Liverpool have the edge in the battle for fourth
The run-in for fourth appears to be a four-way scrap between Tottenham, Man City, Liverpool and Aston Villa. Although a fast finishing Everton may yet finish amongst these four, the Toffees will probably need to win 10 of their last 12 games to trump all four - which whilst possible is very unlikely. With just one point separating the four with 11 or 12 games left, the relative difficulty of the run-in fixtures should decide matters.
With the exception of Manchester City's fixtures, the three run-ins are fairly similar - so Liverpool's extra experience of winning the crunch games at the end of the season may well offer them the edge in a battle that should go to the final game of the season. But to be perfectly honest an unexpected blip or upturn in form could swing it for any team.
4. Tottenham 27-46
5. Man City 26-46
6. Liverpool 27-45
7. Aston Villa 26-45
The mini-league before the four teams shows that they are pretty evenly matched, with no team able to pick up more than 9 points from their six games - unless Spurs win at Man City in March to complete the only double amongst this group.
Tottenham 5-8 +2
Liverpool 6-8 +0
Aston Villa 5-6 +1
Man City 4-3 -3
Tottenham 3-0 Man City
Liverpool 1-3 Aston Villa
Liverpool 2-0 Tottenham
Tottenham 2-1 Liverpool
Aston Villa 0-1 Liverpool
Liverpool 2-2 Man City
Aston Villa 1-1 Tottenham
Aston Villa 1-1 Man City
Man City 0-0 Liverpool
Tottenham 0-0 Aston Villa
6 March 2010; Man City v Tottenham
1 May 2010; Man City v Aston Villa
Tottenham have moved into fourth place this weekend after winning a tricky game on a poor Wigan pitch. With six home games to play Spurs should have high hopes because home games against Bolton, Blackburn and Portsmouth look routine enough; Chelsea and Arsenal must still play at White Hart Lane where Tottenham will be confident. The two away trips to Manchester may well be the trickest fixtures.
Final game: Burnley (away)
Prediction: 20 more points to finish on 66 points
After a drab draw with Liverpool, City's fixtures remain pivotal as they are the only team that still has to play two of its main rivals for fourth. City have a game-in-hand on Tottenham and Liverpool, but with only six home games and a string of tricky games City may be a well disguised outsider of the quartet. Away to Chelsea, home to Spurs, home to Man United, away to Arsenal and home to Villa - mean that every other fixture will be a cup final for City from now on.
Final game: West Ham (away)
Prediction: 16 more points to finish on 62 points
Liverpool will be very confident that they can claim fourth place, based on good experience of winning games under pressure in the latter stages of most seasons. Home games with Blackburn, Sunderland, Portsmouth, Fulham and West Ham look routine and will probably yield at least 12 points, leaving very little needed from the other six games to secure fourth - even if away games at Man United, Burnley and Birmingham are tricky. The penultimate game at home to Chelsea may well be easier than expected if Chelsea have wrapped up the title by then.
Final game: Hull (away)
Prediction: 22 more points to finish on 67 points
A thumping 5-2 win against Burnley suggests that Villa will enter the run-in in a confident fashion, and the Villans also have 12 games remaining as opposed to the 11 games for Spurs and Liverpool. The Carling Cup may prove a distraction over the next few days, but the four games immediately after - Sunderland (home), Stoke (away), Wigan (away) and Wolves (home) will give Villa the opportunity to move into fourth ahead of trickier games that are stacked into the final few weeks against Chelsea, Everton, Birmingham and Man City. Not an easy run-in by any means but arguably the simplest one of the four.
Final game: Blackburn (home)
Prediction: 21 more points to finish on 66 points
FINAL TABLE PREDICTION
4. Liverpool 38-67
5. Tottenham 38-66
6. Aston Villa 38-66
7. Man City 38-62
*Who do you think will finish in fourth, and will it go to the wire or be decided earlier? Let us know!