The race to secure a top-four finish in the Premier League is heating up and it is a narrative that could run until the final weekend of the 2022/23 season.
Several sides are in contention to secure Champions League football, a crucial source of revenue and prestige that can be used to attract top talent in the summer transfer window. Arsenal and Manchester City are comfortably clear of the chasing pack and will likely end the season as the top two, but which clubs are competing for the final two spots?
We assess the race for the Premier League’s coveted top four.
Newcastle – 50 points
Last six games: DLLWWW
Remaining fixtures: West Ham (A), Brentford (A), Aston Villa (A), Tottenham (H), Everton (A), Southampton (H), Arsenal (H), Leeds (A), Leicester (H), Chelsea (A), Brighton (H – to be rescheduled)
Odds to finish top four: 1/2
Newcastle’s rise has been far faster than expected. The club’s takeover last season increased optimism of better days at St James’ Park, but it has been a wave of momentum the club have continued to ride.
Eddie Howe has built a side that has become difficult to beat, one which boasts the best defensive record in the Premier League with just 19 goals conceded from 27 games. The money invested has been largely well spent, with record arrival Alexander Isak having found his form at a crucial point of the season. Back-to-back defeats had threatened to derail the club’s top-four bid, but consecutive wins over Wolves, Nottingham Forest and Manchester United have lifted Howe’s side into third.
Eddie Howe on aims for the remainder of the season:
"For me, the aim is to beat West Ham and see where we go after that. I haven't set a target because I don't think they help us. It's very much game by game and see where it takes us." pic.twitter.com/I11k27HPFs
— Newcastle United FC (@NUFC) April 4, 2023
There’s a confidence and chemistry within this Newcastle side and their comfortable win over Manchester United was the clearest sign to date that this team believe in their top four chances. The Magpies dominated from start to finish to move above Erik ten Hag’s team, with the United manager admitting that Newcastle ‘wanted it more’.
With a brilliantly drilled defence, set-piece threat and attacking options improved by the return of Isak and arrival of Anthony Gordon, Newcastle are well-placed to return to the Champions League for the first time since 2002/03.
Tottenham – 50 points
Remaining fixtures: Brighton (H), Bournemouth (H), Newcastle (A), Manchester United (H), Liverpool (A), Crystal Palace (H), Aston Villa (A), Brentford (H), Leeds (A)
Last six games: WLWDD
Odds to finish top four: 9/4
Tottenham will look to overcome Antonio Conte’s explosive exit and secure Champions League qualification, with the Italian’s former assistant, Cristian Stellini, placed in interim charge. Despite a campaign that has lacked consistency, Spurs remain in the hunt for the top four and climbed above Manchester United after a draw at Everton on Monday night.
It was a second successive draw to a side fighting relegation however, having conceded late goals to drop points to both Southampton and Everton.
🗣️ @Pedroporro29_ pic.twitter.com/B4Pqoy081M
— Tottenham Hotspur (@SpursOfficial) April 4, 2023
Spurs face a defining month in April, with clashes against four teams who are in direct competition for the Champions League. The north Londoners will host Brighton and Manchester United before the end of the month, in addition to trips to Newcastle and Liverpool. It’s make-or-break for Spurs, who need more from their forward names in support of Harry Kane.
Kane has scored 22 league goals this season, a huge 42% of the club’s total. No player has contributed a higher percentage of his team’s goals this season.
Manchester United – 50 points
Remaining fixtures: Brentford (H), Everton (H), Nottingham Forest (A), Chelsea (H), Tottenham (A), Aston Villa (H), Brighton (A), West Ham (A), Wolves (H), Bournemouth (A), Fulham (H).
Last six games: WWLDL
Odds to finish top four: 2/7
Erik ten Hag’s team looked in pole position to secure Champions League football just a month ago, but a winless three-game run has tightened up the top-four race.
Goals have been an issue for the Red Devils who have gone three Premier League games without scoring, with the short-term signing of Wout Weghorst having failed to solve the club’s issues at centre-forward.
1️⃣0️⃣0️⃣% effort, 1️⃣0️⃣0️⃣% of the time.
A goal that epitomises @LukeShaw23's incredible work rate 👏⚽️#MUFC pic.twitter.com/Vu5UgCy14L
— Manchester United (@ManUtd) April 4, 2023
Ten Hag has praised the Dutchman’s work-rate, but a return of just two goals in 19 appearances across all competitions needs improvement. Manchester United are the joint-lowest scorers inside the top six (41) and only Marcus Rashford (14) has scored more than five league goals this season.
United do, however, face arguably the easiest run-in of the competing sides. Of their 11 remaining games, five come against teams currently in the Premier League’s bottom seven. Just two – trips to face Tottenham on April 27th and Brighton on May 2nd – are against current top-six teams.
Brighton – 46 points
Remaining fixtures: Tottenham (A), Chelsea (A), Manchester City (H), Nottingham Forest (A), Wolves (H), Everton (H), Arsenal (A), Southampton (H), Aston Villa (A), Newcastle (A – to be rescheduled).
Last six games: WDWDW
Odds to finish top four: 9/2
Brighton have never before featured in European competition at any level, but the Seagulls’ strong performances under Roberto De Zerbi have lifted them into Champions League contention.
Brighton have lost just once in 11 Premier League games since the turn of the new year, with Kaoru Mitoma and Solly March among the form players in the division post-World Cup restart. Evan Ferguson’s emergence has also provided Brighton with much needed cutting edge and the Seagulls have a side full of confidence, flexibility and talent.
Brighton currently sit 6th in the Premier League.
They're inching closer to European football next season 📈 pic.twitter.com/pmSYc3miAw
— ESPN UK (@ESPNUK) April 4, 2023
Their push for Champions League football will hinge on their results in the coming weeks, with trips to face Tottenham and Chelsea. De Zerbi’s team will take encouragement from an impressive record on the road this season however, with only Arsenal (34) and Manchester City (27) having taken more points in away fixtures than Brighton (22) this season.
Liverpool – 43 points
Remaining fixtures: Arsenal (H), Leeds (A), Nottingham Forest (H), West Ham (A), Tottenham (H), Brentford (H), Leicester (A), Aston Villa (H), Southampton (A).
Last six games: WWLLD
Odds to finish top four: 7/2
Liverpool’s top four hopes are dwindling with a goalless draw at Chelsea in midweek leaving the Reds seven points adrift. Jurgen Klopp’s side have been a shadow of their former selves for much of this season and are without a win in three Premier League fixtures.
Liverpool will host Arsenal in a huge clash this weekend, before what represents a largely straightforward run-in. Experience is on the side of the Merseysiders who have historically finished seasons strongly during Klopp’s reign, but there have been precious few signs that a winning run could materialise in recent weeks.
Liverpool since beating Manchester United 7-0: LLLD
— B/R Football (@brfootball) April 4, 2023
Short on confidence and vulnerable defensively, only Fulham have conceded more big chances than Liverpool this season. Klopp’s side have little margin for error ahead of the run-in, ahead of what shapes as a seismic showdown with the league leaders on Sunday.
Could any other sides challenge?
Aston Villa (200-1) moved above Liverpool after a win at Leicester and have emerged as one of the form teams in the Premier League under Unai Emery. Only Arsenal have recorded more points since the Spaniard replaced Steven Gerrard as manager and Villa are unbeaten in six league games, winning five.
Arsenal are the only side to earn more points than Aston Villa since Unai Emery's return to the Premier League 😲#LEIAVL pic.twitter.com/zsxbwJF9ii
— Amazon Prime Video Sport (@primevideosport) April 4, 2023
Eighth in the table at present, Villa are a point above Liverpool having played a game more. Emery’s side are six points adrift of the top four, but have played more games than each of the sides above them with the exception of Spurs and Arsenal.
Brentford (200-1) are also level on points with Liverpool and have lost just one of their last 16 games in the Premier League. The Bees have impressed this season, but five draws in their last nine games have seen them drop to ninth. Chelsea (200/1) are 11 points adrift of the Champions League places and without a head coach after Graham Potter was sacked last weekend.
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