Race for top four – how are the contenders shaping up?

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May 10, 2021
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    Thomas Tuchel, Brendan Rodgers, David Moyes, Jurgen KloppThe race for the top four will go down to the wire, with some big clubs likely to miss out

    As the Premier League enters its closing stages, the race to finish in the division's top four is where most of the remaining interest is focused.

    Barring a remarkable late turnaround, Manchester City will be champions and the current bottom three of Fulham, West Brom and Sheffield United will be heading to the Championship.

    Second-placed Manchester United's win at Aston Villa and results elsewhere sealed their Champions League qualification, but there are six other clubs still mathematically in with a shout of claiming the other two spots.

    Premier League table - race for the top four

    BBC Sport looks at each of the six sides and how they are shaping up for the final push.

    Chelsea

    Recent form: WDWWW

    Injured players: Andreas Christensen (hamstring), Mateo Kovacic (thigh)

    Remaining fixtures – home in caps (with current position of opponent): ARSENAL (10th), LEICESTER (4th), Aston Villa (11th)

    Chelsea are in excellent shape to claim a place in next season's Champions League, with two routes still available to them: a place in the top four or beating Manchester City in the final to win this season's competition.

    That this is the case is down to their improvement and magnificent form since Thomas Tuchel succeeded Frank Lampard, who was sacked in January with the Blues ninth in the table.

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    Since then, they have won 10 of 16 league games, including Saturday's 2-1 comeback win at champions-elect Manchester City to propel themselves into the top four.

    With a six-point cushion, superb current form, few injuries and a squad the equal of any other club in the division, it would take something miraculous to prevent Chelsea claiming a Champions League spot.

    Leicester City

    Recent form: LWWDL

    Injured players: Harvey Barnes (knee), Jonny Evans (ankle), James Justin (knee), Wes Morgan (back)

    Remaining fixtures – home in caps (with current position of opponent): Manchester United (2nd), Chelsea (3rd), TOTTENHAM (7th)

    Leicester will be nervous right now. The Foxes spent most of last season in the top four before agonisingly dropping out with two games of the season to go.

    Brendan Rodgers' side will be determined to avoid a repeat but there are factors working against them.

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    They have the toughest last three games of all those in the race, are going into them off the back of a humbling 4-2 home loss by Newcastle, have an FA Cup final to focus on in the middle of them and injuries to some key players.

    They have points on the board, though, and were helped out by Everton's win at West Ham on Sunday, which kept the cushion between them and fifth at five points.

    West Ham

    Recent form: WLLWL

    Injured players: Arthur Masuaku (knee), Mark Noble (calf), Angelo Ogbonna (thigh), Declan Rice (knee)

    Remaining fixtures – home in caps (with current position of opponent): Brighton (15), West Brom (19), SOUTHAMPTON (16)

    The surprise package of the top-four race. Having finished 16th last season, few people imagined West Ham had it in them to push for a Champions League spot. But push they have.

    However, they may well be running out of steam at the worst possible time, with Sunday's home loss to Everton – coming soon after defeats by Newcastle and Chelsea – a huge blow to their hopes.

    They do have favourable fixtures – certainly more so than Leicester – and influential midfielder Declan Rice reportedly on the verge of returning.

    But it is now starting to look like the Europa League is a more realistic target, which would represent huge progression.

    Liverpool

    Recent form: WWDDW

    Injured players: Ben Davies (muscle), Virgil van Dijk (knee), Joe Gomez (knee), Jordan Henderson (hip), Ozan Kabak (muscle), Caoimhin Kelleher (abdominal), Naby Keita (knock), Joel Matip (ankle), James Milner (knock), Divock Origi (muscle)

    Remaining fixtures – home in caps (with current position of opponent): Manchester United (2nd), West Brom (19th), Burnley (17th), CRYSTAL PALACE (13th)

    Liverpool have followed up their finest Premier League season with something of a horror show by their own high standards.

    They've not been helped out by injuries, especially in defence, with lynchpin Virgil van Dijk and his regular partner Joe Gomez missing for much of the campaign.

    Liverpool 2-0 Southampton: We showed 'fight' – Klopp

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    They have a sizable six-point gap to make up if they are to stand a chance of the top four, but there are elements in their favour.

    Their form has picked up of late – they are unbeaten in six league games – they have a game in hand on many of their rivals and once they get Manchester United out of the way, their remaining fixtures are favourable.

    Tottenham Hotspur

    Recent form: LDWWL

    Injured players: Ben Davies (calf)

    Remaining fixtures – home in caps (with current position of opponent): WOLVES (12th), WEST BROM (19th), Leicester (4th)

    Now we get to the real outsiders.

    Tottenham's defeat at Leeds on Saturday was a hammer blow to their top-four hopes, leaving Ryan Mason's side needing to earn seven more points than fourth-placed Leicester over the remaining three games to go level with City.

    Leeds United 3-1 Tottenham: Mason disagrees with Kane offside decision in defeat

    Their only saving grace is that they have a relative clean bill of health in the squad and face the Foxes on the final day. Their race is likely to be run by then, though.

    Everton

    Recent form: DDWLW

    Injured players: Jean-Philippe Gbamin (knee), James Rodriguez (calf)

    Remaining fixtures – home in caps (with current position of opponent): Aston Villa (11th), SHEFFIELD UNITED (20th), WOLVES (12th), Manchester City (1st)

    Just when we all thought they were absolutely out of it, they drag themselves back in.

    A defeat at West Ham would have been the end of Everton's top-four hopes, but Dominic Calvert-Lewin's winner keeps them clinging on by their fingernails.

    Eight points is a big gap, but with a game in hand on many of those above them it is not out of the question.

    Their next three games are all winnable, although they will need to ensure they pick up maximum points at home – something that may prove tricky on this season's form.

    Who wins last two top-four spots?

    Select the order of who you think will finish highest among the remaining top-four contenders

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