Born in the south east of Ireland, Simon put his life-long love of football to good use when he started a successful independent blog in 2010. That opened up an alternative route to a career in journalism, and having had work published across a number of sites and publications, Simon joined the staff at Spotlight Sports Group in 2018.
At Stamford Bridge on Wednesday evening, Chelsea battled their way to a 2-0 victory over Tottenham Hotspur, securing a result that blew the race for Champions League qualification wide open.
On an evening where two of the other top 4 candidates Arsenal and Manchester United also carved out wins against Bournemouth and Crystal Palace respectively, Chelsea’s triumph in Wednesday’s showpiece fixture against Spurs helped them to keep pace with developments just above them in the table.
Currently, 6th place Chelsea are 7 points adrift of Tottenham in 3rd, though the Blues still hold a game in hand over all of the teams ahead of them. A win for Chelsea in that catch-up fixture would see them clamber back over Man Utd into 5th – and a win by a decent margin would launch Chelsea into 4th place at Arsenal’s expense.
With the number of 2018/19 Premier League fixtures remaining for each club dwindling to single figures, the stage is set for some serious continental qualification congestion at the top of the table.
Only two from Tottenham, Arsenal, Man Utd and Chelsea will make the cut – but which teams are most likely to finish in the Premier League’s top 4?
Current Position: 3rd
Games left vs other members of “Big 6”: 3 (H vs Arsenal, A vs Liverpool, A vs Man City)
Up until a week ago, Tottenham Hotspur had been considered an outside candidate for the Premier League title itself, but 2 away defeats to Burnley and Chelsea inside 4 days has triggered a major reassessment of their outlook for the remainder of the season.
With their slim title hopes in tatters, Spurs’ top 4 status suddenly feels less secure too with the teams just below them in the table now within striking distance of Mauricio Pochettino’s side.
Remarkably, Tottenham have been beaten a massive 8 times in the Premier League this season, which accounts for almost 30% of the total number of games they’ve played.
Nevertheless, and despite their recent woes, Spurs are understandably huge favourites to take either 3rd or 4th place in May given their current points advantage over their rivals, and bet365’s price of 1/3 on Tottenham finishing in the top 4 certainly reflects that.
Spurs have an immediate chance to get back in the groove and confirm their status as Champions League qualification favourites in a crucial north London derby against Arsenal on Saturday morning. A victory against the Gunners would help to allay any fears that a Spurs’ positional descent is imminent.
However, another poor result could make Betvictor’s 11/4 odds on Spurs NOT finishing in the top 4 a very interesting looking small-stake price, especially when you consider the difficulty of some of the games in Tottenham’s run in.
Current Position: 4th
Games left vs other members of “Big 6”: 3 (A vs Tottenham, H vs Man Utd)
After their emphatic 5-1 win against Bournemouth at the Emirates on Wednesday, Arsenal are still firmly in the hunt for Champions League qualification.
Their performance and result against the Cherries was in keeping with what has been a fine Premier League campaign in North London this season, however, replicating their Emirates displays on the road has routinely been a struggle for the Gunners.
In many ways, it’s been a campaign of contrasts for Arsenal in 2018/19 under their new manager Unai Emery. Only Man City and Liverpool have scored more Premier League goals than Arsenal this term, though the Gunners also have the division’s joint 8th worst defensive record.
Similarly, Arsenal have the league’s 3rd best home record after City and Liverpool, though the Gunners rank a dreadful 8th in the away table.
In terms of their run-in between now and the end of the season, the good news for Arsenal is that they play only 2 games against the other members of the league’s “Big 6” – the overwhelmingly bad news however, is that 6 of Arsenal’s remaining 10 fixtures are away from home.
With Arsenal’s travel sickness showing no signs of remedying itself, they look a great bet at 1/2 with Betvictor to NOT finish in the Premier League’s top 4. The same bookmaker has priced the Gunners at 15/8 to claw their way in, though they have been assigned the longest odds of the 4 Champions League qualification contenders for a reason.
Current Position: 5th
Games left vs other members of “Big 6”: 3 (A vs Arsenal, H vs Man City, H vs Chelsea)
With 9 wins and 2 draws from this first 11 Premier League games in charge, Ole Gunnar Solskjaer has overseen a radical improvement in performances and results since replacing the miserable Jose Mourinho at Manchester United.
Under the Norwegian, United have emerged from Mourinho’s funk to give themselves a real shot at Champions League qualification, and their 3-1 win at Crystal Palace with a team severely hampered by injury, was a reminder of the power of their positive momentum.
The victory at Selhurst Park set a new club record for United of 8 straight away wins, and if Solskjaer can find a way to drag United’s Old Trafford points per game average under his management from 2.2 closer to his perfect 3.0 away average, then United will be in terrific shape.
6 of United’s remaining 10 games in the league are at Old Trafford, and 2 of those games against Man City and Chelsea, along with United’s trip to play Arsenal, are likely to be pivotal in determining United’s Champions League future.
However, with spirits high and individual performances peaking, United are priced brilliantly at 11/10 with bet365 to take a place in the top 4. Man Utd take on Southampton at the Theatre of Dreams in their latest test under Solskjaer on Saturday. Read our comprehensive match preview for the game here.
Current Position: 6th
Games left vs other members of “Big 6”: 2 (A vs Liverpool, A vs Man Utd)
Chelsea recovered from a controversial week in impressive fashion on Wednesday by beating Top 4 rivals Tottenham Hotspur 2-0 at Stamford Bridge.
It was another display of emotional elasticity from Chelsea who have been locked in a results boom-bust cycle for what feels like months now.
The Blues bounced back from a harrowing 0-4 reverse at Bournemouth in late January by beating Huddersfield 6-0 the following week, and Chelsea showed plenty of spirit to take Man City all the way to penalties in the Carabao Cup Final on Sunday having been torn to shreds by the Citizens just 2 weeks before in a 0-6 mauling.
Frustratingly for Maurizio Sarri and Chelsea supporters, the Blues seem to operate at opposite ends of the performance spectrum every other week. Chelsea have won 4 and lost 4 of their last 8 fixtures in total – a sequence that suggests that consistency has abandoned them at the most crucial juncture of the season.
Furthermore, Chelsea have lost 5 of their last 8 Premier League away matches, and 6 of their remaining top-flight fixtures between now and May are away from Stamford Bridge.
With Sarri seemingly losing his grip on the Chelsea dressing room and results fluctuating from week to week, we think the Blues are worth backing at 8/11 with Betvictor to NOT make the top 4.
Chelsea meet Fulham in a West London Derby on Sunday afternoon at Craven Cottage. Check out our match preview for the game with predictions and expert betting tips here.
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