””

Eye On EPL

Eye on EPL: Scramble for top-four spot frantic but unpredictable

Even though the English Premier League season is drawing to a close, it is still unclear who will take the remaining two Champions League places behind the top two of Chelsea and Tottenham Hotspur.

And to make it even more unpredictable, the chasing pack of Liverpool, Manchester City, Arsenal and Manchester United are all busy shooting themselves in the foot.

To start with, it has been 27 long years since Liverpool last won the English football title but they stumbled at important moments during the season.

Last weekend was no different when the third-placed Reds drew 0-0 with 10th-placed Southampton. Jurgen Klopp's men snatched a draw from the jaws of victory at Anfield when James Milner had a penalty saved.

Get The Straits Times
newsletters in your inbox

The result was more than just two points dropped - it blew the battle for a top-four finish wide open.

Liverpool sit third in the table with 70 points with two games left. City are one place and one point behind but they have a game in hand while United (65 points, three games left) and Arsenal (63 points, four games left) make this such a fascinating fight.

It is great for fans to see these four famous clubs stumbling and scrambling to finish up there in this unpredictable race. I cannot predict for sure what will happen but it sure will be enjoyable to watch as there could be more surprises around the corner.

Klopp's men are excellent against top-six teams but struggle against lowly sides, having lost to the likes of Crystal Palace, Hull, Swansea and Burnley this season. More banana skins await them as they take on mid-table West Ham and relegation-threatened Middlesbrough for their final matches.

With one loss in the last 10 games, City are peaking at the right time under Pep Guardiola, their 5-0 thrashing of Crystal Palace last Saturday a case in point. Their run-in is relatively easy as they host Leicester City and West Bromwich Albion at the Etihad Stadium and travel to Watford.

Perhaps City can start to relax this Sunday when their neighbours, the Red Devils, travel to White Hart Lane to meet a young and vibrant Spurs team who will want to avenge their 1-0 defeat at Old Trafford earlier in the season.

  • REMAINING GAMES
     

    Liverpool - 70 points

    May 14: v West Ham (away)

    May 21: v Middlesbrough (home)

    Maximum points: 76


    Manchester City - 69 points

    May 13: v Leicester City (h)

    May 16: v West Brom (h)

    May 21: v Watford (a)

    Maximum points: 78


    Manchester United - 65 points

    May 14: v Tottenham (a)

    May 17: v Southampton (a)

    May 21: v Crystal Palace (h)

    Maximum points: 74


    Arsenal - 63 points

    May 10: v Southampton (a)

    May 13: v Stoke City (a)

    May 16: v Sunderland (h)

    May 21: v Everton (h)

    Maximum points: 75

Jose Mourinho's men also suffered another blow over the weekend when they were defeated 2-0 by Arsenal and his arch-rival, Arsene Wenger.

Not only did the Gunners end United's 25-match unbeaten run, but it was also the French manager's first EPL win over the Portuguese after 13 attempts.

That is a huge psychological blow for United and their manager. Fifth place, and a Europa League spot, look like the best consolation prize they can hope for.

Despite ending their Mourinho jinx, Arsenal could still finish outside the top four for the first time under Wenger.

But that could be a good wake-up call for him as well as it will prompt him to finally open the chequebook to sign a truly world-class player who can make a big difference at the Emirates Stadium.

A top-four finish in the EPL is so prestigious - the Champions League place, the television money and the attraction it will pose in luring the big players.

And it is great for fans to see these four famous clubs stumbling and scrambling to finish up there in this unpredictable race.

I cannot predict for sure what will happen but it sure will be enjoyable to watch as there could be more surprises around the corner.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on May 09, 2017, with the headline 'Scramble for top-four spot frantic but unpredictable'. Print Edition | Subscribe