The race for the top 4 was blown wide open at the weekend with Manchester United toppling Man City at the Etihad Stadium.
Formerly fighting for the title, City’s form has dipped so badly that they now find themselves clinging onto a top 4 spot for dear life with Manchester United, West Ham, Southampton and even Liverpool all eyeing a place in European football’s Premier competition.
United’s win sees them just one point off top 4 but with there is an uncertainty that surrounds Van Gaal’s side. They can beat title challengers and rivals one day then lose to relegation battlers the next. Southampton have been quietly going about their business but alerted the rest of the chasing pack to their presence with a win over Liverpool, a result that made the Merseyside club’s bid for a return to the Champions League improbable if not impossible.
We spoke to Football Fanzone’s Jason Cundy about the race for the top 4 and he broke down each sides chances before picking his favourite:
West Ham are as good as any side looking to play in the Champions League next season and are a very good shout. I was at The Bridge on Saturday and they are a very good side with players that can win matches, on another day they take all 3 points.
Their last 2 games have seen them go away to Old Trafford and Stamford Bridge picking up draws at both but coming away disappointed which says a lot.
The thing that stands in their favour is that of all the teams looking to break into the top 4, they are the most consistent. They play at a high level every week unlike lets say a Manchester United, where you wonder what team will turn up.
Speaking of United, they stand a decent shot but as said don’t have the consistency for me to be certain that they will make it. They have looked awful at points this season and with the money spent you can see why Van Gaal is given a hard ride, they should not be scrapping for top 4.
It’s a bit of a shock to see them where they are on two fronts, one because of the money they spent you expect them to be in the title race but with how badly they have played at points this term you wonder how they are as high as they are.
There has been talk of a power shift in Manchester in recent years and it hasn’t quite happened, even if City do have the upper hand, but if they can make the top 4 and at the expense of Man City it will strike a major blow against their rivals.
Man City are in free fall so anything can happen and they still have to face Chelsea, Southampton and Arsenal. It looks like they have downed tools and why would Pellegrini care given that he knows he is leaving this summer? They look a completely different side from the start of the season that were brushing teams aside with ease and that finished second in the league last year.
Pep Guardiola won’t want to be heading to Kazakhstan on Thursday nights having just come from managing two of the biggest clubs in the world. It would be a disaster for him as well City given that he will likely be targeting the competition if they are in it next season.
There has been talk of Southampton sneaking into the top 4 with Jay Rodriguez and Charlie Austin to come back, whilst both are good players I’m not sure if on a whole Soton can pip all of the teams ahead of them. They showed on Sunday that they are a capable side, but I don’t know if they are good enough.
Their performance on Sunday was aided by a Liverpool side that seemed intent on showing why they aren’t good enough for a top 4 finish. The game was a microcosm of Klopp’s Liverpool, where they can swing from brilliant to buffoonish in the blink of an eye.
They showed how good they are in both games against Man City, against Chelsea and against Southampton in the League Cup but ultimately, like Southampton, I don’t think they have it in them to overhaul the teams ahead of them.
For me West Ham have to be favourites, and a first foray in the Champions League would be a well deserved reward for a team that have impressed against the big boys this season and are about to move into a new 60,000 seater stadium.