With about eight rounds of games – for most sides – left in the English Premier League, the race for the top four is really heating up. Manchester City, currently in fourth place with 51 points are just four points ahead of seventh-placed Southampton.
Between Manchester City and Southampton are West Ham United and Manchester United in fifth and sixth respectively with 50 points each, both the teams having played 30 league games each so far. Arsenal with 55 points from their 30 games haven’t really locked up their fourth place yet, especially considering their tendency of being inconsistent.
All this has made it incredibly hard to call which sides will ultimately be in the top four come the end of the season. Leicester City, who are top of the league standings with 66 points and Tottenham Hotspur in their close pursuit five points adrift have in all probability secured Champions League football for the coming season. But things are very uncertain after them.
Manchester City have announced that manager Manuel Pellegrini will be making way for Pep Guardiola at the end of the season, and what looked like a sort of an unkind decision by the Citizens management, considering the Chilean’s double-winning first season, is increasingly looking like a justified move.
The 2012 and 2014 English champions have been atrocious this season against the teams in the top six. In fact, their record against the top six is same as that of relegation contenders Aston Villa. It’s their form against the bottom half of the table sides that has seen the Citizens still in contention for a spot in next season’s Champions League.
Such a disastrous form against the top sides has clearly raised question marks on Pellegrini’s tactical capabilities when it comes to finding answers against strong opposition.
In their remaining eight league fixtures, Manchester City have to face Southampton in the 36th round followed by a game against the Gunners at the Etihad Stadium, and going by the form book, it would be no surprise if they manage to lose both the matches. And a reverse in these games could be disastrous for them as it may put their Champions League qualification desires in real jeopardy.
Suddenly, there is a possibility that Guardiola could be left managing one of the richest sides in world football in the Europa League next season.
Of the other top four contenders, Arsenal have a manageable list of upcoming games, their trip to Upton Park on 9th April will provide a real test especially with the Hammers’ having won the reverse fixture at the Emirates Stadium on the opening day of the season.
Manchester United face a tricky trip to White Hart Lane on 10th April while they also have to face Leicester City and West Ham United later in the campaign.
The Hammers have to face Arsenal, Manchester United and Leicester City, meaning theoretically they have the toughest run-in.
Going by the remaining set of games Manchester City still have the top four in their hands, but it remains to be seen if they finally get their form going.