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The Race for The Champions League Places In Europe

European Leagues are now in the final straight of the season as the race for the important secondary positions hots up. While the Premier League is the only one of the big five that has had a compelling battle for first, there are still some crucial placings to cement in La Liga, Serie A, the Bundesliga, and Ligue One for Champions League qualification.

In England, squeaky bum time, as Sir Alex Ferguson once put it, is between reigning champions Manchester City, Liverpool and Arsenal. All three are a surefire bet for the first three European spots in UEFA’s richest football tournament. The battle for the fourth remaining place is between Unai Emery’s Aston Villa and Ange Postecoglou’s Tottenham.

The smart money favors Aston Villa, who recently took down former league leaders Arsenal with a clinical and resilient display at the Emirates and are the only English representatives left in Europe. Such football predictions are tough though as Tottenham have been veering wildly from good results to poor after a storming start where they won eight out of the first ten fixtures. Recent heavy losses to Fulham and Newcastle point to a side that peaked too soon and is now sliding at a critical point. Spurs also have a much harder run-in, playing all of the top three.

As England’s normally reliable participants have crashed out of UEFA’s two main competitions in a miserable season for the EPL on the continent, this has opened the door for Italian and German clubs to claim the fifth spot for Champions League qualification. Fresh from eliminating Europa League favourites Liverpool, Atalanta are pushing, but their league form has been more erratic, and they may have to win UEFA’s second-tier competition to claim a UCL place.

The hot form team in Serie A are Roma, a completely different package under the leadership of Daniele de Rossi. De Rossi replaced Jose Mourinho in January and has galvanized the team with an impressive run of results that has included lifting a depressed side from ninth to a UCL placing and a confirmed extension of his contract into next season. There is huge momentum too with a Europa League semi-final place. Anything seems possible again for the 2018 Champions League semi-finalists.

The other remarkable rise to prominence in Italy goes to Bologna who were relegated to Serie B just a decade ago. The team from the Emilia-Romagna region are now sitting pretty after winning eight out of nine matches from the beginning of February to the start of April. Now they need to hold on in the final straight to secure a huge improvement on their ninth position last season. Under the superb Thiago Motta, Bologna are a stable bet to keep their noses in front for the new format of Old Big Ears in 2024/25.

Bayer Leverkusen streaked away with the Bundesliga after an incredible unbeaten run under Xabi Alonso and are storming through towards Dublin in the Europa. Bayern also knocked out Arsenal and this almost certainly means that Germany will be the grateful recipients of five CL spots. The current top five of Leverkusen, Munich, Stuttgart, Leipzig, and Dortmund are stone-clad certainties to remain there as sixth-placed Frankfurt are not within reach. Stuttgart have had a magnificent season and are a good wager to claim third spot behind an uninspired Bayern. This is thanks to the predatory instincts of Serhou Guirassy who is averaging more than a goal a game in the league.

La Liga suffered a blow with the elimination of Barcelona and Atletico Madrid in the quarterfinals to PSG and Dortmund respectively. Spain’s top tier will have to settle for four berths, although the outstanding rise of Girona in one of those places is the fairytale of the season. Relegated in 2019, the team from Catalonia have been powered by the goals of Artem Dovby. Although their form has tailed off recently, they ought to be safe. Diego Simeone’s Atletico, who succumbed so meekly to Dortmund in Germany, will be most worried as they look over the shoulder to see Copa Del Rey finalists Athletic Club challenging for Europe.

In Ligue One, PSG have the title sewn up, but Monaco stabilized from three damaging home losses across December, January and February and look a strong candidate to push Brest for second place. Lille’s fourth place also looks odds on, fuelled by a strong European showing that was just minutes away from a semi-final in the Conference League.

As the football season comes to an end, the finale is always fuelled by the prestige of being in Europe’s most glamorous competition. UEFA wants more teams to showcase their talents in the new incarnation of the Champions League. This will make betting on the run-in even more focused, especially when most champions across Europe’s top five are a done deal.

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