Does anyone want to qualify for the Champions League this season? Based on the current ranking of the competition, this does not seem to be the case.
The race to finish in the top four is as wide open as it has ever been, with only 10 points separating Chelsea in the fourth and Newcastle in the 13th.
Although the Blues may be leading the race to qualify for next season’s group stage, they also have the combined lowest point total of every fourth-placed team in this stage of the season.
Chelsea from Frank Lampard has the worst total for a fourth placed team after 26 games
The previous lowest total after 26 games was Newcastle in 2003-04, which also had 41 points, but with a better goal difference. The Magpies were fourth to Liverpool in that season, finishing with just 60 points.
The magic point to finish in the top four has historically been around 70, but in recent years that was not enough to guarantee you a place.
In this campaign, the required total is likely to be much lower than the usual goal of 70, and since Manchester United, Chelsea, Tottenham and Arsenal fail to consistently produce results, the will of Sheffield United and Wolves is ready to meet them beat to the limit.
Sportsmail elaborates on the contenders for the top four, their chances of making it and the challenges they face.
Chelsea – 4th
The young side of Lampard has shown its weaknesses this season, but they are still in fourth place
It was always a tough fight for Chelsea from Frank Lampard this season after a two-window transfer ban, forcing club legend to bring in some young faces from the youth team to freshen things up.
The Blues have exceeded expectations for much of the campaign, with youth stars such as Tammy Abraham, Reece James and Mason Mount stepping up to keep and keep Chelsea in the top four hunting.
But the young guns of Lampard have also shown their weaknesses at the rear.
The team is non-profit in their last five and has awarded 36 goals – the highest of all parties in the top seven.
Their home form is particularly alarming, with seven defeats at Stamford Bridge in all competitions, most since 1994-95. In general, they have been defeated nine times – the second most in the top 10.
Lampard was not supported in the transfer window and feels that his side are underdogs for the top four
Lampard was not supported by Chelsea in January after their transfer ban was reduced to one window, and he could not recruit a new attacker and defender as he had hoped.
Meanwhile, Spurs, Manchester United and Arsenal have all made additions to their team, and Lampard said that Chelsea were now the underdogs.
“I think that at the start of the season no-one had put us in the top four,” he said after the window was closed. “But the reality is that it will be a very big fight now.
“This is not to talk ourselves down, because we are clear six points in the fourth, [but] now we will probably become the underdogs … because the teams around us have become stronger. ”
Tottenham – 5th
Jose Mourinho has turned things around at Tottenham, but still faces a number of challenges
Spurs have had a roller coaster ride of a season with many loops and bumps along the way.
Mauricio Pochettino got the heel after a relapse in form and the team remained in the middle of the table, while his replacement Jose Mourinho was only able to bring about a temporary improvement in the results before it all started to get old again.
Tottenham is also not helped by their rising injury list.
Although they have dragged themselves on the table and are only one point behind Chelsea before they play them on Saturday, they have no key names.
Harry Kane, Son Heung-min and Moussa Sissoko are all out, and while Steven Bergwijn and Gedson Fernandes came in last month, Mourinho is now without a senior center to lead him through the rest of the season.
A huge cloud hung over Tottenham after the ‘Special One’ came in, with the future of players in the air and a top four finish looking past them.
He has lost both Harry Kane and Son Heung-min to injuries and is sitting forward without a senior
Toby Alderweireld started his future at the club, but Christian Eriksen was sold to Inter Milan with his contract that ends this summer, and now Jan Vertonghen remains the last rebel to sign.
There is a sense that Mourinho has turned the tide in North London, but some incoherent versions and slow start of games indicate that he still has work to do.
Spurs face a series of crucial games, first in a crunch collision with Chelsea on Stamford Bridge on Saturday, before they met Wolves and Manchester United at home in March.
Five victories in their last seven had made them one of the favorites for the top four, but with a lack of firepower to complete the campaign, it will be a difficult question for the Mourinho men to get the job done.
Sheffield United – 6th
Chris Wilder has done a great job with Sheffield United and a top four finish is not beyond them
Not much imagined Sheffield United to stay on, let alone to win a European finish this season after promotion of the championship, but they continue to mock the odds of the bookmakers.
Chris Wilder’s team relies on a solid defense – they only allowed 24 goals this season, which is the third after Liverpool and Leicester.
That stubbornness will come in handy if they are serious about a push for the Champions League spots, but if there is one thing that disappoints them, it is their quality on the other side of the field.
They only scored 28 times in the league this season – six less than relegation threatened Aston Villa and only four more than bottoming out Norwich. Their top scorer is midfielder John Fleck, who gives some insight into their goal scores.
The blades fly high, but may not have enough firepower to secure the Champions League qualification
But despite a lack of deceit at the top, the results keep coming in, with three wins in their last six and not beating Manchester City, Arsenal and Liverpool at the time.
They are on the hunt for both the Europa League and the Champions League, only two points from Chelsea in fourth place with favorable matches on the horizon.
Their next three games are Brighton and Norwich at home, followed by Newcastle for two major tests against Manchester United and Spurs. That should tell us what we need to know about the Blades credentials this season.
Manchester United – 7th
Where to start According to media reports, Ole Gunnar Solskjaer had lost his job several times after overseeing the club’s worst start for a 30-year season.
The United team looked lean for most of the season and was summarized by the inability to beat the teams they should beat, and then achieve results against the top players in the division.
Manchester United suffered a terrible start to the competition season, their worst in 30 years
The Red Devils have lost eight times this season and only one of those games was up against a team in the top 10 at that time.
They lost 2-0 to Arsenal and Liverpool, but Solskjaer also won victories over Manchester City, Tottenham and Chelsea, and became the only team to win a point from Liverpool this season.
But their other six losses have been against Crystal Palace, West Ham, Newcastle, Bournemouth, Watford and Burnley, among others. If United could have turned those gloomy results into victories, the picture in the top four could indeed be very different.
At the end of March, United will face Manchester City, Spurs and Sheffield United, a run that could make or break their season.
Solskjaer will also have to juggle his attack on the top four with a push to win the Europa League and FA Cup.
Business has improved under Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, but consistency in results remains a problem
United participates in three competitions and will have to rotate to prevent player burnout
United strengthened in January with the signing sessions of Bruno Fernandes and Odion Ighalo, strengthening their options in midfield and in the attack, giving them a head start on their rivals. The £ 68 million acquisition of Fernandes – which can open teams and enhance team creativity – is a sign of their intention.
But the team must show that they are able to gather results for the rest of the campaign.
They have failed to win more than two games in a row this period and often follow one big result with an overwhelming performance.
The revenues from Champions League football are vital for a club of United’s status and they cannot afford to miss the first competition again after the sixth last season.
The outsiders …
Wolves make a splash under Nuno Espirito Santo, but a top four finish will be a big question
Wolves are still moving away from the top four and only five points from Chelsea are in eighth place, but the men of Nuno Espirito Santo have a fragmentary form that does not help their cause.
They will be sure to give a push to the Europa League, where they are currently in the knockout phase, but a top four finish will be a big question.
Revived under Carlo Ancelotti, Everton have risen to the top half and also have five points on Chelsea, and three wins on five give them a good feeling about their chances of a European finish.
Business has improved under Carlo Ancelotti in Everton while the Toffees see a European finish
Arsenal will still believe they can finish fourth, but are currently 10th in the Premier League
However, they face an impending run-in in their next four games while they play Arsenal, who are directly below them, before they played Manchester United, Chelsea and Liverpool.
Meanwhile, the Gunners now looking far away from a top four finish now that Mikel Arteta is in 10th place with seven points that separate them from Chelsea.
The Gunners do not seem to be able to beat recent victories, but ended a series of four in a row with an unbridled 4-0 win over Newcastle after their international break.