Is Chelsea v West Brom as crucial to top four as North London derby?

Whilst all eyes will likely be on the North London derby this Sunday, West Brom’s trip to Stamford Bridge on Saturday could prove to be a decisive fixture in the landscape of the top four.

Tottenham Hotspur leap-frogged Chelsea into third place on Monday with their victory over West Ham as Gareth Bale’s 90th minute winner hit the back of the net at Upton Park.

Spurs now face Arsenal who can currently be found languishing in 5th place in the Premier League but are only on 2 points behind the Blues who lost to Manchester City 2-0 last Sunday.

Just our points separate the three teams with 11 games left to play as the jostling for the right to play Champions League football next season begins and ends. The top four could be look very different on Monday morning.

If Tottenham beat Arsenal, the table stays pretty much the same – the North London derby is undoubtedly a ‘six-pointer’ game and neither side can afford to lose, especially not the Gunners.

A draw at White Hart Lane, however, could see Chelsea and Spurs tied on points should the Blues beat 7th place West Brom at home. Chelsea’s far superior goal difference would put Tottenham back down into fourth and the table would appear the same as it did this time last week.

However, with all the commotion this week following Chelsea’s 2-0 victory over Middleborough in the FA Cup fifth round could and will likely have an impact on their performance this weekend.

It’s a home game, wouldn’t you know it, and the Stamford Bridge faithful will surely make their voices heard in reply to Rafael Benitez’ criticism of them in midweek. Chelsea have won just one of their last four league games and will be desperate to respond to their defeat at the Etihad.

However, West Brom are no push overs and they know if they win they go 6th and if they lose they could drop down to 9th if Liverpool and Swansea win their games against Wigan and Newcastle respectively.

West Brom beat Chelsea 2-1 back in November and they will believe they can do the double over the European champions. Why shouldn’t they? If the Blues lose and Arsenal beat Tottenham, Chelsea are in trouble.

Now that they’re out of the Champions League and into the Europa, they can’t afford to finish 6th this term – if they fall out of the top four, there may be no way back for them this time round.

You wouldn’t bet against that conclusion either – Arsenal have never finished outside the top four in Arsene Wenger’s 16-year tenure and I very much doubt they intend to start now. They can surely smell blood and they will be breathing down the Blues’ necks on Sunday if the Chelsea stutter at Stamford Bridge on Saturday.

They beat Spurs 5-2 at the Emirates back in November and they’ll be looking to put pressure on Tottenham to falter like they did last year.

It’s far to close for comfort and certainly too close to call but one thing’s for sure – one team in London is going to be very very grumpy on Monday morning.

image: © klobetime

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