Race for top four heats up as Premier League returns

With the Premier League set to return, we at Premier League Central look at how the race for top four and Champions League qualification is shaping up.

Barely a week after rounding up match week 22, the Premier League got suspended due to the Covid-19 pandemic meaning run-away league leaders Liverpool have had to wait a little longer to lift their first league trophy in decades, and a host of top-four chasing teams wait to decide their fate.

After months of waiting, the Premier League is back and promises super fixtures, thrilling encounters and breathtaking performances.

With nine games to go, we take a look at teams in the race for a top-four finish, their season so far and upcoming fixtures. 

Arsenal (9th position; 40 points)

The London club are having a season to forget. A poor start to the campaign saw Arsenal drop points against the likes of Brighton, Southampton, Norwich and even Bournemouth.

The club then parted ways with Unai Emery and appointed former Gunner Mikel Arteta to help salvage their season.

Arteta has managed to turned things around for the London club. Before their 3-0 loss to Manchester City on Wednesday, Arsenal had gone on an impressive seven-game unbeaten run in the Premier League.

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This run included wins against both Manchester United and Everton and draws against Chelsea and Burnley.

Arsenal have a notably tough run of fixtures. They would have to face Wolves, Leicester City, Tottenham and Liverpool.

With injury woes and a tough run of fixtures, chances of securing Champions League spot appears far-fetched for Mikel Arteta’s men.

They would need to take their A-game to all remaining fixtures and hope for a miracle.

Tottenham (8th position; 41 points)

Just a point above London rivals Arsenal, Tottenham are equally having a poor campaign.

Few months after reaching their maiden Champions League final, head coach Mauricio Pochettino was sacked for a series of bad results. 

The appointment of the ‘Special One’ Jose Mourinho has not appeared to make a difference either. 

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The club crashed out of the UEFA Champions League and was also dumped out of the FA Cup by Norwich City. They also constantly failed to capitalize on slip-ups by rival clubs and climb up the league standings.

The return of the Premier League sees Spurs having tough fixtures against Manchester United, Everton, Leicester City and Arsenal.

However, world-class striker and captain Harry Kane fully fit and back to action. This would bolster the team’s chances.

With a seven-point gap between them and fourth place, Tottenham have a hill to climb if they hope to make the top four spot.  

Wolverhampton Wanderers (7th position; 43 points)

With 43 points, Wolves are joint-sixth with Sheffield United.

Since their promotion into the Premier League last campaign, Nuno Espírito Santo’s side have shown they can compete with the very best.

They so far have remained a strong force in the league. Their two league victories over  Manchester City and progress in the UEFA Europa League are highlights of how spectacular they have been all season.

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However, dropping points against much lesser opponents has been the only impediment to their breaking into the top four.

An easy run of fixtures awaits them, with exception to games against Arsenal, Everton and Chelsea.

Notwithstanding, they would have to be extremely focused and kill their habit of underperformance against much less opponents.

Sheffield United (6th position; 44 points)

Newly promoted Sheffield United are the dark horses who have transcended everyone’s expectations this season.

They are sixth, a point below fifth place Manchester United.

Chris Wilder has successfully turned the Blades into one of the toughest opponents to face in the League.

They have picked up points from the likes of Chelsea, Manchester United, Wolves, Spurs and even wins against Everton and Arsenal.

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Though they face the challenge of playing Tottenham, Wolves, Manchester United, Chelsea and Leicester in their remaining fixtures, we have seen Sheffield cause upsets.

For a team newly promoted from the Championship, a top-half finish is considered an exceptional achievement.

If they hope to go the extra mile and qualify for the UEFA Champions League, they would have to keep up their incredible performances and keep causing upsets.

Manchester United (5th position; 45 points)

Next is Ole’s tricky reds. With just three points separating them and the top four places, Manchester United sit 5th position.

The Red Devils had an epic start to the season with a 4-0 trashing Chelsea at Old Trafford.

They soon lost their gear and would pick just six points from a possible 24, losing to teams such as Crystal Palace, West Ham United and Newcastle.

A resurgence in form saw them brush aside league champions Manchester City and Chelsea as they climbed up the table, closing the gap on fourth place. 

With a relatively easy run of games that including Bournemouth, Aston Villa and Southampton, Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s men look favorite to land that top-four spot.

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They would, however, have to travel to the White Hart Lane and the King Power Stadium in a thrilling encounter against Tottenham and Leicester City.

The return of star players Paul Pogba and Marcus Rashford and an in-form Bruno Fernandes would be a boost to their top-four chase.

To make the top-four, they have to keep up the excellent form they had going before the Break and hope for a slip up by rival Chelsea.

Chelsea (4th position; 48 points)       

In 2019, the Blues were handed a two-window transfer ban and also lost their star man Eden Hazard to Real Madrid, meaning newly appointed head coach Frank Lampard had to utilize the club’s youth products.  

Lampard and his young squad has proven doubters wrong as they’ve managed to stay in the top four positions.

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They have sometimes delivered some lacklustre performances, like against Newcastle, Bournemouth and Southampton, but they’ve held on to that fourth position.

With a have a relatively easy run of fixtures, they still have to face Manchester City, Leicester and league leaders Liverpool.

However, the return from injury of Pulisic, Ruben Loftus-Cheek, and leading scorer Tammy Abraham means a full squad is available for selection. This would aid their chances of retaining that top-four spot.

With several Elite players across Europe linked with the club, Lampard would certainly hope to avoid any slip-up and qualify for the Champions League.

With the league winner all but decided, the race for top four promises to be an exciting one and certainly would be the centre of attraction for football-loving fans.

Ojele Joshuahttps://www.premierleaguecentral.co.uk/
Bona Fide football fan with a passion for writing.
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