22 Feb Liverpool to overlook out? Breaking down the six-team battle, key males
Manchester Metropolis are operating away with the Premier League title race and seemingly on course to be topped champions for the third time in 4 seasons, however whereas the most important prize seems destined for the Etihad once more, the battle for Champions League qualification is intensifying with each spherical of fixtures.
West Ham are the shock occupants of the fourth and ultimate Champions League spot proper now, with 9 factors separating David Moyes’ team and Tottenham down in ninth place. Whereas Manchester United and Leicester — each 4 factors away from fourth in second and third, respectively — might nonetheless be dragged into the combat, the race is starting to seem like six golf equipment slugging it out for one place, with Arsenal now certainly too far off the tempo in tenth, 11 factors behind West Ham.
– Stream Football4cast FC Each day on Football4cast+ (U.S. solely)
– Football4cast+ viewer’s information: Bundesliga, Serie A, MLS, FA Cup and extra
Chelsea, Liverpool, Everton, Aston Villa and Spurs will all imagine, or hope, they’ll overtake West Ham in fourth, however for some teams, the duty is tougher than others as a result of floor they should make up between now and the tip of the season on Might 23.
So how will it play out, and who’s most certainly to assert fourth spot this season?
Soar to: West Ham | Chelsea | Liverpool | Everton | Aston Villa | Tottenham | Prediction: who finishes fourth?
WEST HAM: Fourth place, 45 factors (25 video games)
STATE OF PLAY: The shock team of the season to date. Two factors away from fifth-placed Chelsea and exceeding all expectations underneath David Moyes.
THE ROAD TO FOURTH: West Ham’s subsequent two away video games, at Manchester Metropolis and Manchester United, will check Moyes and his gamers to the restrict, but when they continue to be in competition after these fixtures, the schedule to the tip of the season will increase their confidence, with video games in opposition to seven teams at present within the backside half nonetheless to come back.
Key clashes in opposition to rivals for fourth are all at house, with Leicester, Chelsea and Everton all but to go to the London Stadium.
KEY MAN: Thomas Soucek is one in all 4 West Ham gamers who’ve performed in all 25 Premier League video games to date and his eight objectives from midfield have been essential, however Michail Antonio is the participant who offers Moyes’ team the X issue — holding the ahead match will probably be vastly necessary. Declan Rice, goalkeeper Lukasz Fabianski and on-loan Jesse Lingard are additionally necessary characters down the stretch.
HOW MUCH DOES FOURTH MATTER? West Ham are a membership with large ambitions to change into London’s prime team, and their transfer to the London Stadium in 2016 was designed to propel them into the identical bracket as Chelsea, Spurs and Arsenal. Inconsistency on the pitch and poor selections by the homeowners have held them again to date, however Moyes has introduced stability, and Champions League qualification would give them the chance to make a large leap. But nothing is definite with regards to West Ham, and including Champions League football to subsequent yr’s schedule may very well be an issue in the event that they over-stretch after getting there.
Football4cast FC’s Craig Burley addresses the fact of Liverpool probably lacking out on the Champions League for subsequent season.
CHELSEA: Fifth place, 43 factors (25 video games)
STATE OF PLAY: Frank Lampard was sacked as supervisor in January with Chelsea in ninth place, 5 factors adrift of fourth. New boss Thomas Tuchel has revived the team’s prospects, nonetheless, with 4 wins and two attracts in his six video games in cost to maneuver them as much as fifth, two factors behind West Ham.
ROAD TO FOURTH: Chelsea have a tricky street forward, beginning with Manchester United’s go to to Stamford Bridge on Sunday earlier than going through Liverpool at Anfield and Everton at house. Chelsea additionally journey to West Ham, Metropolis and Aston Villa, with house video games to come back in opposition to Arsenal and Leicester. The subsequent three video games — in opposition to United, Liverpool and Everton — will inform us whether or not the Tuchel bounce is short-term or sustainable.
KEY MAN: Timo Werner has been a serious disappointment this season after arriving in a £48m deal from RB Leipzig final summer season, scoring simply 5 Premier League objectives. The 24-year-old was signed to attain at the least 20 league objectives every season, but when he can rediscover his kind underneath fellow German Tuchel, Werner can nonetheless be the person to shoot Chelsea into the Champions League.
HOW MUCH DOES FOURTH MATTER? Chelsea have change into accustomed to feast or famine within the Champions League, lacking out on qualification twice within the final 4 seasons, however the monetary hit from failing to be amongst Europe’s elite is within the area of £80m a yr, so it might imply a considerable gap within the membership’s funds for subsequent season.
Chelsea can cope with out Champions League football due to the backing of proprietor Roman Abramovich, however make no mistake: being on the skin hurts the membership’s funds and status.
STATE OF PLAY: The defending Premier League champions have seen their title slip away as a result of vital, long-term accidents and a disastrous run of kind. Jurgen Klopp’s team are sixth, 5 factors behind West Ham, having misplaced 4 straight Premier League video games. They’ve taken two factors from a potential 18 at Anfield and suffered 4 successive house league defeats for the primary time in 98 years.
ROAD TO FOURTH: The subsequent three fixtures — Sheff United (a), Chelsea (h), Fulham (h) — are actually must-win video games, each for factors and confidence. Any failure to gather most factors in opposition to Sheff United and Fulham, who’re each within the backside three, will probably be vastly damaging, however the Anfield conflict in opposition to Chelsea has change into the most important sport of Liverpool’s season as a result of their respective battle for fourth. In the event that they beat Chelsea, Liverpool will imagine they’re again on observe.
KEY MAN: Most of Liverpool’s key males are injured, with Virgil van Dijk and Jordan Henderson the most important losses proper now. However regardless of a seemingly disappointing season, Mohamed Salah continues to be the Premier League’s main scorer with 17 objectives, so it’s vital for Liverpool that the Egyptian stays match and out there. If Salah joins the damage checklist, they’ll neglect in regards to the prime 4.
HOW MUCH DOES FOURTH MATTER? Regardless of successful the Champions League, Premier League and FIFA Membership World Cup in the course of the previous two years, Liverpool have been unable to capitalise on the monetary upside of their success due to the influence of the COVID-19 pandemic. Prize cash has been swallowed up by operating prices which have been hit exhausting by the absence of followers in stadiums, so a yr out of the Champions League can be a large blow for Liverpool as it’ll go away Klopp will little cash to spend on new gamers.
EVERTON: Seventh place, 40 factors (24 video games)
STATE OF PLAY: Carlo Ancelotti’s team have been inconsistent this season, with wins in opposition to Chelsea, Liverpool and Tottenham diminished by defeats in opposition to struggling Newcastle (twice), Fulham and Southampton. However Sunday’s win at Liverpool has put them firmly within the hunt for fourth. In the event that they win their sport in hand, Everton will probably be simply two factors behind West Ham.
ROAD TO FOURTH: Everton’s destiny rests on their away kind, particularly in essential video games in opposition to Chelsea and West Ham. Their journey to Stamford Bridge on March eight already has the texture of an eliminator, with each side needing to keep away from defeat in that one, however the conflict with West Ham on the London Stadium on Might eight additionally has the potential to be a decider if each teams stay within the chase that lengthy. Everton even have necessary house video games in opposition to Spurs and Villa to come back, however with Man Metropolis away within the ultimate sport, Ancelotti will need prime 4 to be sealed by then.
Dan Thomas is joined by Craig Burley, Shaka Hislop and others to deliver you the most recent highlights and debate the most important storylines. Stream on Football4cast+ (U.S. solely).
KEY MAN: Jordan Pickford was excellent in Sunday’s 2-Zero win at Liverpool, however the England goalkeeper has additionally been culpable with pricey errors this season. If Everton are going to qualify for the Champions League, they want their primary to eradicate the errors for the rest of the season.
HOW MUCH DOES FOURTH MATTER? Everton are a membership with a proud historical past — solely United, Liverpool and Arsenal have received extra league titles — and they’re determined to recreate their glory days. Qualifying for the Champions League would give them a giant monetary increase, however it might additionally assist the membership emerge from Liverpool’s shadow, particularly in the event that they beat their neighbours to fourth.
With plans afoot to maneuver to a brand new stadium, Champions League qualification would assist Everton speed up their bid to change into a serious power once more.
ASTON VILLA: Eighth place, 36 factors (23 video games)
STATE OF PLAY: Villa have received simply three of their previous 10 Premier League video games, however having performed two video games fewer than most of their rivals, they’ll climb to sixth by successful these excellent fixtures. Dean Smith’s team seem to operating out of steam, however early season wins in opposition to Liverpool, Leicester and Arsenal spotlight their skill to carry out in opposition to the massive golf equipment.
ROAD TO FOURTH: Villa’s subsequent 4 video games are in opposition to teams within the backside half, so that they have the chance to re-ignite their season earlier than a run that sees them take on Spurs, Liverpool and Man Metropolis of their subsequent 4 fixtures. Villa additionally face Man United and Chelsea within the run-in, so a prime 4 end appears to be a tall order for a team that narrowly averted relegation final season.
KEY MAN: Aston Villa are all about Jack Grealish, and it didn’t go unnoticed that the team misplaced in opposition to Leicester on Sunday with the midfielder sidelined as a result of damage. Opponents have labored out that stopping Grealish largely stops Villa, however the England worldwide can nonetheless trigger issues in opposition to any opposition. He simply wants others to share the burden.
HOW MUCH DOES FOURTH MATTER? Aston Villa had been European champions in 1982 and the membership will all the time harbour ambitions to return to the elite, however qualification for the Champions League can be an surprising bonus this season. Avoiding relegation was the primary precedence. But when they do clinch fourth, Villa would have the funds to construct themselves into a longtime Premier League membership as soon as once more.
Thomas Tuchel explains his resolution to substitute Callum Hudson-Odoi off after bringing him on at halftime.
TOTTENHAM: Ninth place, 36 factors (24 video games)
STATE OF PLAY: Tottenham had been Premier League leaders in mid-December, with supervisor Jose Mourinho eyeing a title problem. However since reaching prime spot, it is all gone incorrect for Spurs, and a run of 5 defeats of their final six league video games have pushed them all the way down to ninth and Mourinho is underneath rising stress. They’re 9 factors off fourth, albeit with a sport in hand.
ROAD TO FOURTH: On paper, Spurs have a great run of fixtures within the weeks forward, with 5 of their subsequent six video games in opposition to teams beneath them within the desk. Win these and Mourinho’s facet will probably be again in combine for a top-four end. With video games in opposition to Everton, Villa and Leicester of their ultimate six fixtures, they’ll nonetheless mount a late surge up the desk, however they merely have to start out successful once more, and rapidly.
KEY MAN: Whereas Harry Kane is match, Spurs have an opportunity of getting the factors they should get again into the race. The England ahead has scored 13 league objectives and tops the assists desk with 11, so his affect is apparent. Kane additionally brings out of the perfect in Heung-Min Son, who additionally has 13 objectives to date. Kane will all the time ship, however he wants others to assist him out. Gareth Bale was signed to do this, however we’re nonetheless ready for the on-loan Actual Madrid winger to ship.
HOW MUCH DOES FOURTH MATTER? With the ultimate invoice for his or her new stadium passing £1 billion, Spurs desperately must be within the Champions League yearly, merely to maintain on prime of their funds. Lacking out for a second successive season can be vastly damaging, particularly within the midst of a pandemic, and will result in key gamers being offered. The stakes are excessive.
West Ham are in fourth proper now, however with the stress on, can they maintain their nerve and likewise keep away from accidents to key gamers? With such a formidable pack of golf equipment behind them, it’s tough to see the Hammers holding on. Equally, with Villa and Spurs struggling for kind, it’s trying like a three-way combat between Chelsea, Liverpool and Everton.
There appears to no finish in sight to Liverpool’s damage issues and Everton’s inconsistency threatens to hang-out them within the weeks forward, so at this stage of the race, Chelsea are the team most certainly to complete fourth. They’re in kind, have a supervisor who has made a right away influence and sufficient attacking expertise to win when it issues.