The Premier League run-in: The battle for the title, top four and relegation are all hotting up
The Premier League returns after the international break as the run-in to the end of the season begins.
Clubs have anything between 10 and 13 matches remaining and the title race, challenge for the top four and the battle to avoid relegation are all tight.
Here, the PA news agency assesses what is at stake for involved clubs.
Gunners have title in sight
A first Premier League crown in 19 years is Arsenal’s to lose as they sit eight points clear of Manchester City in a two-horse title race with 10 games to play. Pep Guardiola’s defending champions have a game in hand and face Mikel Arteta’s side at the Etihad Stadium on April 26 in what could prove to be a pivotal fixture. City appear to have an easier run-in but are still fighting on three fronts and have an injury doubt over striker Erling Haaland, who missed Norway’s internationals with a groin problem. The Gunners, however, have only the Premier League to focus on.
Champions League slots up for grabs
Five other clubs are in pursuit of a top-four finish. Third and fourth spots are occupied by Manchester United (50 points) and Tottenham (49) respectively. But Newcastle (47) and Liverpool (42) both have two games in hand on the London club, whose reaction to the recent departure of head coach Antonio Conte will be crucial as they head to struggling Everton first up. Newcastle will be tested by the visit of Manchester United this weekend, while Liverpool – boosted by the return to fitness of winger Luis Diaz – face a key week as they meet City, Chelsea and Arsenal. Surprise package Brighton, also on 42 points but having played three games fewer than Spurs, cannot be discounted.
Chelsea target Europa League consolation
European football next season remains a realistic target for four other clubs. Impressive Brentford are level on points with Brighton having played two games more, but hopes of Chelsea, in 10th, salvaging something from their disappointing season by finishing fifth to snatch the Europa League slot appear remote. Fulham and 11th-placed Aston Villa have ground to make up in the race for a top-six finish, while a Europa Conference League play-off place still up for grabs.
Nine-horse race to avoid drop
The relegation battle is the tightest it has ever been with nine clubs fighting for safety. Just four points separate bottom side Southampton and 12th-placed Crystal Palace, who have brought back Roy Hodgson to steer them away from trouble after sacking Patrick Vieira. Bournemouth and West Ham are in the bottom three, but sit only three points behind 13th-placed Wolves. Leeds and Everton went into the international break in positive mood but Forest and Leicester will be looking to arrest their concerning poor runs.