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Man U keen on Chelsea points mark

Ferguson urges club to maintain intensity

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Manchester United may have clinched the Premier League title on Monday with a 3-0 win at home to Aston Villa, but with Chelsea's all-time points record still attainable, Red Devils manager Sir Alex Ferguson has warned his players about "falling into the trap" of complacency.

Of course, it wouldn't be realistic to expect United to approach their remaining four matches with the same intensity they displayed against Villa, and Arsenal's Champions League prospects could benefit as a result.

The Gunners will host the champions-elect on Sunday, and after giving United a guard of honour prior to kickoff will set about trying to consolidate third-place in the table with an important win at the Emirates.

Although, depending on results from today and early Sunday, they could find themselves as low as fifth by the time Phil Dowd blows the final whistle in North London.

Tottenham Hotspur, presently fifth in the standings but with a game in hand on Arsenal--who they trail by just two points, will today face desperate, relegation-threatened Wigan at DW Stadium and, with a win, would leapfrog both Arsenal and Chelsea going into Sunday.

Chelsea, which sits fourth, is only a single point back of the Gunners and have also played a match fewer. They'll host Swansea an hour before Arsenal-United kicks off.

With the two Manchester sides having nailed down the Premier League's top two places, only a pair Champions League berths remains for the London trio. And needless to say, the one who misses out on Europe's most prestigious -- and lucrative -- club competition will find themselves in a world of financial hurt ahead of the 2013-14 campaign.

The title may have already been settled, but a handful of England's biggest clubs still have a lot to play for. Following is a quick handicap of each of their top-four chances.

 

The case for Arsenal

In third place with four matches to play, the Gunners are looking to keep what they already have.

Their schedule will be relatively straightforward after United's visit (they face Queens Park Rangers, Wigan and Newcastle down the stretch), but they'll have to play three of those matches without striker Olivier Giroud, whose 11 Premier League goals have him second in club scoring to Santi Cazorla.

Without a natural replacement, it's likely Theo Walcott will be used up top, and with only a single goal from their last two matches Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger will be looking for increased offensive contributions from throughout his squad.

But even if they get the goals they need, Arsenal's chances for Champions League football are dependent on both Spurs and Chelsea dropping points. Hardly a comfortable position to be in.

The case for Chelsea

Of the three London teams, Chelsea has the most difficult schedule.

Not only must they face both Manchester United and Tottenham Hotspur in the league (in addition to Swansea, Aston Villa and a competitive Everton side), but they're also involved in the Europa League semifinals and will host Swiss champions Basel ahead of their trip to Old Trafford next weekend.

Then there's the general dislike for interim manager Rafael Benitez and a disappointing run of form that has seen the Blues win just five of their 10 Premier League matches since the end of January.

That said, Chelsea are far better positioned to endure a year without Champions League football than either Arsenal or Spurs.

German outlet Bild is reporting Jose Mourinho has already agreed to a return to Stamford Bridge, and Colombian striker Radamel Falcao is likely on his way as well.

The case for Tottenham Hotspur

For Spurs, a second Champions League spot in three seasons will likely come down to their May 8 showdown with Chelsea at Stamford Bridge. Win it, and they'll probably qualify. Of the three sides in contention, they have by far the easiest schedule (Wigan, Southampton, Stoke and Sunderland, in addition to the Blues).

They'll also be buoyed by last Sunday's come-from-behind win over Manchester City that saw them score three goals in seven minutes.

Manager Andre Villas-Boas' squad against Wigan will likely be identical to the one that beat last year's champions, and with Gareth Bale back in the fold you get the feeling Spurs will find the necessary offence to win at least four of their remaining five matches.

jerradpeters@gmail.com Twitter @jerradpeters

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition April 27, 2013 C7

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