Fight for fourth goes to the wire
Posted 29th April 2010
The Premier League battle for fourth place always looked likely to go to the wire. Although Tottenham Hotspur, Manchester City and Aston Villa have done well in the battle to replace Liverpool in the established elite - each have recorded two notable wins against the top three - slips have stopped one of the sides pulling away.
Just one point separates the three teams, with Liverpool only one further point adrift in seventh. Any of them could end up claiming the pot of gold that is Champions League qualification, largely because there are two games between the three main challengers.
City's home games against Spurs and Villa will obviously be crucial. Two wins would all but guarantee them fourth, as a point at West Ham would put them beyond the reach of Spurs, who should expect six points from fixtures against Bolton Wanderers (home) and Burnley (away). Goal difference might prove crucial.
Villa, currently level on 64 points with Spurs but with an irrecoverably inferior goal difference, know they are the outsiders. However, some of their best results have come on the road and a win at Eastlands should not be ruled out. This would set up the chance of a fourth place finish with a probable final day victory over Blackburn Rovers at home.
Spurs have been inconsistent recently and might be the likeliest to buckle under pressure. Spurs' Premier League betting odds makes them favourites to finish fourth but this does not suit them and they have failed to press home their advantage when in a similar position in the past.
Their supporters will therefore be more nervous of a final day trip to Turf Moor rather than the one to Eastlands - Spurs have won on five of their last six visits to City. A point will be an excellent result for Harry Redknapp's outfit, as long as they do what is expected of them against Bolton and Burnley.
Liverpool must beat Chelsea and Hull to maintain their faint hopes and rely on other results going their way. They have not done enough to throughout the season to retain fourth and appear destined for seventh place.
Spurs have the points on the board (64 to City's 63) and the games to play (three to Villa's two). A season of promise should translate into success, but their fans will be prepared for some final day drama, as all supporters should be.
Meanwhile, England remain many people's World Cup 2010 tips despite the fact they face several injury worries.