Arsenal, Spurs and Chelsea in Champions League shoot-out
The three London clubs are fighting for the final two Champions League spots
IT'S AS you were at the top of the Premier League as both Manchester clubs won over the weekend to cement their grip on first and second places. But if the title race is proving to be a procession for United, the battle for the final two Champions League spots is hotting up, with Arsenal, Spurs and Chelsea fighting it out for third and fourth. There's a similar situation at the bottom, where Wigan, Aston Villa and Reading are separated by just one point as they try to escape the relegation zone.
And after another hectic weekend of league action there was, as ever, plenty to talk about.
NERVY ARSENAL NOT OUT OF THE WOODS
Well, they got the result they wanted, but few Arsenal fans would have left the Emirates thinking that the club were over their recent wobble after they scraped past Aston Villa 2-1, thanks to two goals from Santi Cazorla. The players looked as nervous as turkeys at Christmas as they sought to avoid a third straight home defeat. "Confidence is our best friend and lack of confidence is our worst enemy," said Arsene Wenger afterwards. Next up for the Gunners are Spurs at the weekend; they will need to find some belief for that crucial clash.
CHELSEA FIGHTING FOR FOURTH
Chelsea's defeat by Manchester City at the Etihad leaves them facing a fight to hold on to a top four spot. If Spurs beat West Ham tonight, they will leapfrog the Blues and fifth-placed Arsenal are now only two points behind Chelsea, meaning that the final few weeks of the season should be pretty tense in the capital.
MANCINI KEEPS THE FAITH
After watching his side beat Chelsea on Sunday, Manchester City manager Roberto Mancini insisted that he had not given up on the title, even though his team are still 12 points behind leaders Manchester United with 11 games to go. City keeper Joe Hart was the centre of attention after he gave away a penalty and then saved Frank Lampard's spot kick. The save seemed to inspire City who went on to win 2-0, thanks to goals from Yaya Toure and Carlos Tevez.
RAFAEL RAISES THE ROOF
Rafael da Silva scored one of the goals of the season to get Manchester United rolling against QPR on Saturday. The Brazilian full-back latched onto a bouncing ball outside the QPR box and unleashed a rocket that was still rising when it hit the back of the net. There was nothing Julio Cesar could do to keep it out, although the Brazilian keeper did his best to hold the champions-elect at bay, making one absolutely outstanding save to deny Robin van Persie. But when Ryan Giggs made the game safe late on it simply confirmed what everyone knew before the game; that United will win the league and QPR will be relegated.
STICKY END FOR THE TOFFEES
Everton's hopes of Champions League football next season are all but over after Grant Holt scored a late winner for Norwich at Carrow Road. The three minutes of added time had been played when the forward struck to earn the Canaries all three points, much to the disgust of Toffees' boss David Moyes. His side had been leading with six minutes to go, before new boy Kei Kamara equalised and Holt added insult to injury time.
FRENCH DAY PAYS OFF FOR NEWCASTLE
Newcastle moved six points clear of the drop zone and up to 14th place in the table with victory over relegation rivals Southampton on Sunday. The win elevated the Magpies above the relegation scrap, suggesting that Alan Pardew's side have turned the corner. Afterwards, he paid tribute to the club's marketing team who helped dissipate some of the tension around the fixture by making it "French Day" at St James's Park in honour of Newcastle's ten French players.