Liverpool’s victory over Southampton at the weekend leaves only three points between Manchester United in third place and Tottenham Hotspur in seventh. The top two teams in the division, Chelsea and Manchester City, look certain to qualify for next season’s Champions League. The race for the remaining spots appears wide open though. So who will prevail?
Arsenal remain favourites to secure the third spot as their best players return to full fitness. Tottenham on the other hand will do well to last the distance. Their journey in the Europa League and their appearance in the League Cup final is likely to stretch a side relying heavily on Harry Kane’s goals.
Southampton have already played, and lost, many of their matches against their rivals for European football next year. The defeat at Anfield was another performance in which their endeavour went unrewarded. As the title race goes down to the wire, one would suspect a similar outcome in their matches against Chelsea and Manchester City – the only big teams they are yet to play twice in the league.
Liverpool’s run in is trickier. A difficult fixture list is expected to hinder their charge for a top four place, but as their recent must-win matches against Tottenham and Southampton have proved, Brendan Rodgers’ side are capable of delivering when required.
Ensuring Manchester United finished in the top four was the minimum requirement for Louis van Gaal this year. The Dutchman will hope to inject some cohesion into his attack to develop some momentum during the final weeks of the season. I suspect the club will do just enough to qualify for the Champions League next year – but whether van Gaal will survive a further season of fluctuating performances remains to be seen.