Rafael Benitez’s Chelsea side took a big step towards securing a Champions League spot next season with a comfortable 2-0 victory over Swansea City at Stamford Bridge.
With Tottenham dropping points at Wigan the day before, the Blues took control of their destiny by brushing aside a Swansea outfit who have somewhat lacked urgency since their cup victory.
With Spurs playing before their rivals, a win at Wigan would have propelled them back into the top four, set down a marker and shifted the pressure back to Chelsea and Arsenal.
Tottenham, however, weren’t the only team with something to play for in this match, with home side Wigan needing the points to maintain their Premier League status.
AVB’s men took an early lead but were unable to take the points as the game finished 2-2 - a result that hardly aided either in their respective causes.
With Tottenham dropping points, north London rivals Arsenal had the chance to extend the gap over their neighbours as they welcomed champions Manchester United to the Emirates.
With Sir Alex Ferguson’s side hunting down Chelsea’s record points total, it proved a tough encounter for the Gunners.
Like Spurs, an early lead was cancelled out and the game finished a draw, 1-1.
The result leaves it ‘as you were’ for both Tottenham and Arsenal in the fight to finish in the top four. Whilst on paper, a draw with the Champions isn’t a bad result, Arsene Wenger and his side will rue the missed chance to extend their lead over Spurs.
It all sets up a tense finale to the season. Chelsea have played their way back into strong contention and took control on a weekend where their rivals could not.
Draws for both Spurs and Arsenal mean they will need a near impeccable run in, points-wise, to secure the Champions League football they crave.
Tottenham’s game in hand on Arsenal could prove vital, but it is Spurs who face the more difficult run in.
Arsenal are still to face recently relegated QPR and battling Wigan and Newcastle. Fairly straight forward games on paper, but as the Premier League regularly shows, there are rarely any easy fixtures.
Tottenham have Southampton, Stoke and Sunderland to play, but their most crucial game is the game in hand they hold over Arsenal, against top four rivals Chelsea.
This could turn out to be one of the most meaningful games of the season as the winners would surely be taking a huge step toward a top four spot.
How pleasing would it be for previous Chelsea manager Andre Villas-Boas to go back the club, from which he was so unceremoniously dismissed, and qualify at their expense?
Chelsea’s run-in is hardly plain sailing, either. With the current European champions still to face Manchester United and Everton and potentially two more games in the Europa League.
It all sets up an enthralling end to the season, which is sure to go to the death.
How do you see it finishing?
Top four prediction: Manchester United, Manchester City, Chelsea, Arsenal
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