Manchester United, Liverpool and Arsenal all targeting Manchester City in second place

Michael Carrick, Chris Smalling, Brendan Rodgers and Arsene Wenger have all spoken about the possibility of overhauling the reigning champions

The teams immediately below Manchester City, who sit in second place in the Premier League table behind Chelsea, appear to be growing increasingly confident that the reigning champions can be overhauled.

Defeat to Burnley at the weekend for Manuel Pellegrini's side and wins for Arsenal, Manchester United and Liverpool has seen their points advantage narrowed to such a fine margin that the teams in third to fifth are talking openly about finishing as runners-up.

Manchester United duo Michael Carrick and Chris Smalling were in confident mood following their 3-0 win over top-four rivals Tottenham on Sunday.

“We have got to aim for that [second] because we are within touching distance now,” Carrick said. “You look at the table now and it is so tight. But I suppose we’ve really just got to look to next Sunday and the game at Liverpool. It is a big game for a lot of reasons and that is probably all we can focus on at the moment.”

Chris Smalling added: "Yes, I think we could (finish second), especially after City's result on Saturday.

"It is all very close. I think it's very open all the way up to second place and we will be aiming for that, especially when we are playing those teams coming up.

"We want Champions League football back here. It's a must. Fourth is the minimum but when it's there, second is a realistic target and if we keep on performing like that I don't see why we can't give it a good push."

 

Liverpool increased the pressure on the sides above them with victory over Swansea on Monday night. The win in Wales also means Brendan Rodgers' side will be in the top four by the end of the week if they beat United at Anfield on Sunday. But Rodgers was looking higher up the table than that after Jordan Henderson's freak goal secured three points at the Liberty Stadium.

"Everybody talks about fourth but it was the same last year - we want to do the best we can do and I think Manchester City's result at the weekend gives us an opportunity to finish second.

"Our growing maturity, and the run we are on and the confidence it is building, we can take that into the games that are left and see where it takes us."

It is Arsenal though that are in the best position to leap-frog the reigning champions. Speaking earlier this month when the Gunners were four points adrift of Manchester City, Wenger said the following.

"If you ask a team who is four points behind us, they will say it's realistic to try and catch us. Manchester City are four points in front of us so mathematically of course that is possible."

Arsenal are now just one point behind.

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Olivier Giroud celebrates scoring Arsenal’s opening goal against West Ham

 

But perhaps Wenger should be looking higher than that. Chelsea manager Jose Mourinho claimed the Gunners remained in the title race after seeing his side draw 1-1 with Southampton at Stamford Bridge on Sunday.

“Of course Arsenal are in the race," he said. "Our position is better than them, but both teams (Arsenal and Manchester City) are in the race. It’s not easy. Every match is difficult. But we are there. If someone had told me in August that, at the end of March, we’d be six points in front with a match in hand, I’d have signed for that immediately.”

So which teams will finish in the top four? Check out our guide to the contenders' form and fixtures heading into the final games of the season.

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