Aston Villa have the momentum to secure fourth place
With two or three games left Aston Villa and Liverpool have closed right in on the two teams - Tottenham and Man City - assumed (for the last couple of weeks) to be fighting out the battle for fourth between them. Aston Villa in particular have narrowly won three games in a week to move onto 64 points. Momentum at this stage of the season is crucial as every game is difficult (regardless of the opposition) and all the teams around you will be of similar ability. Momentum gives you an edge.
So Tottenham, Man City, Aston Villa and Liverpool can all still finish fourth but who will prevail?
Tottenham's are the odds on favourites to finish fourth and that is not surprising as the fixtures suggest that even a point at Eastlands should be enough to get to 69-71 points. The supine performance at Old Trafford will be a worry though. With the relegation situation resolved Spurs must expect to get at least four points from games with Bolton and Burnley - and six points would probably secure fourth.
Man City are second favourites, but the negative tactics of Roberto Mancini in the big games could count against a team that needs at least two wins from three to finish fourth. If City can go into the final weekend needing a win to finish fourth then West Ham would be ideal opponents, though.
Aston Villa at 8/1 are an intriguing prospect, they have the counter-attacking capability to win at Man City - City will surely have to gamble now - and if they can also grind their way past Blackburn on the final day 70 points may be enough for fourth. Goal difference could yet count against them.
Liverpool are 20/1 to finish fourth and with Villa and Tottenham yet to play Man City it is hard to see a set of results in which all three of those teams conspire to get less than 69 points. Liverpool have to hope that the two games between the three teams above them end in draws and that Tottenham then get less than four points from the Bolton and Burnley games - basically hope four games get perfect results from their point of view. And even then Liverpool must beat a rampant Chelsea (93 league goals so far) to even stay in contention going into the final weekend. So all things considered I think Liverpool will fall short.
Mathematically, if any of the contenders can past 70 points it will be enough to finish fourth and if I was betting on that basis I would go for Tottenham because the games against Burnley and Bolton look very winnable and they look more capable of picking up seven points than Man City do of getting three straight wins.
But Villa's momentum could well sweep them to 70 points and the pressure that will build on the others could cause enough errors for Tottenham, Man City and Liverpool to fall just shy of that mark and have to accept Europa League football.
I think that Spurs will secure fourth place, but if they falter then Villa look in good shape to pick up the pieces and sneak it.
Current Odds (Bet365):
Man City 6/4
Aston Villa 8/1
4 - Tottenham - 35 - 26 - 64
5 - Aston Villa - 36 - 16 - 64
6 - Man City - 35 - 27 - 63
7 - Liverpool - 36 - 28 - 62
Man City (a)
Aston Villa Fixtures:
Man City (a)
Man City Fixtures:
Aston Villa (h)
West Ham (a)
*Can Villa come through into fourth, or will Tottenham, Man City or Liverpool prevail? Let us know!