Thursday, March 06, 2008

What will it take for UEFA qualification?

Much has been written of our recent slide in form and position in the table, and whilst it now is almost certain that the Champions League spot is well and truly gone, we are still in thick of the fight for a UEFA spot - but as we all know, the recent form that has seen us take 11 points from the past ten games has to be corrected starting from this weekend at Reading.

As stuttering as our past ten games have been, an even bigger illustration of how our season has gone has been the season split so far - with the first 14 games yielding 29 points, and the second 14 just 16, to leave us sat as we are in eighth spot on the outside looking in.

The race for the sixth spot is currently as follows (and I'm assuming that Liverpool and Everton are battling for fourth and fifth):

Aston Villa P28 Pts 48
Blackburn P28 Pts 45
City P28 Pts 45
Portsmouth P28 Pts 44

Now, our remaining ten games this season are as follows:

Reading (a)
Tottenham (h)
Bolton (a)
Birmingham (a)
Chelsea (h)
Sunderland (a)
Portsmouth (h)
Fulham (h)
Liverpool (a)
Middlesbrough (a)

Not the easiest set of fixtures on paper, given that apart from Tottenham and Middlesbrough, all the sides involved have something to play for.

With Tottenham's Carling Cup victory, this has resulted in a maximum of sixth spot qualifying for the UEFA Cup, and should either United or Chelsea fail to reach the FA Cup final, this will eliminate sixth spot as well which could make the UEFA race academic anyway.

One of the main problems that we have encountered this season is the raising of the bar in the level of play and points that the chasing pack are putting up - evidenced that in the majority of previous seasons our current record would see us placed far higher in the table, and the likes of Villa, Portsmouth and Blackburn have all progressed this season and become far more consistent.

A plus point for us is that whilst not being on top form of late, we are not losing, and also, we are not throwing away games to sides in the lower half - with our only defeat against the bottom half coming against Tottenham.

Given though that Villa currently hold the sixth spot and have 48 points, I believe a minimum of 66 points will be needed to secure sixth spot, resulting of course that we will need 21 points from our ten games.

Six wins and three draws from our final ten fixtures will see us achieve this, and winnable games I would say are Reading, Bolton, Birmingham, Sunderland, Portsmouth, Fulham and Middlesbrough so it is achieveable, but of late, we have drawn games that we were winning earlier in the campaign.

At this point it is difficult to see us putting together the consistent run needed, and I would say the next four games (Reading, Tottenham, Bolton and Birmingham) will ultimately make or break our European hopes this season.

If we can return three wins from these fixtures then the UEFA race is most definitely on.

vote it up!

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