Tottenham Hotspur, Manchester City and Liverpool. These are the three teams in contention for that prized fourth spot this season. With City sat in fourth at the moment with one and four points over Spurs and Liverpool respectively, they are looking like the favourites to clinch that last Champions League place, particularly as they have a game in hand over Redknapp’s Tottenham and two games in hand over Kenny’s Liverpool.
With the calibre of players at their disposal, it is surely only a matter of time before Man City enjoy some success. Now, if I had £200 million to spend, I reckon I could probably get a pretty good football team, but what we are seeing lately from the Baby Blues is cooperation. Whether that is thanks to Mancini or just a result of time remains open for argument, but there is no doubt that the likes of David Silva, Yaya Toure, Carlos Tevez and, to an extent, even Mario Balotelli are starting to gel.
Granted, Balotelli struggles in the training bib department, but once his carer has sorted it out for him, there is no doubt that this boy can play football. He’s moody, lazy and arrogant, but there are those little touches and cheeky bits of skill that are just too hard to resist. I think what people in this country forget is how young this guy is; he’s 20 years old. Someone of that age receiving that amount of media attention is inevitably going to see their ego expand, and Balotelli’s was big enough whilst he was in Italy. It will take a year or two, but he will begin to calm down and adapt to the style of the English Premiership and, should he stay at City, I truly believe he will be their future. You see Mario, it’s not just yourself that loves you.
Anyway, back to the battle for Champions League football. City are the bookies’ favourites, but boy do I love an underdog. And that underdog comes in the loveable, Shar-Pei form of Harry Redknapp. His Tottenham side have thrived in the Champions League this season, proving that they are more than fit for the European stage. I don’t think that anyone deserves it more than Tottenham; sure, City have the big names and Liverpool have the history, but Tottenham are a side that make the most of what they’ve got. Unlike Manchester City, they wouldn’t be buying their place, they would be earning it. Apologies City fans, but you know it’s true. Now, they are just one point behind, but have played one more game. One slip up from the Mancs could open the door for Spurs to lurch through. Also, I have to admit that I wouldn’t mind seeing Gareth Bale destroy the likes of Maicon at the San Siro again next season – my most memorable football moment this season, up there with Roo’s overhead kick.
Now, from Redknapp the Shar-Pei to the Rottweiler that is Kenny Dalglish. What a hero this man is. Since his arrival, he has turned Liverpool’s season upside down. There was a stage this season where Gary Lineker, Alan Shearer and Alan Hanson were sat on the Match of the Day sofas discussing the possibility of Liverpool being relegated, particularly with them losing to the likes of Blackpool, Stoke and Blackburn. We all knew that this was never going to happen, but I don’t think anyone would have said they would be in contention for a Champions League place with four games to go, and yet they are. There would have to be some seriously outlandish results for them to clinch it, but stranger things have happened. They’re in great form and morale is high off the back of the 5-0 drubbing that they dealt out to Birmingham, so who knows?
So, we have a two-horse race, with a third trailing behind waiting for the front-runners to crash into the final fence. Manchester City are, much to my dismay, looking as though they will be playing Champions League football next year, but Tottenham are snapping at their heels, waiting for the opportunity that they need to grasp European football for the second year running. Will Mancini secure City’s long-awaited fourth place dream? Will Tottenham finish this season as emphatically as last? Or will Dalglish perform a miracle and rescue Liverpool’s season, announcing the club as the long lost brother of ‘the big four’? Time will tell, less than a month of it in fact.