Chelsea and Liverpool face fight to qualify for Champions League on merit

David Moyes' West Ham has been a revelation this season but with the prize of a top-four finish tantalisingly close it suffered a fit of nerves last week in a 3-2 defeat at Newcastle.

Chelsea trying to ensure it qualify for next season's edition via a top-four finish in the Premier League.   -  AP

Having been major players in the doomed plan to wreck the Champions League this week, Chelsea and Liverpool face a crucial weekend trying to ensure it qualify for next season's edition via a top-four finish in the Premier League.

Chelsea edged back into the top four with a draw against Brighton and Hove Albion on Tuesday, but only by virtue of goal difference over West Ham United who it face on Saturday.

West Ham, was one of the most vocal clubs in criticising Chelsea, Liverpool, Manchester City, Manchester United, Tottenham Hotspur and Arsenal's decision to jump on board the European Super League ship, calling it an "attack on football".

Chelsea and the other five English renegades all made dramatic U-turns on Tuesday, effectively killing off the new 20-club league in which 15 founder members would have been guaranteed permanent residence.

The sense of outrage lingers, however, and West Ham will have acquired an army of new fans for its home clash with Chelsea -- those left bitter at the thought of a European closed shop replacing hard-earned rewards.

Newcastle United might also has a little added motivation when it travel to Anfield to play Liverpool a few hours earlier as it seek an unlikely victory that would surely banish its relegation fears.

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David Moyes' West Ham has been a revelation this season but with the prize of a top-four finish tantalisingly close it suffered a fit of nerves last week in a 3-2 defeat at Newcastle.

But the fact that Chelsea drew 0-0 draw with Brighton on Tuesday and Liverpool also failed to beat Leeds United on Monday let it off the hook and left the top-four battle on a knife edge with Chelsea and West Ham on 55 points and Liverpool on 53, all having six games remaining.

Tottenham Hotspur also has 53 after a 2-1 victory over Southampton on Wednesday, but only has five games left.

Tottenham face Manchester City in the League Cup final on Sunday with interim manager Ryan Mason in charge following Monday's sacking of Jose Mourinho.

It is a measure of West Ham's improvement that when it hosted Chelsea at an almost identical stage last season it was scrapping for its top-flight lives -- a 3-2 win proving the catalyst for its escape.

This time it is chasing a very different prize.

West Ham will most likely be missing the injured Declan Rice and Michail Antonio while Craig Dawson is suspended and there are doubts over Aaron Cresswell and Arthur Masuaku.

While that is not ideal, Chelsea may have one eye on its Champions League semi-final, first leg at Real Madrid three days later.

"We are in fourth place, it's in our hands. It's a tight race," Chelsea manager Thomas Tuchel said after the Brighton draw. "We've missed two opportunities in home matches and this worries me a little bit. But we have to keep going."

Leicester City (56 points) is in action against West Bromwich Albion later on Thursday when victory would cement it in third place. It then host Crystal Palace on Monday.

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In view of the events of this week, second-placed Manchester United will be happy that it do not have to face Leeds United in front of a baying Elland Road crowd on Saturday.

A sixth successive league win for United would make Champions League football next season a virtual certainty.

At the bottom, Burnley still has a six-point cushion over 18th-placed Fulham but three successive defeats have left it look nervously over its shoulders and they will be desperate to get something at Wolverhampton Wanderers on Sunday.