The manager’s insistence on using N’Golo Kante in a box-to-box role is not allowing him to perform the duties he usually excels at. 

It seems a lot of teams have worked out how to play against Maurizio Sarri's famed system

It seems a lot of teams have worked out how to play against Maurizio Sarri's famed system

It seems a lot of teams have worked out how to play against Maurizio Sarri’s famed system

NEXT LEAGUE FIXTURE 

Bournemouth (A) – January 30

Potential distractions?

Chelsea’s chances in the top four could come down to how seriously Sarri takes the Europa League. Winning the competition would give them another route to the Champions League but the run would take its toll on the players and Thursday-Sunday scheduling is never ideal. They are also in the League Cup semi-finals and have an FA Cup fourth round tie at home to Sheffield Wednesday to come.

Top six games left? (Fixtures listed are subject to change)

Manchester City (A) February 10, Tottenham (H) February 27, Liverpool (A) April 13, Manchester United (A) April 27.  

5. ARSENAL

Played 23; Points 44; Goal difference +16

What’s their form looking like?

Since Arsenal’s lengthy unbeaten run came to a shuddering halt at Southampton in December their form has been particularly mixed. They were heavily beaten by Liverpool, lost at West Ham but have won games against Chelsea, Fulham and Burnley. 

Arsenal have one of the league's best strikers in Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, who has 14 goals

Arsenal have one of the league's best strikers in Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, who has 14 goals

Arsenal have one of the league’s best strikers in Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, who has 14 goals

Reasons to be cheerful?

Unlike Chelsea at the moment, Arsenal have one of the division’s best strikers in Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang. The former Dortmund man has impressed since joining 12 months ago and has netted 14 league goals so far this season. The Gunners are lucky to have the perfect partner for him in Alexandre Lacazette so Unai Emery really isn’t spoilt for choice in attack.

Reasons to be fearful?

Emery has admitted the club can only afford to do loan deals in the January window and that doesn’t look to be enough to plug some of the gaps in the Arsenal squad, particularly in defence and midfield. Mesut Ozil has also been cast aside and it seems inevitable he will leave sooner rather than later.

Mesut Ozil has also been cast aside and it seems inevitable he will leave the club soon

Mesut Ozil has also been cast aside and it seems inevitable he will leave the club soon

Mesut Ozil has also been cast aside and it seems inevitable he will leave the club soon

Potential distractions?

Emery won the Europa League three years in-a-row during his successful reign at Sevilla and Arsenal will get Champions League football if he can do it again. If he goes for that trophy like he has before, Arsenal’s position in the Premier League may come under threat as the games build up. They welcome Manchester United to the Emirates in the FA Cup on Friday night. 

Top six games left? (Fixtures listed are subject to change)

Manchester City (A) February 3, Tottenham (A) March 2, Manchester United (H) March 9. 

6. MANCHESTER UNITED 

Played 23; Points 44; Goal difference +13

What’s their form looking like?

The Red Devils are the Premier League’s in-form team with Ole Gunnar Solskjaer winning all six of his league games in charge since taking over as caretaker boss just before Christmas. They have brushed aside Brighton, Tottenham, Newcastle, Bournemouth, Huddersfield and Cardiff under the Norwegian legend. 

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer has turned Manchester United around with Paul Pogba now impressing

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer has turned Manchester United around with Paul Pogba now impressing

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer has turned Manchester United around with Paul Pogba now impressing

Reasons to be cheerful?

Solskjaer has completely rejuvenated the club since taking over and has instilled a belief and confidence that has got Paul Pogba and Co playing fast-paced, offensive football again. A positive atmosphere in the dressing room can go a long way on the pitch and the manager’s instant impact has propelled them back into the Champions League picture. 

Reasons to be fearful?

There are some who would dismiss the improvement in form given the calibre of opposition. They have big games at home against Manchester City, Liverpool and Chelsea to come and those sorts of tests will determine whether Solskjaer gets the job on a permanent basis. 

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer has won all six of his league games in charge since taking over last month

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer has won all six of his league games in charge since taking over last month

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer has won all six of his league games in charge since taking over last month

Potential distractions?

If United continue to play the way they have been in recent weeks then they will have a chance of knocking Paris Saint-Germain out of the Champions League in the coming months. They will also be confident of making a real go of things in the FA Cup but the focus should be on guaranteeing a top four place ahead of a summer overhaul.

Top six games left? (Fixtures listed are subject to change)

Liverpool (H) February 24, Arsenal (A) March 9, Manchester City (H) March 16, Chelsea (H) April 27. 

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