Top four scrap will boil down to survival of the fittest

Posted March 05, 2018

If Diego Costa was still leading the line for Chelsea, I'd have fancied them to get something out of the game at United on Sunday and he was great at bullying (and occasionally cheating) his way to success.

Pep Guardiola's runaway leaders are 13 points clear of second-placed Manchester United and 15 points in front of Jurgen Klopp's Liverpool.

Former Arsenal midfielder Parlour believes Chelsea will ultimately miss out in the top-four race for the second time in the last three seasons.

"It still can't be classed as good enough, they had to win the league this year, but ultimately it is progression - but not good enough".

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"There is about a quarter of the season to go and all of the top five are still in this season's Champions League, so I very strongly doubt that the league placings will stay precisely as they are between now and the middle of May".

Having contributed to most of the Red Devils' season, the centre-back believes that they should always aim for the highest but that second place is the bare minimum. "But I think that's our (goal) first and foremost".

"I think obviously we've been second for quite a while and that needs to be our bare minimum", said Smalling, who was part of United's last title-winning team under Ferguson in 2013.

"It's a key position and you're not going to win anything without a top goalkeeper".

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They are now 2/7 (1.29) for a top four place together with Manchester United and Liverpool, who are both just 1/12 (1.08) to do likewise.

However, Chelsea No. 1 Thibaut Courtois insists they have the quality to rise up from fifth to grab a Champions League spot. He told Chelsea's website: "Chelsea now have to go on a run, hopefully starting with something, even a point against Man City at the weekend".

"The fact we get to play Liverpool at home as well I think is a big advantage".

Prior to facing United at Old Trafford, Liverpool must get through a home game against Newcastle, which will see Rafa Benitez return to Anfield as an opposing manager, and the home return leg of their Champions League Last 16 tie against Porto.

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