Although the situation may change between now and the end of the season, it looks there are four main contestants for 4th place and the last Champions League spot. The importance of gaining that 4th spot is second to none with the amount of incoming revenue as well as possible high-calibre signings who are looking to ply their trade in European footballs best competition.
With Arsenal, Man City and Chelsea seeming to have broken away from the pack and eyeing the coveted Premier League title, it leaves Liverpool, Spurs, Everton and Man Utd fighting for the fourth place. With all four teams separated by only six points, its set up to be a tight finish right to the end with crucial head to head fixtures likely to play a huge part.
One advantage Liverpool and Everton will have over the other two teams is that with no European fixtures, it will mean less games as well as a more spread out fixture list. Liverpool head into a massive Merseyside Derby next week against Everton and with the two teams having already served up a 3-3 thriller earlier in the season, we’ll hope for more of the same this time round.
The Reds play Arsenal on Feb 8th looking to gain revenge following the 2-0 loss at the Emirates last year. In March, Liverpool head off to Old Trafford on the 15th to face Man Utd having already beaten the Red Devils 1-0 with Sturridge scoring the only goal. Spurs visit Anfield on the 29th which again will prove to be crucial for both sides.
Heading into April, Liverpool face firstly Man City on the 12th followed by Chelsea on the 26th. Having narrowly lost to both teams 2-1, Liverpool will want lady luck on their side this time against two of the rivals for the title.
Liverpool will take comfort in knowing that five of the six fixtures above are at home where they have been prolific so far this season. In addition to no midweek games (apart from possible FA Cup replays), The Reds will be quietly confident of a return to Europe’s elite where they will feel they belong.
Spurs welcome title favourites Man City to White Hart Lane next week fair better than they did the last time the teams met where it finished 6-0 to City. Spurs travel to Everton on Feb 9th in a month where they will feel they can push on with winnable fixtures.
March will be a tough month for Spurs, with a trip to Stamford Bridge first on the menu against Chelsea on the 8th. This is followed by a huge North London derby at home to Arsenal who they have already lost to in the league as well as the FA Cup so they will hope for a more positive result. The month is concluded with another crucial game against Liverpool who Spurs were hammered 6-0 by at home in December. Since then things have changed at Tottenham, with Tim Sherwood replacing Andre Villas-Boas and players such as Adebayor and Eriksen is hot form, they will be more confident going into the big clashes.
Spurs however do have the Europa League to consider, with a last 32 clash against Dnipro on the horizon and possible games after if they progress. This will mean midweek games as well as weekend PL games which may take its toll on some players.
Everton will be seen as outsiders for fourth place but have exceeded expectations so far this season with Roberto Martinez doing an excellent job since taking over from David Moyes. With the likes of Lukaku, Mirallas and Barkley on form, they will feel that have as good a chance as any other team.
First up for The Toffees is a trip to Anfield in a crucial Merseyside Derby with Liverpool. Both teams will be targeting the bragging rights as well as gaining the upper hand in the race for the last Champions League spot.
In Feburary, Everton travel to London on the 9th and the 22nd to face Spurs and then Chelsea. Crucially, Everton are not in Europe so will be able to rest players during the week to be fresh for the weekend clashes.
March sees Everton welcome both Arsenal and Man Utd to Goodison Park on the 5th and 19th. It will be a crucial time for all teams leading up to the end of the season and Everton will be looking for positive results to keep them in the chase.
Finally Everton meet Man City at home on the May 3rd in clash in the penultimate fixture of the season. With the match being so close to the end of the season, it may prove vital for both teams so it will be a crucial encounter for all concerned.
Having just lost to Chelsea in the league, as well as being dumped out of the Capital One cup, United will want to bounce back in style and give their fans something to cheer about in a season which has been below par by their high standards. After losing at semi-final stage of the cup after an enthralling encounter against Sunderland, United have acted swiftly with the possible singing of Juan Mata imminent. A world-class signing such as Mata will prove a boost to the fans but more crucially the other players who have been substandard so far.
Man Utd have already played Chelsea and Spurs twice this season, which in one way is a positive as they only have to play four of the top six. However, United only gained two points from the four games against Chelsea and Spurs which they will bitterly disappointed with considering that they’re record against the bigger teams in the league is always good.
February sees United travel to The Emirates to continue their rivalry against Arsenal. Having already beaten The Gunners 1-0 at Old Trafford courtesy of a Robin Van Persie header, Moyes’s side will hope for more of the same in this game.
Liverpool travel to Old Trafford in what many fans describe as the biggest match of the season. Most games between these arch rivals live up to its billing and may go a long way in determining who finished in that fourth position.
United travel to Everton on April 19th in a game which sees David Moyes return to his old ground for the first time since leaving. Rooney and Fellaini are also likely to feature against their former club and should prove to be an exciting game.
With Man City now involved in the Carling Cup final, it means that the Manchester Derby will be rearranged for another date. With United’s Champions League commitments, they will hope the fixtures do not pile up at once or they can see themselves having a tough last few months of the season.
Who will come up trumps?
Whatever happens come the end of the season, we know it will be a tight finish. With so many teams vying one place, results in the big games will prove pivotal. One thing is for sure, it will be entertaining and likely to go right to the wire