Premier League top four race: Arsenal, Liverpool, Manchester United and Manchester City's remaining fixtures

Who has the easier run-in, what does each team need to do and who will make it?

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The Independent Football

Liverpool's failure to break down Southampton and Arsenal's victory over Manchester United has added a smidgen of intrigue to a top-four race that was threatening to become something of a formality.

Jürgen Klopp's side hit a bump in the road in their search for Champions League football by drawing 0-0 with Claude Puel's Saints on Sunday, James Milner missing a crucial penalty.

Arsenal are now their greatest threat, though Arsène Wenger's men still have much to do if they intend to stage a late-season surge. Their opponents on Sunday, United, have their eyes on a different route.

Manchester City, meanwhile, remain in control of their own destiny after registering an emphatic win over Crystal Palace. Pep Guardiola's sights are on third place and an automatic spot in the group stages of European football's elite club competition.

So, how do the run-ins of the four teams compare and who is most likely to come out on top?

Premier League table

As of 8 May

Liverpool’s remaining fixtures

Klopp’s side are currently third but their place in the top four is more precarious than that of Manchester City.

Guardiola's side can surpass them and move third if they at least match Liverpool's remaining results and win their game in hand.

A trip to a reinvigorated West Ham United outfit awaits and it is exactly the type of tricky fixture in which Klopp’s men have struggled this season.

Their saving grace is a plum final day home fixture against Middlesbrough, who are likely to have been relegated by that pont. It is a home banker on paper, but nothing is certain when it comes to this Liverpool team, as we have seen all season.

Manchester City’s remaining fixtures

City are the most comfortable of all the contenders, thanks mainly to a run of inviting home fixtures.

After Saturday’s goal difference-boosting 5-0 victory over Crystal Palace come visits from Leicester City and West Bromwich Albion, who play at the Etihad over the course of the next week.

Wins in both games should all but assure Pep Guardiola’s men of a place in the Champions League playoffs, and then simply avoiding defeat on the final day should guarantee them an automatic spot.

City’s last game of the season comes at Vicarage Road, where a comfortably safe Watford will have little but pride to play for.

Manchester United’s remaining fixtures

Jose Mourinho has all but given up on qualifying for next season’s Champions League through the domestic route and is now putting all his eggs into a Europa League-shaped basket.

One look at the fixture list shows why. United’s run-in begins with two away trips, the first at Tottenham Hotspur, unbeaten at home all season. Realistically, Mourinho’s men need a win from that game to keep any lingering hope of a top-four finish alive.

United then travel down to the south coast to meet Southampton before welcoming Crystal Palace to Old Trafford, where they have shown a tendency to struggle against the league’s lesser lights.

United’s prioritisation of the Europa League may be controversial, but those who disagree with it cannot deny it makes cold, logical sense. Why go all out to win three challenging domestic fixtures and perhaps still come up short in the race for fourth?

In Europe, they only need to avoid defeat in one game then win another to guarantee what, by then, should be an automatic place in the Champions League group stages.

Arsenal’s remaining fixtures

This is where things get interesting for the neutral, even if the chances of Arsenal typically staging a late surge towards fourth remain remote.

After Sunday’s win over United, Arsene Wenger’s side have 63 points and four games remaining, starting with a trip to Southampton on Wednesday night.

Their bête noire, Stoke City away from home, comes next, with basement club Sunderland visiting the Emirates three days later. Everton are their guests on the final day.

If Arsenal win all four games, they will end on 75 points. That would be enough to slip into fourth if Liverpool and perhaps City slip up. In any case, Wenger's side cannot afford to slip up.

How do the run-ins compare?

Remaining fixtures, with current league position of opponents. Home fixtures are in bold. The darker the red, the more difficult the opponent.

All four contenders will be comfortable favourites in their home games, so it is likely to come down to how they negotiate their remaining away fixtures.

If Liverpool leave the London Stadium with maximum points, they will be confident of finishing no lower than fourth. Arsenal, meanwhile, need wins against both Stoke and Southampton to keep their faint hopes alive.

Overall, City's run-in seems to be the most straight-forward, while United's is the most difficult.

Who will come out on top?

Our money is with the status quo; Manchester City and Liverpool.

City, especially, seem all but assured of a top-four spot. Their run-in is simply too kind and they will be disappointed to finish any lower than third.

Klopp's men may be limping over the line, but United have essentially counted themselves out of the race and Arsenal need to be nothing short of perfect. Liverpool will scrape it.