For the past month, it has been a two-team race to be crowned champion of the Barclays Premier League. Manchester United and Chelsea have held the reins at the lead of this professional league.
But just as competitive, heading into the last couple of matches, is the battle over the coveted fourth position that allows a team to compete in the Champions League. The teams in contention for this placement are Tottenham Hotspurs, Liverpool and Manchester City.
Tottenham sits in fourth position, with 58 points and a game in hand, but it has the hardest part of its schedules coming up with Arsenal, Chelsea and Manchester United in weeks 34 through 36. Tottenham has been the most consistent of the three teams sitting behind Arsenal for several weeks, winning its past five matches and going unbeaten in nine.
It has maintained its form without Robbie Keane, who is on loan to Celtic, and while facing injuries to its best players. Its two losses in 22 games are a testament to the caliber of this league and shows Liverpool and Manchester City what they are up against.
Liverpool has faced its difficulties this season, and many still question if it can make up the ground lost during their midseason slump. Aside from Chelsea, Liverpool faces teams who, on paper, it should beat. It has a habit, however, of giving away points to easier teams.
This has been a difficult season for the Liverpool faithful, who last year watched their team lose only twice and finish in second place. It has fought its way back and are currently sitting in fifth place, four points behind Tottenham after its latest victory against Sunderland. The win was greatly contributed by the return of Fernando Torres, who has scored six goals in the past five games since being injured.
Liverpool seems like a different team when Torres and Gerrard are on the pitch together. Dirk Kuyt and Yossi Benayoun have also had great seasons, and they will all need to be on their best game if their team is to take the fourth position.
Manchester City is also in the running, sitting close to Liverpool. The season hasn’t been as spectacular as City had hoped after spending more than 100 million pounds on players like Carlos Tevez, Emmanuel Adebayor and Robinho, but it is still in contention for fourth place.
City has won some big games this year, beating Chelsea twice and Arsenal once. It dropped a lot of points, however, in the middle of the season. After winning five of their first six matches, the Blues tied a record seven consecutive matches, dropping them considerably in the rankings. Since then, it has been two steps forward and one step back for City, and with its upcoming schedule, this all-star team will need to play as a team.
Right now in its current form, fourth position is Tottenham’s to lose. A fourth-place finish and a FA Cup trophy would be an excellent finish to a comeback season.
Liverpool, however, has history and knows what it is like to be in these tight situations. Manchester City has a lot riding on this season, and seeing manager Roberto Mancini blow up when they lost to Everton makes it clear he knows his job is on the line. My final prediction is Tottenham taking fourth, followed by Manchester City, with Liverpool coming in sixth.