Top-four race analysed by experts after Liverpool close gap on Man Utd and Newcastle

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THE BIG DEBATE: Liverpool now find themselves just one point behind Man Utd and a further two behind Newcastle, with a month to go, can Jurgen Klopp’s men secure a top-four finish?

It’s a race that looked all but over just a matter of weeks ago.

While the battle for the title has always looked destined to go to the wire. The two teams joining Manchester City and Arsenal appeared to be fairly nailed on.

Manchester United and Newcastle have occupied those spots and both looked to have enough in the tank to see off any late competition. But from nowhere, Liverpool are back in the mix.

After months of indifferent performances, the Reds have strung together six wins in a row at the perfect time. And after Sunday saw both Man Utd and the Magpies drop points, the table has become intriguingly tight.

Liverpool are now just a point behind their rivals from Old Trafford and three behind Newcastle, albeit having played a game more. And lurking in the background, with even more games in hand sit Brighton.

So can the two Uniteds be reeled in before the end of the season? We asked our Mirror Football team.

John Cross
The battle for top four is becoming every bit as nervy as the scrap to avoid relegation.

I’m convinced Newcastle will make it because of the atmosphere and power at St James’s Park. Their fixtures are far from easy – they’ve got Brighton to come but should beat Leicester and win at Leeds.

But Manchester United will be looking over their shoulders because Liverpool are getting results just at a time when Erik ten Hag’s men have had a dip in form.

Logic tells you that United should do it as three of their four games are at Old Trafford and are against Wolves, Chelsea and Fulham.

But the nerves are there and now we’ll see United’s strength of character because you wouldn’t back against Liverpool to carry on winning.

I love watching Brighton. They’re a great story and can still cause a big threat because of their games in hand. But they’ve still got Arsenal, Manchester City and Newcastle to come. I think they’ll end up in the Europa League but what an achievement that is.

Andy Dunn
For all the Premier League ’s self-promotion and commercial riches, it is actually a damning indictment of the standards below Manchester City and Arsenal that Manchester United will qualify for the Champions League.

As we all saw in the game against West Ham – and in countless others – they really are not THAT good.

But the lame efforts of the likes of Liverpool and Spurs mean United, along with Newcastle, will finish in the top four.

Erik ten Hag’s side play four teams who have nothing to play for while Eddie Howe’s men should take care of business in the home matches against Brighton and Leicester City.

While their football is still not at its fluent best, Liverpool are likely to win their remaining three games and keep the third and fourth placed teams honest.

But Newcastle United will hold on to third spot and Manchester United will finish fourth.

Neil Moxley
It’s going to the wire. Liverpool have flown into the mix from absolutely nowhere after winning six on the spin.

The Reds have three games to go – two against relegation-threatened Leicester and Southampton and another at Fortress Anfield against Villa – you have to believe they’ll reach 71 points.

That means – as long as the goal difference remains healthy that Newcastle Utd have to win two and Manchester Utd three.

Taking the Toon first, despite their blip you’d expect them to land two victories out of their remaining four.

And Manchester United have three games at Old Trafford, all against beatable opposition.

You’d have to say that the two in possession of those remaining spots are in the box seats. But, I think the fight is likely to go to the final day.

Simon Bird
Newcastle was once a city of footballing over-reactions. A defeat like that against Arsenal could spark knee-jerk pessimism and gloom. That’s changed this during the last brilliant 15 months of winning, striving, improving and now challenging for the top four.

Newcastle are left bruised by the Gunners’ deserved 2-0 win at St James Park. But this was not a Toon side crumbling, looking shaky or bottling it. Far from it, Arsenal has to endure a storm of relentless attacks, chances missed, a heroic Ramsdale save and Granit Xhaka block, two hit posts, and a VAR penalty over-rule to win. Newcastle lost, but were far from bad.

They need seven points to stay in the top four if Liverpool win their last three games. Leeds away then Brighton and Leicester at home should be enough of an opportunity.

Warding off any jitters ahead after only their second defeat in ten games (including 8 wins), Eddie Howe said : “There is no time for negativity to creep into my, or the player’s, psychology. I don’t doubt our quality and character. There is no time to lose control emotionally. This can be a memorable season. Four games to go. It is in our hands. Offer us this position at the start of the season and we’d take it. Getting over the line is the challenge.”

They will do it.


Leeds (A) May, 13, 12.30pm.

Brighton (H) May, 18, 7.30pm.

Leicester (H) May, 22, 8.00pm.

Chelsea (A) May, 28, 4.30pm.

Man Utd

Wolves (H) May, 13, 3.00pm.

Bournemouth (A) May, 20, 3.00pm.

Chelsea (H) May, 25, 8.00pm

Fulham (H) May, 28, 4.30pm


Leicester (A) May, 15, 8.00pm.

Aston Villa (H) May, 20, 3.00pm

Southampton (A) May, 28, 4.30pm

Neil McLeman
The final two Champions League places are still for Newcastle and Manchester United to lose – and they won’t. Points in the bank become more important as a long season draws to an end.

In-form Liverpool will draw at Leicester and win their last two games to finish on 69 points – a fine late-season recovery but not quite enough. Tottenham had 71 points when they finished fourth last year (though the magic number was 67 and 66 the previous two years).

Brighton are the wildcard but will probably need to win five out of six games in the final three weeks of a gruelling campaign with three of the fixtures against Arsenal, Newcastle and Manchester City.

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