Top-four spot still up for grabs

The Premier League’s self-styled ‘big four’ have dominated the race to win a Champions League spot in recent seasons, but Spurs ended the lock-out last term.

This time around, the north Londoners are again in the hunt for a top-four finish, having already reached the knockout stages of the Champions League.

Given that Manchester United, Chelsea and Arsenal appear to be challenging for the title, that leaves a number of clubs eyeing up fourth place.

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Manchester City are currently the side occupying fourth position, even though Roberto Mancini’s expensively-assembled squad have failed to impress on a number of occasions.

The Citizens have won only twice in their last seven league games and conceded a last-minute equaliser at Stoke City at the weekend, while they have problems finding the net despite a number of striking options.

Carlos Tevez has had to shoulder most of the burden and has responded with nine league goals already, but no other City player has more than two and rumours over Mancini’s future continue to do the rounds.

Tottenham seem to be in much ruder health, with Harry Redknapp getting the most out of his players once again.

They are just a point behind City, having grabbed a last-minute winner in their 2-1 weekend victory over Liverpool at White Hart Lane.

Gareth Bale has been grabbing the headlines with a string of top-class displays, while summer signing Rafael van der Vaart has adapted seamlessly to the demands of the English game.

There is still more to come as well, with Jermain Defoe only just back after injury and fellow striker Peter Crouch having netted just once in 15 league appearances so far this term.

Spurs’ win over Liverpool may have dealt a mortal blow to the Reds’ own Champions League hopes, with Roy Hodgson’s men already seven points adrift of City.

Hodgson has so far been unable to draw the best out of his squad and, with stalwarts Steven Gerrard and Jamie Carragher both currently sidelined by injury, the prospects of an upturn in form seem slim.

Star striker Fernando Torres has scored five league goals this season, but has been erratic in front of goal and is still a shadow of the player who has been the Reds’ key man in recent campaigns.

So, the Citizens and Spurs look to be the sides that will challenge for fourth place, but the likes of Bolton Wanderers and Sunderland may have one eye on causing a major upset in the coming months.