LONDON: Chelsea’s improbable march to the Champions League final has raised the stakes as the battle for places in next season’s competition resumes in the Premier League today.
With Manchester United not facing Manchester City until Monday, all eyes are on the race for a top-four spot between Arsenal, Newcastle, Tottenham and Chelsea.
Chelsea, currently four points adrift of the top four, would be guaranteed a place in next season’s Champions League if they beat Bayern Munich on May 19. Most worrying for Arsenal, Tottenham and Newcastle is the fact that should Chelsea finish outside the top four, their inclusion will be at the expense of the team finishing fourth.
Newcastle manager Alan Pardew, whose side stormed into fourth last weekend after their sixth straight win, admits that he is spooked by the possibility of the Magpies missing out. Arsenal, who have stumbled recently with a home defeat to Wigan followed by a draw at home against Chelsea, face Stoke, where they have lost on three out of four of their last visits. Chelsea, meanwhile, will meet QPR at Stamford Bridge.
Tottenham host struggling Blackburn in a game they can ill-afford to lose if they are to stay in touch with in-form Newcastle. Spurs fell out of the top four for the first time since October after last weekend’s defeat at QPR and now trail the Magpies by three points.
Published in The Express Tribune, April 28th, 2012.