The Battle for Fourth: Can Liverpool or Spurs seal Champions League return?
It’s been a strange old season, this one. We’re only 9 games in but there have been moments every week that have left us completely baffled. The champions are in the bottom half of the table while a team who looked sure-shot relegation candidates last year but managed to survive on the last day, are in the top 5.
The two teams from North London have golden opportunities to accomplish goals they haven’t been able to for a long time. While Arsenal are looking like genuine title contenders, Spurs have a very realistic chance of finishing in the top 4. In this section, we will focus on the latter of the two.
Along with Tottenham, Liverpool are also looking to get back into the Champions League. The Reds did participate in Europe’s most elite club competition last year, but haven’t been regulars for more than 5 years now. Under the management of Jurgen Klopp, the Reds are hoping their fortunes will change and the glory days will return.
The two squared off at White Hart Lane last week and played out an entertaining goalless draw. There was a lot of attacking guile, along with defensive discipline on show, a clear indicator of the fact that the future is bright for both sides.
Why the opportunity exists
Gone are the days when Manchester United, Chelsea, Arsenal and Liverpool were the Big 4 in English football. Manchester City have well and truly taken the fourth spot, with the Reds dropping out. This year though, one of the other three have slipped up so badly already that it is very difficult for them to come back and finish in the top 4.
Chelsea, last season’s champions, are down in 12th place, having lost 4 matches already in their opening 9 games. That is, in fact, one defeat more than the total number they suffered in the whole of last season. Things are clearly not right at Stamford Bridge, and the players have hardly gone out and performed at their best. The Blues have been masters of the improbable over the years though, and their consummate fighting spirit is bound to come out at some point in the season. Even then, it may be too late, if the likes of Liverpool and Spurs can win their matches on a regular basis.
Crucial couple of months
Both Klopp and Mauricio Pochettino are approaching a very important period in their seasons. Their performances and results starting this weekend right until Christmas will determine what their aims will be going into the New Year. Yes, Liverpool do traditionally tend to play better in the second half of campaigns, but they need to make sure that they have something to play for when they enter that period.
The Reds are currently in 10th place but the crowd at the top sees them just 4 points away from West Ham in 4th. The Hammers play Chelsea on Saturday, and Liverpool will see this as an opportunity to close in when they take on Southampton at Anfield a day later.
Spurs, on the other hand, are a point and 3 places better off. The Lilywhites are unbeaten since the opening day of the season but a whole host of draws has meant that they have fallen behind slightly. Their defence looks solid though, and Christian Eriksen is slowly but surely getting back to his best. If last year’s talisman Harry Kane can start finding the back of the net on a regular basis, the sky is the limit for Pochettino’s side.
Spurs haven’t been in the Champions League for 4 years now. They qualified under Harry Redknapp after finishing 4th in the 2009/10 season, but have fallen short everytime since. They have the quality to do it, but their temperament to go the distance has always been suspect.
In conclusion, it can be said that the duo may not get as good an opportunity as this to finish in the top 4 for the new few years. Chelsea will be back before too long while City, Arsenal and United will continue to grow stronger every year.