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Race for the Champions League 2002-3

With another Premiership season drawin ever nearer to a close, things are hotting up at both ends of the table, with everything still to be decided and while Arsenal, Man United and Newcastle are fighting it out for the title and looking certain to occupy the top three places, another battle is going on below them with three more clubs all hoping to claim fourth place, and with it the chance to compete in next year's Champions League.

Current Standings:
4. Chelsea
5. Liverpool
6. Everton


Remaining fixtures:
5-Apr v Sunderland (Away)
12-Apr v Bolton Wanderers (Home)
19-Apr v Aston Villa (Away)
21-Apr v Everton (Home)
26-Apr v Fulham (Home)
3-May v West Ham United (Away)
11-May v Liverpool (Home)


With Chelsea currently sitting above both Liverpool and Everton in the table, and having still to play both of their main rivals for fourth place at home, the Londoners surely start as favourites to finish in 4th position and gain a place in next season's Champions League.

But despite their current advantage, Chelsea's league form has been very inconsistent since Christmas with the same number of victories as defeats in their last 12 games, and with up to four of their remaining opponents likely to be fighting against relegation for much of the remainder of the season, coupled with the inconsistent form of the Blues over recent weeks, Chelsea's final seven games will not be quite as easy to predict as they inititally may seem.

The games against Everton and Liverpool will be crucial for all involved, and should Chelsea pick up maximum points from the two fixtures, it may leave both Merseyside clubs with too much ground to make up in their other games.


Remaining fixtures:
5-Apr v Manchester United (Away)
12-Apr v Fulham (Home)
19-Apr v Everton (Away)
21-Apr v Charlton Athletic (Home)
26-Apr v West Bromwich Albion (Away)
3-May v Manchester City (Home)
11-May v Chelsea (Away)


After recording 3 consecutive league wins in a row for the first time since November 2, Liverpool must aim to keep their unbeaten run going starting with tomorrow's trip to Old Trafford. Following that, the Reds still face tough away trips to both Everton and Chelsea, with a potentially tricky game at West Brom.

At home, Liverpool must ensure that no points are dropped in any of their last three games. 19 points have already been dropped by the Reds at Anfield, which has been a major reason for their poor league position.

In each of the last two years though, Liverpool have finished strongly, and a similar finish to this season will be needed if  Gerard Houllier's men are to bring Champions League football to Anfield for a third successive season.


Remaining fixtures:
6-Apr v Newcastle United (Home)
12-Apr v West Bromwich Albion (Away)
19-Apr v Liverpool (Home)
21-Apr v Chelsea (Away)
26-Apr v Aston Villa (Home)
3-May v Fulham (Away)
11-May v Manchester United (Home)


Ater an excellent season, Everton face a tough final run in, and will probably need to rely on slips up from the two sides directly above them if they're to climb back up into 4th place.

Everton's home game against Aston Villa looks on paper to be the only fixture in which they would be red hot favourites to win, but the Blues have surprised most people this season with the rapid progress which has been made under new boss David Moyes, and with the possible exception of their trip to Chelsea, they could well take at least a draw from each of their remaining fixtures.

Having started the season as relegation candidates though, Everton will be delighted with European football of any description for next season, and with Charlton and Blackburn both just four points behind Everton, the task of their players must be to ensure that Everton will at least be among the qualifiers for next season's UEFA Cup.

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