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Tuesday 26 February 2013

Race heats up at the top of the Barclays Premier League

Spurs, Chelsea and Arsenal targeting Manchester City in second

Arsenal's Arsene Wenger is targeting Roberto Mancini's City in second spot

After beating Chelsea at the weekend Roberto Mancini, the Manchester City manager, said he would be avoiding looking at the Barclays Premier League table as his side look to overhaul the 12-point gap behind leaders Manchester United.

The Italian and Joe Hart, the City goalkeeper, have vowed they will not give up the defence of their Barclays Premier League title.

"We're going to have a damn good go at catching United"
Joe Hart

“If we get to the final four games and we are still 12 points behind, then it will be difficult!” Mancini said. “It is not over until the final ball has been kicked so we will continue to try our hardest and see where that takes us.”

Hart added: "We've got to keep fighting, you never know. We have just got to keep going. It's going to be really hard, we've got a lot to do but we're going to have a damn good go at doing it."

However, it may be best if City avoid the table because they may spot that the clubs below them have them in their sights. The dramatic 3-2 victory over West Ham United yesterday has sent Tottenham Hotspur above Chelsea into third, five points behind City, whom they host in Matchweek 34 of the season.

How they stand

  Pl W D L F A GD Pts
Manchester United 27 22 2 3 64 31 33 68
Manchester City 27 16 8 3 50 24 26 56
Tottenham Hotspur 27 15 6 6 47 32 15 51
Chelsea 27 14 7 6 55 30 25 49
Arsenal 27 13 8 6 52 30 22 47


Even Arsene Wenger, whose Arsenal team lie in fifth, says finishing second is possible, despite being nine points behind City with 11 matches remaining.

"Man City is not out of reach,” Wenger said. “It could be a tight fight until the end. I'm not sure it will only be a fight with Tottenham. I'm not sure the other places are not reachable.

"Chelsea are just ahead and even Manchester City is not out of reach. It could be a tight fight until the end."

The top three sides qualify automatically for next season's UEFA Champions League group stage, while the team in fourth must go through qualification.

Arsenal have not finished outside the top four since Wenger took charge in September 1996, but the last time they ended the season in the top two was in the 2004/05 season as runners-up to Chelsea.

"It could be a tight fight until the end"
Arsene Wenger

The last time that Spurs finished in the top three was in the 1989/90 season and you have to go back 50 years since they ended the season as runners-up in the top flight.

Much of the North London clubs’ ambitions will rest upon their match on Sunday at White Hart Lane, which is one of only three fixtures remaining in the season where these four teams meet. "We have a further opportunity to go seven [points] ahead of Arsenal and that will be a very hard game," Andre Villas-Boas, the Spurs head coach, said after the win over West Ham.

The other clash involving the four teams is when Spurs travel across London to Chelsea on 14 April. City, Chelsea and Arsenal must all face Manchester United in the run-in, while Spurs and Chelsea must both go to Anfield as well.

Things could well be in the balance on the final day of the season, when only Arsenal play away, a daunting trip to Newcastle United. Manchester City host Norwich City, Spurs are at home to Sunderland, while at Stamford Bridge Chelsea take on an Everton, who hope to be back in the mix themselves by that time.


Remaining fixtures

*Due to FA Cup fixtures, not all matches will be played on the same weekend

MW Man City Spurs Chelsea Arsenal
28 Aston Villa (A) Arsenal (H) West Brom (H) Spurs (A)
29 Wigan (H) Liverpool (A) Fulham (A) Everton (H)
30 Everton (A) Fulham (H) West Ham (H) Swansea (A)
31 Newcastle (H) Swansea (A) Southampton (A) Reading (H)
32 Man Utd (A) Everton (H) Sunderland (H) West Brom (A)
33 West Brom (H) Chelsea (A) Spurs (H) Norwich (H)
34 Spurs (A) Man City (H) Liverpool (A) Fulham (A)
35 West Ham (H) Wigan (A) Swansea (H) Man Utd (H)
36 Swansea (A) Southampton (H) Man Utd (A) QPR (A)
37 Reading (A) Stoke (A) Aston Villa (A) Wigan (H)
38 Norwich (H) Sunderland (H) Everton (H) Newcastle (A)

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Key Points

  • Spurs victory over West Ham boost hopes of highest finish in 50 years
  • Arsenal and Chelsea also have ambitions of finishing within the top two
  • North London on Sunday will be key to two clubs' ambitions