Race For The Top Four: Who'll Be Playing Champions League Football Next Season?

We break down the contenders for the Premier League top four season this season
13:04, 03 Jan 2022

So far this season, the Premier League has been gripping to say the least - especially at the top end of the table. As Manchester City have a 10-point lead at the peak, the bulk of the excitement has shifted in the race to finish fourth, with a handful of sides looking capable of qualifying for Champions League football come May.

With the January transfer window open for business, it will be interesting to see what, if any business, these top four chasers produce this month in a bid to secure that highly-coveted fourth Champions League slot for next season. Below we assess the contenders’ chances of finishing in the top four and how their calendar shapes up for the remainder of the season

Arsenal

Current Position: 4th

Odds To Finish Top 4: 5/2*

After the torrid start to the season that the Gunners endured, losing their first three matches and confining themselves to the foot of the table, the turnaround Mikel Arteta has overseen has been nothing short of incredible. They currently occupy fourth and thoroughly deserved their lofty standing. Arsenal have a nice balance to their side which hasn’t been seen in years. Of course, there is still room for improvement in certain areas, but right now they are flying and look like the side to depose from that fourth Champions League spot. 

Mikel Arteta
Mikel Arteta

Their next fixture is away against rivals Tottenham Hotspur, who are also in the hunt for the top four. And with two points just separating the two teams, with Spurs having two games in hand, this match could play a crucial role in the outcome of this battle at the end of the season. The Gunners have still also got to play fellow top four occupants Chelsea and Liverpool in the second half of the season, as well as fellow top four chasers West Ham United, Manchester United and Brighton & Hove Albion – with these three fixtures coming in April. 

That could be the most important month of the season for Arteta, and one to be wary of. Not to mention they still have postponed fixtures against Liverpool (h) and Chelsea (a) to be added to the calendar at some point, which could be a blessing or a curse depending on when the rearranged dates are decided.

West Ham United 

Current Position: 5th

Odds To Finish Top 4: 6/1

The Hammers had an outstanding start to the season and looked a real threat. They have had some disappointing results since then, but some great ones as well, particularly the home victories over Liverpool and Chelsea. David Moyes’ biggest blow this season has been losing his key central defenders Angelo Ogbonna and Kurt Zouma to injury, but the spirit and determination of his players can never be questioned with two impressive back-to-back victories away at Watford and Crystal Palace. 

Their next big game is away to Manchester United later this month, and they also still have to travel to Anfield, Tottenham Hotspur Stadium, Stamford Bridge and the AMEX Stadium. While they also have to play Arsenal and Manchester City at home. It is not the greatest of run-ins for the Hammers, but they have already stunned some of the big boys so far and they will be confident they can do it again. They will also be relieved to not have any postponed fixtures to wait up on, which could be of huge benefit in the final stretch of the campaign.

Tottenham Hotspur

Current Position: 6th

Odds To Finish Top 4: 2/1

Spurs are starting to look more assertive of themselves under Antonio Conte but there is still a long way to go if they are to make a successful hunt for fourth. They managed to come away from Vicarage Road with three points against Watford, but they only snatched the win in the dying moments which highlights potential problems for when they play the stronger sides in the division.

Harry Kane
Harry Kane

Their next two fixtures are tough, with bitter rivals Arsenal at home next up before a trip to other London rivals Chelsea, where Conte will make his first managerial return to his former employers. Spurs have three postponed fixtures looming over them, including a trip to Brighton, which could lead to a fixture pile up in a crucial stage of the season. They also have to play both Manchester clubs away, before hosting West Ham and Brighton and a trip to Anfield towards the end of the season. It is not the prettiest of fixture lists, but Conte is a proven manager and he could find a way to pull this off.

Manchester United

Current Position: 7th

Odds To Finish Top 4: EVS

Ralf Rangnick seems to be getting a tune from the current Man United squad, but there have been times where they have regressed to poor performances that earned Ole Gunnar Solskjaer the sack. The German boss may look to strengthen the club this month ahead of a tough second half of the season to retain their Champions League status, but they have two rearranged fixtures to keep an eye out for, including a home clash with Brighton. With four points separating fourth from seventh, with two games in hand on Arsenal and West Ham, United will be looking to capitalise when their postponed fixture dates are announced.

Cristiano Ronaldo
Cristiano Ronaldo

They still also have to face West Ham (h), then a triple header of Man City (a), Spurs (h) and Liverpool (a) in March which could make or break their top four quest. Then they have Arsenal (a) in April before taking on Brighton (a) and Chelsea (h) in May.

Brighton & Hove Albion

Current Position: 8th

Odds To Finish Top 4: 100/1

It is a longshot but Graham Potter’s side could be a dark horse in the race for fourth, if they can rediscover the form that they had at the start of the campaign. The Seagulls have seen far too many draws in recent months and the lack of quality in the squad compared to the other top four hopefuls is why it is unlikely that they will stake a claim on European football.

Not to mention they are waiting on three rearranged fixtures against Spurs, Chelsea and Man United, before having to take on Liverpool (h) and Man City (a) back-to-back in March. They then have to face consecutive trips to north London to face Arsenal and Spurs in April before two home clashes with Man United and West Ham in May.

*All odds courtesy of Betfred | 18+ | BeGambleAware

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