This has been a quite extraordinary season of football. There's currently a three-way battle for the Premiership, a three-way battle for two relegation places — and of course, a four-way battle for that coveted final Champions League position.
The games keep ticking along, and although we are getting closer to end of the season, we are no closer to determining a clear leader in the race for fourth. It's too close to call. So hopefully a bit of statistical and fixture analysis can ease the nerves a bit and see if fourth is obtainable — or not.
4. Tottenham Hotspur
Games played: 31 (same as City)
Goal difference: +28 (nine better than City)
Recent form: 5 wins. 15 points from 15 possible.
Points: 58 (two more than City)
A Sunderland (13th)
H Arsenal (3rd)
H Chelsea (2nd)
A Manchester United (1st)
H Bolton (16th)
A Manchester City (5th)
A Burnley (19th)
Tottenham are currently sitting pretty in fourth position, two points clear of Manchester City. They have not dropped a point in the last five matches — a record shared only with Manchester United, and are currently the second best team in the league on form. They do face a tough, tough run in however. Just three of their final seven games are at home, and two of these are against opposition above them in the table. Having said that, there are a few games against winnable opposition, which gives Tottenham a great opportunity to score the dozen points needed to hit the magical figure of 70.
Predicted points total: 69 (11 more)
Wins at Sunderland, Bolton, and Burnley, whilst gaining draws against Arsenal and Manchester City.
5. Manchester City
Games played: 31
Goal difference: +19
Recent form: 3 wins, 1 draw, 1 loss. 10 points from 15 possible.
Points: 56 (a club record!)
A Burnley (19th)
H Birmingham City (9th)
H Manchester United (1st)
A Arsenal (3rd)
H Aston Villa (7th)
H Tottenham Hotspur (4th)
A West Ham United (17th)
City have both the luxury (and the added pressure I suppose) of being in full control of their destiny. Four of the remaining fixtures are at home, and two of the three away games remaining are against opposition flirting with relegation. But the home matches are crucial — especially against Villa and Spurs, two teams with similar ambitions for the top four as Manchester City. This is City though, so you can't rule out a win over Arsenal away and losing to Birmingham at home...
Predicted points total: 69 (13 more)
City have averaged just about two points per game under Roberto Mancini, and this form should continue. Wins at Burnley, Birmingham, Aston Villa, and West Ham, with a draw against Tottenham a season defining moment for both clubs.
Games played: 32 (one more than City)
Goal difference: +21 (two better than City)
Recent form: 3 wins, 2 losses. 9 points from 15 possible.
Points: 54 (two less than City)
A Birmingham City (9th)
H Fulham (12th)
H West Ham United (17th)
A Burnley (19th)
H Chelsea (2nd)
A Hull City (18th)
It's a kind draw for Liverpool, who play three of the bottom four teams in the final six matches. However, Liverpool's season has been dogged by inconsistency, and they have lost the most amount of matches of any team in the top eight. In addition, they have League games interspersed with Europa commitments, which will test their somewhat thin squad. But with a run home like that, the Reds must feel that they are still in with a shout.
Predicted points total: 68 (14 more)
Wins at Fulham, West Ham, Burnley, and Hull, with draws against Birmingham and Chelsea. But if they manage to sneak all three points in one of those games, it's definitely advantage Liverpool — despite giving up four points and one game to Spurs at this point of the season.
The importance of the final week
As already mentioned, it's way too close to call a definite winner at this stage seven weeks out. But I think we'll be in the exact same position in the last week of the season!
Burnley (19th) v Tottenham Hotspur (4th)
West Ham United (17th) v Manchester City (5th)
Hull City (18th) v Liverpool (6th)
Even discounting the importance of the City-Tottenham on the previous Wednesday, the final match day will serve a dual purpose — deciding who goes into Europe and who drops down into the Championship, with literally tens of millions of pounds at stake in each match! City could very well relegate West Ham at Upton Park, whilst at the same time qualifying for the Champions League, and this scenario could happen at either Turf Moor or the KC! We will see three of the most nerve-wracking clashes of the season, with fans from all teams keeping a watchful eye on the progress of the other two games.
The Fearless Prediction
Well the calculations say Spurs on current form. But I think City have the best opportunity to pick up points, and thus should still be the slightest of slight favourites... can someone can send the Twitcher's mob another dodgy lasagne?