Mathematics may quibble but by our reckoning there are only four clubs realistically in battle for a third and fourth finish in the Premier League this season. With ten points separating Leicester City from Manchester United in fifth place it surely means the Foxes’ fairytale campaign will herald Champions League football to the King Power Stadium next season. While it is inconceivable that title-chasing Manchester City will miss out.
Which leaves Spurs, misfiring Arsenal, United and outsiders West Ham in contention to grab the last remaining spots and qualify for the biggest club competition in the world.
At the time of writing only six points separate this foursome and though arguably Louis van Gaal’s men have the slightly easier run-in it is fair to state that all have European and domestic cup distractions and challenges aplenty on the horizon.
Seven in particular stand out; games that include the proverbial six-pointers but also the odd deceptive banana skin; games that will be pivotal in deciding who snags a lucrative Champions League place and who must settle for facing Sutjeska Niksic on a cold Thursday night.
West Ham v Tottenham March 2nd
Both sides could be languishing in mid-table and this would still be a fiery no-holds-barred clash that prompts neutrals to avert their gaze. The Hammers boast a decent record against their London rivals in recent years with each victory spurred on by an outright hatred that the sophisticates of N17 strive to match but often fall short of.
They will need to here because with so much at stake Upton Park will be electrified as Slaven Bilic’s men throw the kitchen sink and all at the visitors.
Everton v Arsenal March 19th
It should be put in law that any side that faces Messi, Neymar and Suarez for ninety minutes gets a full week off but coming just three short days after the Gunner’s last 16 second leg trip to Camp Nou Wenger takes his beleaguered troops to Goodison. A revved up Lukaku and Barkley will revel in tormenting a tired Arsenal defence that has yet to untwist their colons.
Manchester City v Manchester United March 20th
United have only come away victorious four times in their last twelve Manchester derbies and with ground to catch up on the duo from North London they could well do without this local dispute.
Sergio Aguero has enjoyed a sensational record in this fixture in recent years blasting home eight in eight. First and foremost the Reds need to keep the Argentine quiet which is easier typed than done.
Liverpool v Tottenham April 2nd
Spurs stopper Hugo Lloris must be sick of the sight of Liverpool having conceded 15 in their last 5 encounters while Anfield has traditionally been an unlucky ground with an astonishing 73 year hex between the Titanic sinking and 1985.
Dropped points are hardly desirable for any side chasing a top four spot with one eye on the title but surely a draw would be gladly taken here.
Tottenham v Manchester United and West Ham v Arsenal April 9th
God bless the fixture list quirk that pits all four contenders together on the same day. The home sides must be favoured but United and Arsenal have each enjoyed plenty of joy at the Lane and Upton Park respectively.
Expect both to be switched to the following day for a chaotic Super Sunday where the narrative of the top four could change several times over. If you’re struggling to stay on top of all the action Betbind help you keep track of your bets.
Arsenal v Aston Villa May 15th
Should this engrossing race go right to the wire Arsenal will rightfully be considered clear favourites with a ‘home banker’ to (presumably) already relegated Villa.
Yet there is no side as dangerous as one with nothing to lose and Villa could well be liberated following a suffocating season of trauma. If Remi Garde’s men come out to play intent on leaving the top flight in style the pressure and expectation on Arsenal could see the costliest of upsets.