Manchester United to struggle, Tottenham worries, but Arsenal have hope? Top four rivals rated by run-in

The race for Champions League qualification is shaping up to be one of the most exciting in recent memory, with SEVEN teams battling it out for two spots.

Leicester and Chelsea are currently in the driving seat, but the five teams below them are hot on their heels, all the way down to Arsenal in ninth.

Chelsea seized the initiative in the top four race with a 2-1 victory over Spurs on Saturday

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Chelsea seized the initiative in the top four race with a 2-1 victory over Spurs on Saturday

Just seven points separate the Gunners from fourth-place Chelsea, with 11 matches remaining, and the gap could be wiped out in a matter of weeks.

Things could be made even more interesting if the Court of Arbitration for Sport upholds Manchester City’s two-year European ban, which could open up fifth place for Champions League qualification.

We’ll have to wait until May 17 to find out the answers for sure, but with the help of SoccerStats, we can begin to speculate.

We’ve ranked the seven top-four contenders based on the difficulty of their remaining fixtures, which helps paint a clearer picture of the task at hand for each team.

So, who has the most favourable remaining fixtures? Here are the results, with ’7’ being the hardest and ‘1’ the easiest…

How is it calculated?

Soccer Stats adds up the points per game of all remaining opponents and averages it out to give a score.

The higher the number, the more difficult the remaining fixtures.

What’s more, it distinguishes between home and away points, to give a more accurate reflection on the remaining matches.

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7. Manchester United

Average points per game of remaining opponents: 1.50

Fixtures: Everton (A), Man City (H), Tottenham (A), Sheffield United (H), Brighton (A), Bournemouth (H), Aston Villa (A), Southampton (H), Crystal Palace (A), West Ham (H), Leicester (A).

What’s being said?

Man United left-back Luke Shaw: “This club is known for playing in the big competitions. We all miss the Champions League nights so much, that is what we want next season.

“We need to fight and earn it.”

Verdict

United face a season-defining month, with four seriously tricky fixtures coming up.

However, Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s men have fared quite well against the better teams this season, while coming undone against clubs towards the bottom of the table.

So, bizarrely, a difficult run-in might actually suit them.

Can Bruno Fernandes inspire Man Untied to a top-four finish?

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Can Bruno Fernandes inspire Man Untied to a top-four finish?

6. Arsenal

Average points per game of remaining opponents: 1.46

Fixtures: West Ham (H), Brighton (A), Southampton (A), Norwich (H), Wolves (A), Leicester (H), Tottenham (A), Liverpool (H), Aston Villa (A), Watford (H), Man City (A – not scheduled).

What’s being said?

Arsenal legend Ian Wright: “They’ll be looking forward to playing anyone at the moment.

“You look at it now, see the way the league is going, they’ve got momentum, and their next three are quite winnable, so you’ve got to say fingers crossed [for top four].”

Verdict

Wright is correct about Arsenal’s upcoming fixtures, but after that, things get tricky.

The Gunners face Leicester, Spurs and Liverpool – with their fixture against Man City also likely to be rescheduled during that run.

With a seven-point gap to close, Arsenal have probably left themselves with too much work to do.

Arsenal have an outside chance of finishing in the top four

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Arsenal have an outside chance of finishing in the top four

5. Chelsea

Average points per game of remaining opponents: 1.34

Fixtures: Bournemouth (A), Everton (H), Aston Villa (A), Man City (H), West Ham (A), Watford (H), Crystal Palace (A), Sheffield United (A), Norwich (H), Liverpool (A), Wolves (H).

What’s being said?

Manager Frank Lampard: “We have a lot of games to go with it in our hands, to see if we can get to the top four.

“It’s going to be tough. We’re not going to be given anything, we have to go out and fight.

“I think whenever I speak to fans, they understand this season is a transitional year.

“We can’t please everybody but they recognised the way the team is trying to play.”

Verdict

Chelsea have a three-point cushion over fifth-place Manchester United, but still face tricky games against Manchester City and Liverpool during their run-in.

Lampard will hope the Blues have got out of their rut with the 2-1 victory over Tottenham on Saturday – which kept their fate in their own hands.

Chelsea are now four points clear of Spurs

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Chelsea are now four points clear of Spurs

4. Sheffield United

Average points per game of remaining opponents: 1.33

Fixtures: Aston Villa (A), Norwich (H), Newcastle (A), Man United (A), Tottenham (H), Burnley (A), Wolves (H), Chelsea (H), Leicester (A), Everton (H), Southampton (A).

What’s being said?

Manager Chris Wilder: “People will talk about looking up and I want us to look up, I want us to go and reel in the teams above us.

“I can’t go into a team meeting in half an hour and just say, ‘Let’s be careful of staying out the bottom three’. It’s an extremely competitive league and we’re proud of our position at the moment.

“We’ve worked extremely hard to get into that position. We’ve done a lot of things right and we’re going to have to do a lot of things right between now and the end of the season. We need the bounce of the ball, to stay clear of big injuries.”

Verdict

Sheffield United need slightly more than the bounce of the ball to get into the Champions League next season.

They’ve got a four-point gap to close, plus matches against United, Tottenham, Wolves, Chelsea and Leicester to contend with.
But, in fairness, it’s incredible that they’re even in the conversation.

Chris Wilder is doing remarkable things at Bramall Lane

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Chris Wilder is doing remarkable things at Bramall Lane

3. Tottenham

Average points per game of remaining opponents: 1.31

Fixtures: Wolves (H), Burnley (A), Man United (H), West Ham (H), Sheffield United (H), Everton (H), Bournemouth (A), Arsenal (H), Newcastle (A), Leicester (H), Crystal Palace (A).

What’s being said?

Manager Jose Mourinho on talkSPORT: “It’s very, very difficult. But like the boys did today, we are going to fight until the end.

“Today, we fought until the last second of the game and in terms of fourth, we are going to fight until it’s mathematically impossible.”

Verdict

You look at Tottenham’s remaining fixtures and four stand out: Wolves, United, Arsenal and Leicester.

But here’s the thing, they’re all at home. So don’t count them out just yet.

It’ll be a tall order with their injury crisis, and their recent performances suggests they’ll be heading in the other direction, but four points isn’t the mountain that Mourinho is making out.

Jose Mourinho doesn’t rate Tottenham’s top four chances

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Jose Mourinho doesn’t rate Tottenham’s top four chances

2. Leicester

Average points per game of remaining opponents: 1.24

Fixtures: Norwich (A), Aston Villa (H), Watford (A), Brighton (H), Everton (A), Crystal Palace (H), Arsenal (A), Bournemouth (A), Sheffield United (H), Tottenham (A), Man United (H).

What’s being said?

Defender Jonny Evans: “We know it’s going to be a difficult run-in, but it’s one we’re relishing.

“We know Saturday [against Man City] was obviously a chance to pick up a point or three but it hasn’t happened.

“We’ll go to Norwich and will have to be top of our game because they’re a good side. But this is one we have to win if we want to guarantee one of those Champions League spots.”

Verdict

Leicester would have to drop nine points to fall out of the top four – and it’s difficult to see where they’ll do that.

A few more wins and you can nail Brendan Rodgers’ men down for a Champions League spot next season.

Leicester look set to mix it with Europe’s best next season

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Leicester look set to mix it with Europe’s best next season

1. Wolves

Average points per game of remaining opponents: 1.20

Fixtures: Tottenham (A), Brighton (H), West Ham (A), Bournemouth (H), Aston Villa (A), Arsenal (H), Sheffield United (A), Everton (H), Burnley (A), Crystal Palace (H), Chelsea (A)

What’s being said?

Manager Nuno Espirito Santo: “We’re going to stay focused because the difficulty is to sustain your performances through the season.

“After that, we’ll see, but it’s about building your team and getting them ready to compete whenever, wherever.”

Verdict

Besides the tricky trip to Stamford Bridge on the last day of the season, Wolves’ fixtures provide them with a superb chance to break into the top four, even with five points to make up.

They don’t face any of the Premier League’s current top three, and their crucial matches against Arsenal and Tottenham are both at home.

The away trip to Sheffield United could decide which underdog gets to play in the Champions League next season.

Wolves could mount a charge on the top four

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Wolves could mount a charge on the top four