February 26, 2018 / 3:19 AM / 19 days ago

Soccer: Four English clubs vying for three Champions League spots

LONDON (Reuters) - Manchester City beat Arsenal 3-0 to win the League Cup final at Wembley on Sunday but when the teams meet again in London on Thursday it is unlikely the outcome will have any significant bearing on key Premier League issues.

Soccer Football - Carabao Cup Final - Arsenal vs Manchester City - Wembley Stadium, London, Britain - February 25, 2018 Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger and Manchester City manager Pep Guardiola REUTERS/Darren Staples

The most optimistic supporters among the challenging pack cannot seriously expect City’s 13-point lead at the top of the table to be overhauled in the remaining 10 games.

And even if Arsenal were to reverse Sunday’s result at The Emirates, they would still be seven points adrift of arch-rivals Tottenham Hotspur, who are in the fourth Champions League spot.

Only by winning the Europa League, in which they face AC Milan in the last 16, do Arsene Wenger’s team look likely to return to Europe’s most prestigious competition next season.

Like City they have a game in hand after playing in the League Cup final, but have 45 points and now lie eight points behind fifth-placed Chelsea plus another two adrift of Spurs.

Increasingly it looks as though the latter pair, plus second-placed Manchester United and Liverpool in third are fighting for the three places behind Pep Guardiola’s City.

Soccer Football - Premier League - Liverpool vs West Ham United - Anfield, Liverpool, Britain - February 24, 2018 Liverpool manager Juergen Klopp celebrates after the match REUTERS/Peter Powell

Those five teams are all competing in the Champions League this season — United as Europa League winners — but one of them seems almost certain to miss out.

Tottenham were the big winners this weekend, a 1-0 victory in Sunday’s London derby at lowly Crystal Palace secured thanks to a typical late goal by the irrepressible Harry Kane.

That took them back into the four Champions League places and they stayed there after Chelsea lost 2-1 at United.

Jose Mourinho’s United side moved back into second place, still too far off the pace to have any realistic hope of catching City, who they play away early in April.

They do, however, have a two-point lead over high-scoring Liverpool, and have home advantage against them on March 10.

Arsenal appear to be playing for pride and for the future of long-serving Frenchman Wenger, who has been at the club for 22 years and has just over a year left on his contract.

Reporting by Steve Tongue; Editing by Ken Ferris

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