A place in the top four of the Premier League secures not just qualification to the Champions League, but also a significant participation fee. For Chelsea and Manchester City, Champions League football looks all but certain. The remaining two top four berths are being fought over by six teams, with some having more incentive than Manchester United to chase Champions League riches.
As a result of the intense competition, the contest is starting to resemble the latter stages of a horse race. Indeed, horse racing might be a more predictable sport at the moment for those of a betting persuasion. If the tightness of the Premier League puts you off football betting, then check out the latest Grand National 2015 odds – click here for more information.
At the time of writing, seven points separate Manchester United in third from ninth place West Ham. In between lie Southampton, Arsenal, Spurs and Liverpool. Any one of these teams could conceivably finish the season in the top four positions. Whether you want to bet on Manchester United will depend partly on how you feel about the prospects of the teams immediately below them.
Southampton have had a spectacular season built on the strongest defence in the division. Ronald Koeman is an immensely astute manager, and has a uniformly strong squad of players from which to choose. The main thing that might count against them is a lack of experience compared to Manchester United at this end of the table as the season approaches its end.
By contrast, Arsenal have unrivalled experience with top four finishes, but have a defence that has at times looked shaky. If they are to notch up yet another top four position at the end of the season then the form and fitness of Alexis Sanchez will be of crucial importance.
The form of Harry Kane will be of even more importance to Tottenham’s hopes of playing in the Champions League next season than that of Sanchez for Arsenal. Without Kane’s goals, Spurs would not be in contention for a place in the top four.
A month ago, Liverpool were looking like they would finish comfortably outside of the Champions League spots. They have since put together a strong series of results to close the gap between themselves and the fourth spot to four points. If they continue as they have done over the last six games, then the Reds will be knocking on the door of the Champions League at the end of the season.
West Ham have shown that they are able to produce giant killing results more than once this season, which accounts for their better than expected performance thus far. Their run of form has taken a bit of a dip in recent matches, which if not reversed could see any Champions League ambitions fade away for this season.
So, will Manchester United make their return to the Champions League next season? Or will the likes of Arsenal, Southampton or Liverpool squeeze them out? Only time will tell!
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