The Gunners and Red Devils have games in hand but have fallen adrift of the top four after dropping points again at the weekend
Now we have really entered crunch time.
The pressure has been dialled up a notch in the Premier League following the latest round of results, with Tottenham aiming to have one last stab at reeling in Chelsea, Arsenal and Manchester United falling further adrift of the top four and the fate of the relegation candidates hanging by a thread.
To complicate matters even further, there is full slate of midweek fixtures over Tuesday and Wednesday to really test each team’s physical and mental fortitude. Here is how they could affect the races at the top and bottom of the table.
Tuesday, April 4
|19:45||Burnley vs Stoke City||Turf Moor|
|19:45||Leicester City vs Sunderland||King Power Stadium|
|19:45||Watford vs West Brom||Vicarage Road|
|20:00||Manchester United vs Everton||Old Trafford|
Manchester United’s hopes of qualifying for next season’s Champions League through their Premier League finish are looking increasingly distant.
The could not really afford to drop the two points they gave up to West Brom on Saturday given they play five members of the top seven in their final 10 matches and must find a way to balance their league schedule with their participation in the Europa League.
Fail to beat Everton on Tuesday night and Europe could become their priority, with victory in the continental competition offering them an alternative route into the Champions League.
United are as difficult to beat as any team in the country but they are far too reliant on Zlatan Ibrahimovic, who is set to return from suspension, for goals. They now lie five points behind Manchester City and six adrift of Liverpool, and though they have two games in hand on the latter it is difficult to fancy them to close the gap.
The wild story of English refs in Argentina
Craig Shakespeare, meanwhile, will look to keep up his 100 per cent record as a manager when Leicester City face Sunderland. Despite the Foxes’ four wins in a row, they remain only six points clear of the relegation places but have the chance to all but seal their survival by beating the lowly Black Cats.
Wednesday, April 5
|19:45||Arsenal vs West Ham||Emirates Stadium|
|19:45||Hull City vs Middlesbrough||KCOM Stadium|
|19:45||Southampton vs Crystal Palace||St Mary’s|
|19:45||Swansea City vs Tottenham||Liberty Stadium|
|20:00||Chelsea vs Manchester City||Stamford Bridge|
|20:00||Liverpool vs Bournemouth||Anfield|
Arsenal’s situation is even more precarious than Man United’s. The Gunners salvaged a 2-2 draw against Man City at the weekend but remain seven points behind Pep Guardiola’s side and eight behind Liverpool. Like United, they have 10 matches remaining, a couple more than Liverpool and one more than City.
On Wednesday, at least, they face a team that has similarly descended into a mess over the past few weeks. West Ham are winless in six matches and though they should avoid the drop, Slaven Bilic faces a fight to persuade the club’s owners he is the man to take them forward in 2017-18.
Arsenal and United’s results might not matter if Liverpool can improve their inconsistent form against mid-table and lower-ranked teams starting against Bournemouth, while the biggest game of the round once again involves Man City.
City’s focus will be securing their own top-four spot but they could also make the title race a much more interesting prospect than seemed likely a week ago by dealing a second consecutive defeat to Chelsea, who suffered a surprise loss to Crystal Palace at the weekend.
If Antonio Conte’s men slip up again and Tottenham beat Swansea City away from home, all of sudden the Blues’ lead at the summit of the table will be down to four points.
Swansea have plenty at stake themselves, however, with one of Hull City or Middlesbrough, who play each other, likely to creep up on them should they not end a three-game winless streak against Spurs.