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Premier League top-four race for Champions League qualification analysed by form, fixtures and Sky Sports pundits | Football News



Manchester City and Liverpool are fighting for the title but the race for fourth is heating up too.

Chelsea have long looked set on finishing third but could they be sucked into the battle to finish in the top four?

Tottenham and Arsenal are the frontrunners to grab fourth from the chasing pack, with West Ham, Manchester Utd and Wolves in with a shout.

It’s an intriguing race to qualify for next season’s Champions League.

Here, we assess the runners and riders in the battle for fourth, their form and their fixtures until the end of the season…

The table…

The fixtures…


Position: 4th
Games played: 30
Points: 54
Top-four Sky Bet odds: 6/4
Active cup competitions: None

Tottenham had alternated between wins and losses in each of their last seven games but were able to post back-to-back Premier League wins for the first time in 2022 with victory over West Ham before the international break and they made it three in a row with a 5-1 win over Newcastle which moved them into fourth on Sunday.

Boss Antonio Conte says his side are improving – but the competition for the top four is tough.

“I’m seeing great improvement in many aspects. The technical, tactical aspects, the mentality,” he said.

“We know very well that in this race there are other teams that may in this moment have an advantage. Arsenal has to play two games. Don’t forget Manchester United. Don’t forget West Ham and Wolverhampton is having a fantastic season. This league is very difficult. I’m happy because hard work is paying off. Every player is improving and for this reason Tottenham is going up and up.”

Key fixtures: Brighton (H) – Saturday Apr 16; kick-off 12.30pm, Leicester (H) – Saturday Apr 30; kick-off 3pm, Liverpool (A) – Saturday May 7; kick-off 3pm, Arsenal (H) – TBC


PA - Mikel Arteta

Position: 5th
Games played: 28
Points: 54
Top-four Sky Bet odds: 8/15
Active cup competitions: None

Arsenal endured a torrid opening to the campaign, losing their first three matches to suffer their worst start to a season in 67 years. They were rock bottom of the Premier League with Mikel Arteta under pressure, but the Spaniard has overseen a remarkable recovery at the Emirates Stadium.

Their 1-0 victory over Aston Villa saw the Gunners claim a 10th Premier League victory in 13 games. Arsenal have conceded just eight goals in that 13-game period.

Gary Neville has explained his recent comment that he didn’t “fully trust” them and said he now expects Arteta’s side to clinch fourth place despite some tricky fixtures still to come.

“The reason I said that you can’t fully trust Arsenal is because they’ve not delivered yet,” Neville said on Monday Night Football recently.

“The pressure is now on them, in the sense that there is now an expectation that they will finish fourth.

“I think they will finish fourth, but they’ve got Tottenham still to come, they’ve got Manchester United to play.

“Now they have got to go on and prove that we can all trust them, that they can go and deliver Champions League football, which was against all expectations at the start of the season.”

Key fixtures: Brighton (H) – Saturday April 9; kick-off 3pm, Chelsea (A) – Wednesday April 20; kick-off 7.45pm – live on Sky Sports, Manchester United (H) – Saturday April 23; kick-off 12.30pm, West Ham (A) – Sunday May 1; kick-off 4.30pm – live on Sky Sports, Tottenham (A) – TBC

West Ham

Mark Noble celebrates with teammates after scoring West Ham's third goal (AP)

Position: 6th
Games played: 31
Points: 51
Top-four Sky Bet odds: 33/1
Active cup competitions: Europa League

West Ham had a fantastic start to the season. Under David Moyes, the Hammers were flying high and looked real contenders for the top four. Despite wins at home against Liverpool and Chelsea though, they suffered a bit of a blip with back-to-back defeats to Wolves and Man City in November before successive defeats to Arsenal and Southampton in December.

They responded well, though, and wins against Watford, Crystal Palace and Norwich put them firmly back in the race for Champions League qualification. But defeat to Manchester United on January 22 saw them concede fourth place on a weekend in which Arsenal dropped points and Tottenham lost to Chelsea.

A narrow win over Watford got them back on track, but subsequent draws against Leicester and Newcastle saw their top-four bid stutter before they rounded off February with an important three points at home to fellow European challengers Wolves.

Defeat at Tottenham before the international break came at the end of what Moyes described as a “good week” for the club, having sealed progression to the Europa League quarter-finals. That could be their best route into next season’s Champions League now, although a win over Everton has kept them in the hunt.

West Ham’s run-in to the season looks tricky, with trips to Chelsea and Brighton to come. They also face Arsenal and Man City at home. If they are going to reach the top four, West Ham will have to do it the hard way.

Key fixtures: Chelsea (A) – Sunday April 24; kick-off 2pm – live on Sky Sports, Arsenal (H) – Sunday May 1; kick-off 4.30pm – live on Sky Sports, Man City (H) – Sunday May 15; kick-off 3pm, Brighton (A) – Sunday May 22, kick-off 4pm.

Manchester United

Ralf Rangnick

Position: 7th
Games played: 30
Points: 51
Top-four Sky Bet odds: 9/1
Active cup competitions: None

United will end a fifth successive season without a trophy as the club find themselves at yet another crossroads. Hopes of lifting the Champions League always looked faint and their failure to land a glove on Atletico Madrid saw them meekly tumble out at the round-of-16 stage.

Having finished as Premier League runners-up and lost the Europa League final on penalties, hope of further progress under Ole Gunnar Solskjaer was fuelled by the summer acquisitions of Jadon Sancho, Raphael Varane and Cristiano Ronaldo.

But they were out of the Carabao Cup in September then humbled on home soil by Liverpool and Manchester City, with the 4-1 loss at Watford leading to Solskjaer’s exit in November. Interim boss Ralf Rangnick has only lost two Premier League games but there have been too many draws and disjointed displays, plus they are out of the FA Cup and Champions League.

The club have now won just two Champions League knockout matches in the last decade – a period in which their gross transfer spend is reported to be £1.4 billion.

The fact a club of United’s stature went for an interim appointment in November says everything about the long-term planning at a club whose interest in Ajax’s Erik ten Hag and Paris Saint-Germain boss Mauricio Pochettino is well documented. Thomas Tuchel’s name has also been mentioned since issues at Chelsea began to brew.

Football director John Murtough and technical director Darren Fletcher want to make an appointment before the summer to provide a foundation to build on. Unless performances improve, the club could even slip into the Europa Conference League or miss out on European football for the first time since they finished seventh in 2013/14. That possibility ramped up with a draw at home to Leicester.

Key fixtures: Liverpool (A) – Tuesday April 19; kick-off 8pm – live on Sky Sports, Arsenal (A) – Saturday April 23; kick-off 12.30pm, Chelsea (H) – Sunday May 15; kick-off 3pm.


Wolves defenders Romain Saiss, Max Kilman (centre) and Conor Coady have impressed this season (PA)

Position: 8th
Games played: 31
Points: 49
Top-four Sky Bet odds: 500/1
Active cup competitions: None

Wolves had a rocky opening to the season with three successive 1-0 losses under new manager Bruno Lage that left them 18th in the league. One of those losses came against Nuno Espirito Santo’s Tottenham, who had left last season to take charge of the north London club.

However, Lage has since overseen an improvement in his side’s form with impressive victories against Aston Villa, West Ham and Brighton. Though they are the third-lowest scoring team in the division with 24 Premier League goals, their defensive nous has been a key component of their rise up the table. They have conceded just 21 times this season, a record that is bettered only by Man City, Liverpool and Chelsea.

Their start to 2022 was impressive, with successive victories over Manchester United, Southampton and Brentford.

Home and away defeats to Arsenal were setbacks, but they did immediately respond to the loss at Molineux to the Gunners with key victories over Tottenham and Leicester which kept Wolves firmly in the hunt for European qualification.

The Midlands club were back on track from successive wins over Watford and Everton – but their dramatic 3-2 home defeat to Leeds means it is now looking increasingly likely that a Europa League berth is the limit of their aspirations, although a 2-1 win over local rivals Aston Villa boosted the mood after the international break.

Key fixtures: Brighton (H) – Saturday April 30; kick-off 3pm; Chelsea (A) – Saturday May 7; kick-off 3pm; Liverpool (A) – Sunday May 22; kick-off 4pm; Man City (H) – TBC

Watch the race for Champions League qualification unfold live on Sky Sports.

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Pedro Porro speaks about Tottenham for first time as flight and medical booked




ncoming signing Pedro Porro has spoken publicly for the first time about his move to Tottenham ahead of boarding a plane to London.

Standard Sport understands the right-back will complete a £39million move from Sporting later on Tuesday, the final day of the January transfer window.

The move was thrown into doubt on Monday after Sporting reneged on the deal by asking for more money, despite Porro having said his goodbyes and with a medical in London booked.

Further talks have revived the transfer and Porro, who was absent from training and understood to be distraught by the hold ups, will now finalise the move on Deadline Day. He spoke to reporters at Lisbon airport on Monday evening.

He told CMTV: “I’m grateful to Sporting, I love the club.

“I didn’t train as I was only focused on the transfer to Spurs but I will always be thankful to the club.”

Porro is expected at Hotspur Way on Monday evening, where he will stay overnight before becoming a Spurs player on Tuesday.

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Derby 0 – 2 West Ham



West Ham booked a fifth-round FA Cup tie at boss David Moyes’ former club
Manchester United with a comfortable 2-0 win at Derby.

Jarrod Bowen’s third goal in two games gave the Hammers a first-half lead and Michail Antonio headed home their second five minutes after break.

The Londoners made it back-to-back wins after beating Everton 2-0 to climb out of the Premier League’s bottom three nine days go and rarely needed to hit top gear as they halted League One side Derby’s 19-game unbeaten run.

West Ham's Michail Antonio, left, celebrates after scoring his side's second goal during the English FA Cup 4th round soccer match between Derby County and West Ham at Pride Park stadium in Derby, England, Monday, Jan. 30, 2023. (AP Photo/Rui Vieira)
Michail Antonio also got on the scoresheet for the Hammers

West Ham boss Moyes now faces a reunion with former side Man Utd at Old Trafford in the last 16 after being drawn to face the Red Devils in the draw just before Monday night’s routine win at Pride Park. The match will take place in the week commencing February 27.

How West Ham eased past Derby

Paul Warne’s side are flying high in fourth place in the third tier and there were high hopes of an upset among the home faithful before kick-off in a Pride Park crowd of 25,308.

Derby forward Tom Barkhuizen wasted no time in breaching West Ham’s defence, scampering clear in the opening minute before his cut-back was scrambled clear.

Bowen shot tamely at Derby goalkeeper Joe Wildsmith soon after, but was not so wasteful in the 10th minute.

Antonio’s ball over the top caught Derby flat-footed and Bowen volleyed home Tomas Soucek’s neat headed pass from six yards.

Derby’s best move of the half saw James Collins volley just off target after Barkhuizen had run on to Craig Forsyth’s dinked pass to pick out the Derby striker with a fine cross.

Barkhuizen and Nathaniel Mendez-Laing offered Derby’s best hopes of getting back on level terms before the break, but they had no shots on target in the first period.

The good news for Rams fans at the break was their side were still in the tie against a top-flight side who were not at their best.

But five minutes into the second period the home side fell 2-0 behind. Derby skipper Curtis Davies’ sliced clearance span into Bowen’s path down the right and his cross was headed in at the far post by Antonio after deflecting off Forsyth.

Warne sent on four substitutes – Eiran Cashin, Liam Thompson, Lewis Dobbin and Tony Springett – soon after and their fresh legs gave Derby a lift.

Haydon Roberts was an inch away from connecting fully with Dobbin’s excellent cross, but the Rams were soon back-pedalling again.

Bowen was denied in quick succession by Wildsmith’s point-blank save and Cashin’s last-ditch tackle before Ben Johnson’s angled drive was kept out by the Derby goalkeeper.

The Rams were full of endeavour until the final whistle and Dobbin was close to being rewarded for an impressive cameo display when shooting straight at Alphonse Areola, but on the night County could not bridge the gulf in class.

Bowen: You’ve got to beat the best to win the cup

Jarrod Bowen said “to be the best you’ve got to beat the best” after West Ham were drawn to face United in the fifth round.

“I found out (about the draw) on the bench. We’ve got Man Utd away so listen it’s never easy and if we want to be successful in these competitions we’ve got to beat the best teams,” Bowen told ITV Sport.

“With respect to Man United they’re a top top team but we’ve been there plenty of times before and you’ve got to beat the best to be the best.”

Bowen added: “It was nice to score against Everton and tonight as well. I think the situation that we’re in, any sort of confidence from any player…

“The last two to be involved with was very good for me but I think for us, two wins on the bounce as well, two good results for us and it’s all about momentum in this game and I think we can use this going forward.”

Warne: We can’t knock the lads

Derby manager Paul Warne told ITV Sport: “In fairness West Ham played a professional performance, at times I thought we went toe-to-toe but I don’t think we did enough to score unfortunately.

“We can’t knock the lads tonight, we asked them to be the best versions of themselves against a Premier League team so not bad.

“But we probably didn’t have enough graft in the final third but I can’t really knock them and we know West Ham haven’t got an easy draw next but I wish them a sincere good luck.

“I thought the lads gave a good account of themselves at times and at times they were punching.”

What’s next?

Derby return to League One action on Saturday at home to Morecambe – kick-off 3pm – before travelling to Wycombe on Saturday February 11; kick-off 3pm.

West Ham’s next game is away to Newcastle in the Premier League on Saturday, live on Sky Sports; kick-off 5.30pm.

Saturday 4th February 5:00pm

Kick off 5:30pm

The Hammers then host London rivals Chelsea on Saturday February 11; kick-off 12.30pm.

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NFL’s ratio of Black QBs to Black head coaches is all wrong



Jalen Hurts

Jalen Hurts
Photo: AP

Marlin Briscoe is smiling in heaven. Doug Williams probably has a huge grin on his face. The first Black starting quarterback in NFL history — Briscoe — and the first Black quarterback to start and win Super Bowl MVP — Williams — are the giants whose shoulders Kansas City’s Patrick Mahomes and Philadelphia’s Jalen Hurts are standing on. And between Rihanna’s halftime performance and the fact that we’re about to watch history made as two Black quarterbacks take center stage in sports’ biggest game — you could make the case that it’s destiny, given that it will all take place during Black History Month.

But, don’t let this moment distract you from the fact that Black coaches are still getting a raw deal at a time in which Black quarterbacks are being elevated like never before. Two things can be true at once, this is why this moment is such a joyous, yet infuriating one.

Sixteen years after we watched Lovie Smith and Tony Dungy make history as the first two Black head coaches to appear in the Super Bowl, we’re watching Mahomes and Hurts do it for Black quarterbacks. But since that February day in 2007, things for Black coaches have seemed to fall apart as they’ve improved for Black quarterbacks.

Eleven Black quarterbacks started Week 1. Now compare that to the three Black coaches who had jobs when the season began — Mike McDaniel doesn’t count, as he chooses to identify as a human being with a Black dad.

When Lovie Smith got fired in Houston, three became two. And as we wait for the remaining hires to be made, there isn’t a track record or feeling that anything will be done in the next few weeks to greatly improve these dismal numbers. We’re at a point in which the league, the owners, and fans are fine with having a Black man be their quarterback — but not their coach.

Over the years, the trajectory for Black quarterbacks has steadily risen in a way that hasn’t happened for Black coaches. By the time we reach kickoff, it will mean that eight Black quarterbacks have started in the Super Bowl. It’s a direct result of evolution over the years. What was started by Fritz Pollard, Briscoe, and Williams led the way for Michael Vick to be the first Black quarterback drafted No. 1 and for Steve McNair to be the first Black quarterback to win MVP — which was followed by Mahomes and Lamar Jackson.

Progress on the field, not on the sidelines

This type of progress isn’t something we’ve seen with Black coaches, though. At roughly this point last year, there were only two Black head coaches in the league — Mike Tomlin in Pittsburgh and David Culley in Houston. As we know, Culley would get fired after one season by the Texans and would get replaced by Smith, another Black coach that would be fired after a lone year on the job. Brian Flores’ class-action lawsuit (which was joined by Ray Horton and Steve Wilks) is still hovering over the league. But, you wouldn’t know it the way that Wilks wasn’t able to keep his interim tag — which is a death sentence for Black coaches — with the Carolina Panthers despite doing a wonderful job.

In 2000, Dennis Green (Minnesota) and Dungy (Tampa) were the only two Black full-time head coaches in the NFL. Twenty-three years later, we’re in the same place, but worse. The XFL is just weeks away from rebooting and their eight-team league already has four Black head coaches. It’s a jarring stat that embodies just how big this problem is, despite what Todd Bowles thinks.

“I think the minute you guys stop making a big deal about it, everybody else will as well,” one of the two Black coaches in the league had the audacity to say earlier in the season.

In less than two weeks, a league that’s majority Black will make history when two Black quarterbacks play in a game that will feature entertainment before the game and during halftime from Black performers in a month that’s dedicated to recognizing the contributions to what Black people have made to this country. It will be a joyous occasion.

However, while you’re enjoying the game, I beg of you to ask one question to the company you’ll keep on that day. “If the NFL, America and the world can accept all this Blackness, then why won’t they accept Black coaches?” And while you’re waiting for people to answer that question, realize that “End Racism” was etched on the field all season. 

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