Top-four battle heats up for Premier League's big spenders

The intensifying battle for Champions League places takes centre stage in the Premier League this weekend as Liverpool hosts Tottenham.

Published : Feb 02, 2018 09:47 IST

Tottenham ran out 2-0 winner against Manchester United on Wednesday.
Tottenham ran out 2-0 winner against Manchester United on Wednesday.

Tottenham ran out 2-0 winner against Manchester United on Wednesday.


The intensifying battle for Champions League places takes centre stage in the Premier League this weekend as Liverpool hosts Tottenham, while Manchester United and Chelsea seek to recover from damaging defeats.

Just five points now separate United in second from Spurs in fifth, with the riches and prestige of a place in the Champions League for next season fuelling a record £430 million ($611 million, 492 million euros) splurge in the January transfer window.

Arsenal sit a distant sixth, six points behind its north London rival, provoking an uncharacteristically busy window of comings and goings at the Emirates.

Premier League smashes January transfer window record

Top four contenders at a crossroads

Philippe Coutinho's 160-million-euro move to Barcelona meant Liverpool ended January in the black despite splashing out a world-record £75 million for a defender on Southampton's Virgil van Dijk.

Premier League's top 10 teams after game week 25.

Despite holding its own in this season's Champions League and domestically, Liverpool and Spurs are not even in the top 10 for net spend on transfers in the Premier League this season.

However, the steady progress achieved by both clubs under Jurgen Klopp and Mauricio Pochettino will be threatened if they miss out on next season's Champions League, making Sunday's clash at Anfield all the more vital.

A dominant 2-0 victory over Manchester United on Wednesday underlined Spurs' return to form and a win at Anfield would move them ahead of their host in the table.

Back-to-back defeats to Swansea City and West Bromwich Albion raised questions over Liverpool's decision not to invest in a direct replacement for Coutinho but they bounced back to see off Huddersfield 3-0 in midweek and remain unbeaten in the league at Anfield this season.

Aubameyang's bow

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Former Borussia Dortmund duo Henrikh Mkhitaryan and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang will turn out for Arsenal against Everton.

A forward line partnering new recruits Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang and Henrikh Mkhitaryan with Mesut Ozil, who has signed a new long-term deal, means the pessimism of a damaging 3-1 defeat at Swansea on Tuesday was quickly forgotten.

However, with Spurs and City to follow Everton's visit to the Emirates, Arsene Wenger will need the former Dortmund duo to quickly re-establish their partnership to keep in touch with the other challengers.

The Gunners could also quickly come to rue their winter clearout as Theo Walcott returns to the Emirates fresh from scoring twice to secure Everton's first win of 2018 against Leicester on Wednesday.

Not so merry Mahrez

Leicester was hampered at Goodison Park by the absence of Riyad Mahrez, who reportedly handed in a transfer request due to City's interest in a bid to force his way out of the club.

Mahrez also submitted a transfer request at the end of last season, but Foxes boss Claude Puel believes the Algerian can be cheered up in time to face Swansea on Saturday.

"All the players and staff will help him to come back with a smile and to enjoy his football," said the Frenchman.

Chopping City down to size

City's chase of Mahrez began after Leroy Sane was ruled out for at least six weeks with ankle ligament damage.

Brahim Diaz of Manchester City is consoled by Alexander Zinchenko and Nicolas Otamendi after receiving a tackle during the match against West Brom.

Pep Guardiola's call for referees to protect players from dangerous challenges fell on deaf ears as Kevin De Bruyne and Brahim Diaz escaped from lunges by James McLean and Matt Phillips in Wednesday's routine 3-0 win over West Bromwich Albion as City moved 15 points clear at the top.

"I think, as the coach says, the referees have to do their job and if it's a red card they have to give the red card," said City midfielder Bernardo Silva. "They are not doing that over the last few months."

City could be in for another bruising encounter when it travels to face a Burnley side seeking its first win of the year.

Fixtures (1500 GMT unless stated)


Burnley v Manchester City (1230 GMT), Bournemouth v Stoke, Brighton v West Ham, Leicester v Swansea, Manchester United v Huddersfield, West Brom v Southampton, Arsenal v Everton (1730 GMT)


Crystal Palace v Newcastle United (1415 GMT), Liverpool v Tottenham (1630 GMT)


Watford v Chelsea (2000)

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