OpinionJohn Aldridge

Euro spot is there for the taking as Pool hit form

John AldridgeBy John Aldridge
Euro spot is there for the taking as Pool hit form

WE ARE heading into the final furlong of this unpredictable Premier League season and, with 10 games to go, a heated race for a top-four finish and a Champions League place is set to be decided.

As a Liverpool fan I’m relieved to have reached this stage of the season and still be talking up the hopes of Brendan Rodgers and his team to make a return to Europe’s elite competition. Indeed, they have much more than just faint hopes of achieving that aim.

The way I see it, Chelsea and Man City have the top two positions in the Premier League sewn up and the next two positions are Arsenal and Liverpool’s to lose, with Man United and Tottenham likely to come up short in the push for Champions League football.

Now I know some Sunday World readers will suggest I’m biased when I say Liverpool will finish ahead of United this season, but I’m basing my judgement on what we are seeing on the pitch, with Louis van Gaal struggling to get things moving in the right direction at Old Trafford.

Shine To be honest, I think Van Gaal has produced a miracle to pick up 53 points from his first 28 league games at United, because his team have failed to hit top form at any point in this season so far.

Their goalkeeper David de Gea has to be a strong contender for the Player of the Year award because he has got them around 10 points this season and their key players have failed to shine.

Van Gaal is getting some of the criticism for that and I guess that is fair enough, but he also deserves some credit for grinding out results with a poor team.

Tottenham appear to be in a little better form than United heading into the game between the two at Old Trafford today and I reckon we should see a cracker.

There is plenty at stake for both sides and if Spurs come out on top, they will be the side most like- ly to edge Arsenal or Liverpool out of the top four.

Mauricio Pochettino’s side were a match for Liverpool at Anfield in a thrilling game that finished in a 3-2 win for the home side last month and if United’s defence and confidence is dipping after their FA Cup exit against Arsenal on Monday, Spurs could be getting them at a good time. However, there is still something missing at Tottenham.

Harry Kane (left) has been fantastic for them this season and Christian Eriksen is also a fine player, but they still slip up when you least expect them to and you simply cannot afford to do that when so many teams are pushing for these prized Champions League berths.

As for Arsenal, I suspect Arsene Wenger is going to prove his critics wrong yet again in a season when he has been questioned for failing to drive forward a team that has enough attacking flair to challenge anyone in the Premier League.

As Liverpool and Tottenham have shown in recent years, changing your manager every year is not the quickest route to success and, while some Arsenal fans want Wenger to be replaced at their club, I’d say be careful what you wish for.

They have a great chance of winning the FA Cup and finishing third in the Premier League this season.

I can’t think of too many managers who could guarantee better than that if they were stood in Wenger’s shoes next season.

Looking at the remaining games the four teams vying for third and fourth spot have on their agenda, I reckon Arsenal are certainties to get in there and Liverpool have a real chance to join them, so long as they don’t have any more unexpected slip-ups. Last weekend’s 0-0 draw against Blackburn in the FA Cup was a timely reminder to Liverpool that they cannot just turn up and beat teams who are not as good as them, even though they have given off a vibe that they are getting into that mode in recent weeks.

Trip They will have a tough match at Swansea tomorrow, but they are well suited to playing away from home. I would expect them to get a positive result from their trip to Wales in what should be a great final few weeks of the season for the Reds.

If Daniel Sturridge retains his fitness and the newly remoulded back three continue to perform as they have done over the last couple of months, it will be Manchester United and Spurs playing Europa League football next season, as Arsenal and Liverpool get another chance in the competition everyone wants to compete in.

Here are my predictions for the final games of the Premier League season for the teams fighting for a top-four finish (see panels right).

You can cut out and keep this article and see just how close I get in a few weeks if you want!