The competition to qualify for next year's Champions League is fierce with five of the Premier League's finest scrapping for three places behind Chelsea. Joe Dyer takes a look at the betting...
"Tottenham sit just a point above fifth-placed Liverpool and look in danger to sustained good form from those below them, although the fixture list makes Arsenal and United's task particularly stiff. If Spurs can sustain their run it looks like those two big names missing out."
The battle to finish top of the league may be almost over but below the 1.211/5 title favourites Chelsea, there's fierce competition to end the season in the Champions League places. Just four points separate second-placed Manchester City down to neighbours United in sixth. Here are the teams in league order with their top four odds.
Manchester City - 52 points - Top four finish odds 1.241/4
Tottenham - 50 points - 1.528/15
Arsenal - 50 points - 1.9420/21
Liverpool - 49 points - 1.768/11
Manchester United - 48 points - 2.26/5
So, five teams in the race and four trade at odds-on, but as we all know just three of them can make it to the promised land of Europe's premier club competition. Let's deal with them in odds order.
Nearly a month ago City were spanked 4-0 at Goodison Park - a result that, following three defeats from six in December, left them outside the top four. Hindsight suggests that the match at Everton was the low mark of the current campaign as they have bounced back in impressive fashion in the four games since. OK, Spurs were able to sneak a draw from a one-sided match at The Etihad but City won the other three, beating West Ham, Swansea and Bournemouth by a cumulative 8-1 scoreline. Gabriel Jesus' metatarsal injury is a blow but Sergio Aguero is no mean backup!
On the downside, the fixtures are likely to pile up. Bar Liverpool, all other sides in the top-six are still in the FA Cup and City are fancied to progress in the Champions League, too. Then there is a three match run that brings Liverpool to Manchester before Pep twice takes his side to London for clashes with Arsenal and Chelsea. A rearranged Manchester derby will have to be squeezed in, too.
The current points advantage over the top-four rivals may prove significant, however, and City do get to play seven of the remaining 13 at home.
The odds are so short that most punters would only consider touching City in this market as a lay, but our recommendation is just to leave Pep's side alone for the meantime.
Tottenham may occupy third place but it's a surprise to see them this short in the market. The chasing pack is so close with only goal difference keeping fierce rivals Arsenal in fourth and sixth-placed United a mere two points away. Like City, they must deal with domestic and European cup fixtures and of all the sides in the top-six, they lack squad depth to deal with injuries.
On the plus side, seven of Tottenham's last 13 are at White Hart Lane, where they are playing their final campaign. That looks to be a big motivator as they possess the league's second best home record behind Chelsea, having won 10 and drawn two of their 12 Premier League fixtures so far.
And fixture wise they have a relatively easy schedule across the final 13 games, facing only two members of the top-six and both at home, too, with Arsenal and United paying a visit to the Lane. Those matches come in the final weeks of the season and sandwich a visit to hated rivals West Ham. Spurs fans must pray that the club can hold itself together across the testing finishing stretch...unlike last season. Of all the odds-on prices they look the most opposable.
Knocked out of the EFL and FA Cups, Liverpool are unencumbered by any other competition between now and late May. That goes some way to explaining why the Reds trade at a shorter price than fourth-placed Arsenal, but further encouragement comes from the return of Sadio Mane and Philippe Coutinho to reunite a dynamic attack that on its day is unstoppable. They certainly gave Spurs a torrid time at Anfield on Saturday.
Then we look at the fixture list and see that Jurgen Klopp's side face only two of their top-four rivals, Arsenal at Anfield in early March before the Reds go to The Etihad two games later. They also have a Merseyside derby to negotiate.
And in another boost, just like Spurs and City, Liverpool play seven of the last 13 at home.
I recommended Liverpool as a top four play at the beginning of the season and they remain just on the right side of backable now.
The Gunners have never finished out of the top-four under Arsene Wenger but odds of 1.9520/21 make it nearly a coin toss that they miss out in 2017.
That can be explained by a tough final 13 Premier League fixtures that sees them play four matches against other Champions League hopefuls - Liverpool (away), Manchester City (home), Spurs (away) and Manchester United (home). Wenger's side only play six of their 13 at The Emirates.
The Gunners must also juggle FA Cup and Champions League fixtures - although they are 3.613/5 outsiders to progress past Bayern Munich in the last 16.
Ultimately they usually find a way through, and the squad certainly has the depth and talent to do it again, but this one could be squeakier than usual!
The one team of our five to trade at odds-against and that's understandable, but it potentially makes them the value in the market.
United's final third of the season is similar to Arsenal's. Just six of the last 13 Premier League games are at home and four fixtures against the current top-six, three of which - City, Arsenal and Spurs - are on the road. If the Manchester derby is rescheduled to late April that could play all four of those high-profile matches in a six-game stretch. They also need to juggle FA Cup and Europa League fixtures.
However, United's 10 game form is the best in the league (24 points), and they haven't lost in the top-flight since October at Stamford Bridge. United's task is super tough, but two points isn't a huge deficit across 13 fixtures and you get the sense that if anyone can can push them across the line it's Mourinho.
The market looks to have it right but the one price that can be taken on is Tottenham's. While the first XI is a match for any club in the league, the relatively thin squad at White Hart Lane would make any injuries to key performers particularly hurtful to their top-four chances. And with the Londoners fancied to progress past Fulham in the FA Cup and Gent in the Europa, the fixtures are likely to pile up. They sit just a point above fifth-placed Liverpool and look in danger to sustained good form from those below them, although the fixture list makes Arsenal and United's task particularly stiff. If Spurs can sustain their run it looks like those two big names missing out.