Top four battle set for thrilling finale
Published: 18.03.13 / Written by: David Gold
Liverpool’s victory on Sunday against Tottenham was perfect for those looking to market the Premier League in the weeks to come.
With the title race pretty much over, the race to finish third and fourth looks like being the high stakes game with all up for grabs until the final weeks of the season.
Tottenham had been rightful favourites for third going into last weekend, playing as well as they were, with Gareth Bale arguably Europe’s form player. Tottenham had achieved a wonderful run of form, been three months unbeaten and had just beaten Inter Milan 3-0 in the Europa League. They played well at Liverpool as well, coming from 1-0 down to lead 2-1. But a stirring fightback by Liverpool ensured they left with all three points.
It was a significant result for two reasons. For one it gives both Chelsea in fourth and Arsenal in fifth the chance to close the gap on Andre Villas Boas’ side. Secondly, it meant that Liverpool were able to thrust themselves into contention for the top four. No team is showing the kind of consistency to have them down as sure fire top four contenders. Last year Arsenal produced a run of form at this point of the season which secured them third spot. Any of the four teams putting together a consistent run over the last 10 games can thrust themselves into the Champions League for next season. Liverpool’s win, the first for them against a top side this season, could mark a significant turning point. They had been unlucky in games against Arsenal and Manchester City earlier this year, arguably the better team in both games but coming away with 2-2 draws. There are real signs Liverpool are turning a corner, and moving towards being the team Brendan Rodgers wants them to be.
This is threatening to make the top four battle really interesting. Arsenal and Liverpool, outside the top four at present, have the easier run ins of the four sides chasing third and fourth. Arsenal have to face Manchester United and Liverpool take on Chelsea, and those are the only other sides in the top six they still have to play this season, and both have to take on Everton again, and also face tricky trips to Newcastle. Chelsea by comparison, still will meet Manchester United, Tottenham, Everton and Liverpool. Tottenham have to face Manchester City, Chelsea of course, and Everton. Tottenham still have to face Stoke, Swansea and Wigan away, all tricky games for different reasons.
Both Tottenham and Chelsea are also still in the Europa League, complicating their tasks further. Chelsea have a particularly tough task as they are still in the FA Cup and have played more games than any of their rivals already this season. Last year they struggled towards the end of the Premier League season and they are threatening to do the same this.
With none of these teams showing enough consistent form to mark them down as certainties for the top four, this most intriguing of races promises plenty of twists and turns yet to come.