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Who will join Man City in Champions League next season?

  • Man City's class means they are almost certain of a Champions League place
  • That leaves three places to be decided among the rest of the top six teams
  • Man Utd, Chelsea, Liverpool, Tottenham and Arsenal are all set to battle it out
  • Sportsmail asseses the chances of the chasing pack over the rest of the season

By Max Winters For Mailonline

Published: 06:49 EST, 2 January 2018 | Updated: 08:20 EST, 2 January 2018

Manchester City's dominance in the Premier League so far this season has left the rest of the big six left to scramble for three Champions League slots.

Pep Guardiola's side may have lost their winning record at Crystal Palace on Sunday but they are still 12 points clear of their nearest rivals with the chance to make it 15 against Watford on Tuesday night.

Five teams are currently in the running for those three elusive places in Europe's premier club competition with Manchester United, Chelsea, Liverpool, Arsenal and Tottenham all vying to finish in the top four.

However five into three does not go and Sportsmail looks at each team's credentials as they look to return to Europe's top table.

Man City's class has left the rest of the big six to scramble to get into the Champions League

Man City's class has left the rest of the big six to scramble to get into the Champions League

Manchester United

What's their form been like?

Jose Mourinho's men looked best placed to challenge the City juggernaut in the early stages of the season but their charge has come off the rails in recent weeks, leaving Chelsea and Liverpool to catch them up.

Since defeat in the Manchester derby at Old Trafford on December 10, the Red Devils have dropped points against Leicester, Burnley and Southampton while being eliminated from the League Cup by Bristol City.

They are still second in the table though and are nine points in front of fifth-placed Arsenal, and will be confident of staying in front of the chasing pack.

Jose Mourinho's men looked best placed to challenge City but they have fallen off the railsJose Mourinho's men looked best placed to challenge City but they have fallen off the rails

Jose Mourinho's men looked best placed to challenge City but they have fallen off the rails

Causes for concern

Mourinho revealed last week that Romelu Lukaku is tired after he had played every minute in the Premier League, and his star striker was then taken off on a stretcher after being hit in the head against Southampton on Saturday.

The Belgian forward, who has scored 15 times this season, has been ruled out for a week but once he has recovered Mourinho must find a way to ease the burden on Lukaku if he is to remain fresh as the fixtures continue to pile up.

Key man

Paul Pogba delivered a man-of-the-match performance during Monday's 2-0 victory at Everton and a run of similar displays will be needed if United are to remain in second place. The Frenchman is almost unplayable on his day and a standout performer from central midfield will see the pressure on Lukaku shoulders begin to fade.

Paul Pogba delivered a man-of-the-match performance during Monday's 2-0 victory at EvertonPaul Pogba delivered a man-of-the-match performance during Monday's 2-0 victory at Everton

Paul Pogba delivered a man-of-the-match performance during Monday's 2-0 victory at Everton

Upcoming fixtures

United's next six in the Premier League include two potentially vital games against fellow top-four contenders. After welcoming Stoke on January 15, they then travel to both Burnley and Tottenham on January 20 and 31 respectively before returning to Old Trafford to face Huddersfield on February 3. The Red Devils then go to Newcastle on February 11 before going up against Mourinho's former employers Chelsea on February 25.

Verdict – Top four

Tottenham

What's their form been like?

Mauricio Pochettino will be hoping to continue the momentum garnered from Spurs' last two performances as his side prepare to complete their busy festive schedule after a period of inconsistency.

Harry Kane scored back-to-back hat-tricks in the 5-2 and 3-0 wins over Southampton and Burnley respectively and they will be reliant as ever on the Premier League's top scorer for the remainder of the season unless Pochettino can add to his attacking options in January.

Prior to those two victories, Spurs were hammered 4-1 at City and dropped points against Leicester, Watford, West Brom and Arsenal.

Mauricio Pochettino will be hoping to continue the momentum  from Spurs' last two victoriesMauricio Pochettino will be hoping to continue the momentum  from Spurs' last two victories

Mauricio Pochettino will be hoping to continue the momentum from Spurs' last two victories

Causes for concern

Their record against the rest of the big six still leaves question marks over their top-four potential with defeats against City, United, Chelsea and Arsenal already this campaign.

Spurs did obliterate Liverpool 4-1 at home in October though and as their Wembley woes continue to fade into the distance, Pochettino will be hoping his side can get the better of their closest rivals across the rest of the campaign.

Key man

It sounds pretty obvious but Kane must stay fit and scoring if Spurs are to stand any chance of finishing in the top four. Spurs ended a five-match winless away run when Kane netted a hat-trick against Burnley and the side's reliance on their talisman does not seem to be reducing any time soon.

Harry Kane must stay fit and scoring if Spurs are to have any chance of finishing in the top fourHarry Kane must stay fit and scoring if Spurs are to have any chance of finishing in the top four

Harry Kane must stay fit and scoring if Spurs are to have any chance of finishing in the top four

Upcoming fixtures

Spurs' next four fixtures could not be more opposite to what lies slightly further in the future as they go up against Swansea on Tuesday, West Ham on Thursday, Everton on January 13 and Southampton on January 21 before it all turns rather bleak.

Games against United on January 31, Liverpool on February 4 and Arsenal on February 10 will prove indicative of their top-four credentials.

Verdict – Miss out

Liverpool

What's their form been like?

After Ragnar Klavan popped up to steal all three points against Burnley on Monday, Liverpool are now 16 games in all competitions without defeat, which is their longest unbeaten run under Jurgen Klopp.

Victories over Leicester and Swansea preceded the win at Turf Moor while a pre-Christmas draw at Arsenal should have been three points before another defensive meltdown proved costly.

Home draws against West Brom and Everton in the same week left fans frustrated but they are the only real blemishes on Liverpool's recent record.

Following their win at Burnley, Liverpool are now 16 games in all competitions without defeatFollowing their win at Burnley, Liverpool are now 16 games in all competitions without defeat

Following their win at Burnley, Liverpool are now 16 games in all competitions without defeat

Causes for concern

It is becoming a cliché but Liverpool have to defend better if they are to keep apace with the rest. Their free-scoring football has them second in the goal charts behind only City with the 'Fab Four' – Mo Salah, Roberto Firmino, Sadio Mane and Philippe Coutinho – showing no signs of slowing their prolific attacking play.

The problem lies at the other end of the pitch and with no settled first-choice goalkeeper or centre-half partnership, problems continues to arise. See the Arsenal draw as a prime example. Liverpool led 2-0 in the 52nd minute before a lapse in concentration from Joe Gomez let Alexis Sanchez pull one back and within five minutes Mesut Ozil was scoring to put Arsenal 3-2 up.

Key man

Arise Virgil van Dijk. Signed from Southampton last week for a world record fee for a defender of £75million, Klopp will be hoping the Dutchman is the fix to his defensive woes.

It may seem amiss not to name Coutinho or Salah but scoring goals is not Liverpool's problem and if they had a capable defence complimenting their offensive play, the Reds would be looking up at City rather than over their shoulder at Arsenal and Tottenham.

They have conceded 25 times in the Premier League so far this season, which is six times more than Burnley and 13 more than City.

Jurgen Klopp will be hoping the signing of Virgil van Dijk will help to tighten up his defenceJurgen Klopp will be hoping the signing of Virgil van Dijk will help to tighten up his defence

Jurgen Klopp will be hoping the signing of Virgil van Dijk will help to tighten up his defence

Fixtures

Liverpool will hope to be the team to finally break City's unbeaten record when host at Anfield on January 14, while they will be keen to avenge the thrashing at Wembley when Spurs are the visitors on February 4. Around those fixtures are games in which Klopp will demand victories with trips to Swansea on January 22 and Huddersfield on January 30. Van Dijk returns to Southampton on February 11 before David Moyes takes West Ham to the North West on February 24.

Verdict – Top four

Arsenal

What's their form been like?

Arsene Wenger's side have struggled to find rhythm in recent weeks and, as a result, are six points off Liverpool in fifth place.

They were harshly denied three points by a late penalty against West Brom on Sunday but managed to escape Selhurst Park with a vital 3-2 win on Thursday. Prior to that was the thrilling 3-3 draw with Liverpool while a narrow 1-0 win over Newcastle came after frustrating draws away at both Southampton and West Ham.

Arsene Wenger's side have struggled to find rhythm in recent weeks and are now in fifth placeArsene Wenger's side have struggled to find rhythm in recent weeks and are now in fifth place

Arsene Wenger's side have struggled to find rhythm in recent weeks and are now in fifth place

Causes for concern

It remains to be seen whether star man Alexis Sanchez will stay and wait until his contract expires in the summer or jump ship and move to City in January. Sanchez has struggled to recapture his finest form this season, but has scored eight goals in 20 appearances so far.

The Chilean forward is almost certain to leave the Emirates in the summer and the potential departure of Mesut Ozil will leave question marks on their commitment to the cause for the remainder of the season.

Arsenal are the only top-six side to have conceded more than Liverpool, with the Gunners letting in 26 in their 21 Premier League games, so they also have work to do on the training ground to seal their leaks.

Key man

Contract issues aside, if Arsenal can keep hold of Sanchez until his deal expires in the summer then he is the man who can lead them into the Champions League. The former Barcelona attacker is arguably one of only a few players in the Premier League who could improve City and Wenger must squeeze every possible inch out of the Chilean before he departs.

Alexis Sanchez  is the man who can lead Arsenal into the Champions League before he goesAlexis Sanchez  is the man who can lead Arsenal into the Champions League before he goes

Alexis Sanchez is the man who can lead Arsenal into the Champions League before he goes

Upcoming fixtures

Arsenal have an immediate test of their top-four credentials when Chelsea visit the Emirates on Wednesday night before a trip to Bournemouth on January 14 and a home game against Crystal Palace on January 20. There are two more winnable games in the form of Swansea away on January 30 and Everton at home on February 3 before the second North London derby of the season takes place at Wembley on February 10.

Arsenal will be hoping to follow in United's footsteps and strengthen their Champions League chances by going the distance in the Europa League. Mourinho's side finished sixth last season, below Arsenal, but victory over Ajax in the Europa League final guaranteed them a group stage birth this time around.

Verdict – Miss out

Chelsea

What's their form been like?

Antonio Conte's side are currently on an unbeaten run of five matches following that shock defeat away at West Ham early in December. They have since gone on to beat Huddersfield, Southampton, Brighton and Stoke and picked up a point against Everton.

On this run, the Blues have scored 11 goals and conceded just one with a 5-0 thrashing of Mark Hughes' Stoke on Saturday the perfect preparation for the upcoming clash with Arsenal.

Antonio Conte's side are on an unbeaten run of five matches following their loss at West HamAntonio Conte's side are on an unbeaten run of five matches following their loss at West Ham

Antonio Conte's side are on an unbeaten run of five matches following their loss at West Ham

Causes for concern

Alvaro Morata has settled into life at Stamford Bridge well, scoring 12 goals in 26 appearances since his move from Real Madrid. However, when the Spaniard is injured or needing of a rest Antonio Conte has no other direct alternative.

Eden Hazard has sometimes been deployed as a 'false nine' in Morata's absence but that is not his best position and when Michy Batshuayi is overlooked for a make-shift option it shows how out of favour the former Marseille man is.

Morata has missed three league games so far this season and in those Chelsea were beaten at Crystal Palace and drew 0-0 at Everton but also beat Huddersfield 3-1 to their credit.

Key man

Hazard remains one of the best attacking players in the league and interest from Real Madrid emphasises his quality. The Belgian has scored eight goals and added eight assists in 26 appearances this campaign and a successful partnership between himself and Morata will see Chelsea finish in the top four with ease.

Eden Hazard has scored eight goals and added eight assists in 26 appearances this campaignEden Hazard has scored eight goals and added eight assists in 26 appearances this campaign

Eden Hazard has scored eight goals and added eight assists in 26 appearances this campaign

Upcoming fixtures

After the trip to Arsenal on Wednesday, Chelsea have the most favourable set of fixtures among their rivals. They welcome Leicester to Stamford Bridge on January 13 before going to Brighton seven days later. There are then home matches against Bournemouth and West Brom on January 31 and February 12 either side of a clash against Watford at Vicarage Road on February 5.

Verdict – Top four

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