Which Premier League teams will qualify for the Champions League then?

So, here we are. A dozen games of the campaign remain, and over the next few weeks, the shape of the most open Champions League qualification race in Premier League history will intensify, with five teams absolutely banking on an invitation to Europe’s VIP suite for next season.

So who is in most danger of failing to reach that promised land? Check out my progress report for each of the top six- Do you agree with my predictions?

Manchester United

State of play:

After a sloppy first half of the season, Sir Alex Ferguson’s champions in waiting have seen their unbeaten record slip away, but crucially see very little of the threat from previous years in their rear view mirror.

Problems on the horizon?

In reality, Champions League qualification is not in doubt, however the push for another league title could be hit by a tricky run of fixtures over the next few weeks. Wins over Liverpool and Chelsea would not only make Ferguson’s men odds on favourites to regain their title, it would also deal a severe blow to both of their rival’s hopes of securing a top four slot.

Prediction: Champions League qualification. (Champions)

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Chelsea

State of play:

As February turns to March, Carlo Ancelotti’s charges have one of their toughest assignments over the last eight years, as they attempt to hold onto a Champions League spot that has been theirs since the summer of 2003. With a weakened squad that is fast moving towards the slow side of robust, Chelsea face a series of tough fixtures to conquer if they are to arrest their slide and rescue a floundering season.

Problems on the horizon?

How much time have you got? Lacking fluidity, creativity and confidence the Blues have seen themselves go from title favourites to fragile shadows of their former selves. In previous seasons the later months of the campaign would have seen a concerted push for glory on multiple fronts- this time around the defending champions will be incredibly fortunate to be eating at Europe’s top table next season.
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Prediction: Europa League (5th)

Arsenal

State of play

Six years of underachievement are surely about to come to an end over the next few weeks as Arsenal chase their first silverware since winning the 2005 FA Cup. Champions League glory remains an unlikely dream and the Gunners will need to be far better when United visit the Emirates in a few weeks time if the Premier League title is to be obtained. Champions League qualification could only be under threat if the club go a long way in the remaining cup competitions and take their eye off the Premier League prize.

Problems on the horizon?

We’ve been here before. Arsenal have periodically looked strong in terms of a title challenge, only to falter badly at the last- the challenges of 2008 and 2010 dominate the memory. But are things different this time? The ridiculous second half showing at Newcastle suggests they do not have the calibre of champions. Nevertheless Arsene Wenger certainly believes his men can achieve something special, and on the basis of the mass excitement after the win over Barcelona last week, so do the Emirates faithful.

Prediction: Champions League (2nd)

Manchester City

State of play

Strong mid-season form gave City leadership of the league for the first time over Christmas, however, having lost momentum during the autumn, the extra games used to build up their advantage meant the derby loss to Manchester United effectively ended any title hopes for this season.

Problems on the horizon?

Fighting on numerous fronts is something that City’s squad should certainly be able to handle, however the further they go in each major competition, the risk of losing key players increases. It is fair to conclude that without a handful of players City look a different proposition, and of the top five have looked least impressive when stripped of their biggest assets. Must also be aware that a fourth place finish could leave the door open to one of Tottenham or Chelsea stealing in to take Champions League football away, should either side lift the European Cup.
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Prediction: Champions League (4th)

Tottenham Hotspur

State of play

Having initially struggled to combine European and domestic obligations, Spurs have shown a strength in character, coming from behind so frequently this season- testament to their attacking resources. Face a run of testing games both at home and abroad that will test their ability to keep their minds focused.

Problems on the horizon?

Quality wise, Tottenham have shown themselves more than capable of competing at the highest level of European football, however early season inconsistency could well come back to scupper their hopes. Last season, qualification came down to an incredible run of results against Chelsea, Arsenal and City to steal in and take fourth- a similar fun of form may be necessary, particularly after their scarcely believable 3-1 defeat to Blackpool last night. The April visit to Stamford Bridge will be pivotal.
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Prediction: Champions League (3rd)

Liverpool

State of play

A month ago Liverpool would have featured in a article detailing outsiders to face the drop, however as Kenny Dalglish has found his feet and his players have responded to his style of management, the Reds have given themselves an outside chance of grabbing one of the converted Champions League slots.

Problems on the horizon?

Can the feel good factor last? Liverpool have been resurgent under the Kop’s favourite son, but if they are to pull off the impossible, wins over Manchester United, Arsenal, City and Tottenham may well be necessary.

Prediction: 6th– After that horrendous start to the season, a top half finish for Liverpool will be more than enough to maintain Dalglish’s legendary status at Anfield.

Agree? Disagree? Think Leyton Orient should be given Spurs’ spot as compensation for the Olympic stadium decision? Find me on Twitter and let me know!
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