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Top Four prognosis: The fixtures that matter in the Premier League

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On Sunday we analyzed the run-ins for a bevy of clubs vying to avoid relegation from the Premier League to the Football League Championship.

Tonight, we deal in the race for the Top Four.

[ MORE: USMNT’s Johannsson’s clever Bremen goal ]

While we’re still including Man City despite its 13-point table advantage and status as an almost-certain PL title winner– the leaders still face every Top Four contender except Spurs — read on to see why a certain outsider stands a very good chance of renewing acquaintances with the Top Four.

Man City (69 pts)

Saturday – Leicester City (H)
Feb. 13 – Basel (A) – UCL
Feb. 19 – Wigan (A) – FA Cup
Feb. 25 – Arsenal – League Cup Final
March 1 – Arsenal (A)
March 4 – Chelsea (H)
March 7 – Basel (H)
March 12 – Stoke (A)
March 17 – FA Cup quarters – or – March 18 – Brighton (H)
March 31 – Everton (A)
April 3/4 – UCL quarters
April 7 – Manchester United (H)
April 10/11 – UCL quarters
April 14 – Spurs (A)
April 21 – FA Cup semis – or – Swansea City (H)
April 24/25 – UCL semis
April 28 – West Ham (A)
May 1/2 – UCL semis
May 5 – Huddersfield Town (H)
May 13 – Southampton (A)
May 19 – FA Cup final
May 26 – UCL final

The read: Those are a lot of matches. It’s difficult to imagine City will lose the league even if its injury problems grow, but the congestions is going to cause a lot of consternation for Guardiola as he chases four trophies.

Manchester United (56)

 

Sunday – Newcastle United (A)
Feb. 17 – Huddersfield Town (A) – FA Cup
Feb. 21 – Sevilla (A) – UCL
Feb. 25 – Chelsea (H)
March 5 – Crystal Palace (A)
March 10 – Liverpool (H)
March 13 – Sevilla (H)
March 17 – FA Cup quarters – or – March 18 – West Ham (A)
March 31 – Swansea City (H)
April 3/4 – UCL quarters
April 7 – Manchester City (A)
April 10/11 – UCL quarters
April 14 – West Brom (H)
April 21 – FA Cup semis – or – Bournemouth (A)
April 24/25 – UCL semis
April 28 – Arsenal (H)
May 1/2 – UCL semis
May 5 – Brighton (A)
May 13 – Watford (H)
May 19 – FA Cup final
May 26 – UCL final

The read: Arsenal, Liverpool, and Chelsea all have to come to Old Trafford, and the Manchester Derby wedged between a pair of possible Champions League quarterfinals doubles down on the intrigue at the Etihad Stadium. United should still finish second, though…

Liverpool (51)

Sunday – Southampton (A)
Feb. 14 – Porto (A) – UCL
Feb. 24 – West Ham (H)
March 3 – Newcastle (H)
March 6 – Porto (H)
March 10 – Manchester United (A)
March 17 – Watford (H)
March 31 – Crystal Palace (A)
April 3/4 – UCL quarters
April 7 – Everton (A)
April 10/11 – UCL quarters
April 14 – Bournemouth (H)
April 21 – West Brom (A) – moved if WBA makes FA Cup semis
April 24/25 – UCL semis
April 28 – Stoke City (H)
May 1/2 – UCL semis
May 5  – Chelsea (A)
May 13 – Brighton (H)
May 26 – UCL final

The read: Liverpool’s disappointing FA Cup exit sets itself up nicely in February as the only club with just three dates remaining, and the Reds don’t face three of their Top Four competitors. Could this give them enough ammunition to pass United? Absolutely.

Chelsea (50)

Feb. 12 – West Brom (H)
Feb. 16 – Hull City (H) – FA Cup
Feb. 20 – Barcelona (H) – UCL
Feb. 25 – Manchester United (A)
March 4 – Manchester City (A)
March 10 – Crystal Palace (H)
March 14 – Barcelona (A) – UCL
March 17 – FA Cup quarters – or – Burnley (A)
April 1 – Spurs (H)
April 3/4 – UCL quarters
April 7 – West Ham (H)
April 10/11 – UCL quarters
April 14 – Southampton (A)
April 21 – FA Cup semis – or – Huddersfield Town (H)
April 24/25 – UCL semis
April 28 – Swans (A)
May 1/2 – UCL semis
May 5 – Liverpool (H)
May 13 – Newcastle United (A)
May 19 – FA Cup final
May 26 – UCL final

The read: Chelsea’s chances of dropping out of the Top Four — at least temporarily — are very high, with four of five matches between Feb. 20 and March 14 coming against Barcelona (twice), Manchester United, and Manchester City. Spurs and Liverpool are also on the docket, but come to Stamford Bridge.

Tottenham Hotspur (49)

Wednesday – Newport County – FA Cup replay
Saturday – Arsenal (H)
Feb. 13 – Juventus (A) – UCL
Feb. 17 – Rochdale (A) – FA Cup (if still in competition)
Feb. 26 – Crystal Palace (A)
March 3 – Huddersfield Town (H)
March 7 – Juventus (H) – UCL
March 11 – Bournemouth (A)
March 16 – Newcastle (H) – or – March 17 – FA Cup quarters
April 1 – Chelsea (A)
April 3/4 – UCL quarters
April 7 – Stoke City (A)
April 10/11 – UCL quarters
April 14 – Manchester City (H)
April 21 – FA Cup semis – or – Brighton (A)
April 24/25 – UCL semis
April 28 – Watford (H)
May 1/2 – UCL semis
May 5 – West Brom (A)
May 13 – Leicester City (H)
May 19 – FA Cup final
May 26 – UCL final

The read: If Spurs get past Juve, they’ll face the following between April 1-14: a UCL quarterfinalist twice, Man City, Chelsea, and Stoke (One of those things is not like the others). The key will be emerging from that stretch relatively unscathed, because points are there for the taking the rest of the way.

Arsenal (45)

Feb. 10 – Spurs (A)
Feb. 15 – Ostersunds FK (A) – UEL
Feb. 22 – Ostersunds FK (H) – UEL
Feb. 25 – Manchester City – League Cup final
March 1 – Manchester City (H)
March 4 –  Brighton (A)
March 8 – UEL Round of 16
March 11 – Watford (H)
March 15 – UEL Round of 16
March 17 – Leicester City (A)
April 1 – Stoke City (H)
April 5 – UEL quarters
April 7 – Southampton (H)
April 12 – UEL quarters
April 14 – Newcastle United (A)
April 21 – West Ham (H)
April 26 – UEL semis
April 28 – Manchester United (A)
May 3 – UEL semis
May 5 – Burnley (H)
May 13 – Huddersfield Town (A)
May 19 – UEL final

The read: If Arsenal gets through the next three weeks in decent table position, beginning with Saturday’s away North London Derby, the Gunners may well wind up dueling with Liverpool, Chelsea, and Spurs for third (let alone fourth). As noted, the Reds schedule may push them out of the discussion, but if Alexis Sanchez leaving Arsenal has exorcised its demons, well… Arsenal and fourth have often gone together like red wine and pasta sauce.

Prediction

Based on all of the above, foolishly assuming no major injuries, and making lightning quick estimates:

  1. Man City — 96 points
  2. Manchester United — 87
  3. Liverpool — 85
  4. Spurs — 77
  5. Arsenal — 77
  6. Chelsea — 75

Rochdale 2-2 Tottenham: Davies stuns Spurs late

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A valiant effort from a League One side has rewarded the minnows with a replay set to be played at Wembley Stadium.

Tottenham Hotspur looked on its way towards the FA Cup sixth round on Sunday, but a late finish by Steven Davies gave Rochdale a 2-2 draw with the Premier League club at the Spotland Stadium.

[ MORE: Willian stars as Chelsea routs Hull in FA Cup ]

Harry Kane — who scored his 34th goal on the season in all competitions — converted from the penalty spot in the 88th minute, however, Davies had the final say deep into stoppage time to send the two sides towards a replay.

Ian Henderson’s finish in the 45th minute gave Rochdale a gift at the conclusion of the first stanza, after the hosts capitalized on a Spurs giveaway near midfield.

Meanwhile, Tottenham managed to level the match at 1-1 on the hour mark when Lucas Moura calmly slotted his close-range shot past goalkeeper Josh Lillis after a timely through ball from Moussa Sissoko picked out the former PSG man.

The visitors began pressing on in the second half, with Mauricio Pochettino‘s side having trailed at the halftime break.

The two sides will now meet on either Feb. 27 or 28 in the reverse fixture to decide which team advances. The winner will either meet Sheffield Wednesday or Swansea City in the quarterfinals.

Scholes: Pogba didn’t earn Man United spot in 2012 before Juve stint

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Paul Pogba‘s young career has been bright, but a former Manchester United legend suggests that there was a time where the Frenchman struggled to find his way at Old Trafford.

[ MORE: Man United draws Brighton, Chelsea gets Leicester in FA Cup quarters

The 24-year-old Pogba is now in his second stint with the Red Devils, after spending four seasons in Italy with giants Juventus.

Former United midfielder Paul Scholes says though that back in 2012 — prior to Pogba’s move to Juve — that the physical player wasn’t pleased with the fact that he wasn’t getting regular minutes with the first team.

“Ferguson wanted me initially to come back and coach the reserve team with Warren Joyce,” he told BT Sport. “I said in September I’d come back. So I started helping Joycey, and I was training with the reserves.

“I was training every day with the likes of Pogba, Lingard, all these types of players. They were a really good side and I was really enjoying training. I was getting fit, I felt great, and it got to December time and the team was struggling a bit.

“They had a load of injuries, no central midfield players were fit. They ended up playing Phil Jones and Fabio da Silva in central midfield in a game against Blackburn at Old Trafford.

“Funnily enough that was the end of Pogba, because he thought he should have been playing instead of them. But he wasn’t doing well enough.”

Scholes, who had retired briefly in 2011, came back after just six months for the Red Devils, and ended up playing a year-and-a-half more following the decision to end his playing career.

It is widely believed that Pogba’s decision to head to Juventus was largely due to the impact of Scholes in the United squad.

Video: Rochdale puts Tottenham on upset alert at the half

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It’s been a tremendous season for Ian Henderson, particularly in the FA Cup, and now he and his side are one half away from upsetting one of the Premier League giants.

Henderson’s finish on the brink of halftime has put League One side Rochdale up 1-0 against Tottenham Hotspur, as the minnows aim to become the first non-PL side to advance to the quarterfinals in this season’s tournament.

A sloppy giveaway from Spurs near midfield created the attack for the hosts, and allowed Rochdale to capitalize on one of its few attacks during the opening stanza.

Benfica routs Boavista 4-0 to take lead in Portugal

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LISBON, Portugal (AP) Benfica routed Boavista 4-0 to move ahead of FC Porto at the top of the Portuguese league on Saturday.

Benfica is one point in front of Porto, which has two games to play.

[ MORE: Man United gets Brighton in FA Cup quarters, Chelsea draws Leicester ]

Ruben Dias opened the scoring for Benfica in the 18th minute when he headed in a pass from Jardel.

Jardel added a goal just before halftime. Boavista’s Nuno Henrique also scored an own goal before Raul Jimenez polished off the victory in the 90th.

Jonas had a penalty saved by Boavista goalkeeper Vagner with the score 0-0.

Porto hosts Rio Ave on Sunday. Sporting Lisbon is three points behind Benfica before visiting Tondela on Monday.