The battle for the top four in the Premier League is extremely tight right now and with the lure of the Champions League football up for grabs, fans are desperate for their team to make the cut.
Chelsea currently sit in the much coveted fourth place, but their recent form has been of huge concern to Mauricio Sarri and fans. Most recently though Eden Hazard (£14.11) and Gonzalo Higuain (£3.63) proved their worth both netting a brace in a convincing 5-0 victory at home vs. Huddersfield, but much tougher tests are on the horizon. Sarri’s greatest challenge will be to get the most out of his attacking players, two of which are heavily unsettled with Hazard persistently linked to Real Madrid and Callum Hudson-Odoi (£6.91) heavily with a move to Bayern Munich. The Europa League presents a chance for them to gain Champions League qualification outside of the Premier League, but that method of qualification should not be relied upon.
Arsenal also have the Europa League option and it may soon turn out to be their only option if Unai Emery doesn’t start to improve performances. The Gunners are still within touching distance though, just three points behind Chelsea. Games against Tottenham (a) and Manchester United (h) are likely to prove critical in the Gunners hopes of qualification. If they are there or thereabouts after those fixtures then there’s a real chance considering none of their final eight games are against the top six teams – though they do face tricky away trips to Wolverhampton, Everton and Leicester. Critical improvement is needed defensively and they will be desperate for their best defender this season, Sokratis (£0.89) to return as soon as possible.
Emery will hope that new signing Denis Suarez (£2.43) adds a new spark to the attack and gives the Gunners more ammunition in attack in wide areas. The Spaniard is a player that fits Emery’s style of play and we will hopefully see the best of him under his stewardship. With the inability to defend, the club need to ensure they are scoring enough and goals and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang (£4.87) and Alexandre Lacazette (£3.04) will be vital to that. With Mesut Ozil out of favour, Alex Iwobi (£1.31) must also continue to develop his game in the final third.
Manchester United looked like they had no chance of being involved in this battle just one month ago, but under Ole Gunnar Solskjaer they have been resurgent and in fine form. The two key players behind this turn of form have been the rejuvenated Paul Pogba (£19.67) and Marcus Rashford (£13.47). The duo have combined to deadly effect on numerous occasions and they will need to continue at that level to earn United a top four spot, they of course, do not have the Europa League as a back-up way of qualifying like they did two seasons ago.
Tottenham lead the chase, some would say their place is safe but with Harry Kane still out and Champions League football set to return, the demands on Pochettino’s small squad continue to grow. A lot will depend on when Kane returns and whether he can continue to win games for the club with late goals. On the Index Kane has not risen like the other top players yet and with more than a 7% dividend yield so far this season at his current price (£10.24), he appears a decent safe long term hold. Too often Spurs have been reliant on Kane and in his absence this time, Heung-Min Son has excelled and traders have reacted on the Index, with his price rising from £3.05 to more than £4.00 in less than a month.
For more reaction and Football Index insight as the season draws to a close, you can follow me on Twitter @OliPriceBates.