Standing in a pub that is full of people and watching a medium-sized widescreen TV (at best) from about 20 yards away whilst trying to dodge those in front of you who annoyingly keep bobbing up and down while the game is going on (keep still for christ sake!) wasn't exactly the ideal way to consume the weekend's game with Birmingham.

For analytical purposes I can't really comment too much on individual performances, or indeed the team as a whole, as I was too far away to see who was on the ball at times and as a result have decided to look at the race for fourth as it currently stands.

A quick note on the game though; I may not have had the best view of proceedings but what I do know is there was alot of 'oooohhhh', 'aaahhhh' and 'ffffuccckk!' as Liverpool created an abundance of second half chances. I will see the action alot clearer later on during MOTD2 but from where I was standing Liverpool could have won that game comfortably by two or three goals atleast. Rafa Benitez will no doubt be slated for taking off Fernando Torres but in truth Liverpool only looked dangerous when David N'gog was introduced. People will point the finger at 'Torres would have scored them chances!', but Torres never got into the position for a chance in 65 minutes of play while N'gog created several in his short time on the field.

Anyway, moving on. Who will finish in the final Champions League spot? You're guess is about as good as mine at the moment with all four of the contenders doing their best to keep us all hooked, but I will do my best to point the finger at which club should finish there.

Manchester City

Let's start with the club currently holding the coverted fourth spot - Manchester City. You could argue the most pressure is on City to finish fourth. The owners have invested heavily and expect instant success, Mark Hughes was dismissed after a relatively steady beginning. One can only imagine Roberto Mancini will suffer the same fate if City don't finish fourth. After a shock home defeat to Everton Mancini's players have responded excellently with two comfortable wins against Wigan and Burnley, but two they were always expected to get.

The run-in

Four out of the six remaining games for Manchester City are at home, an advantage? Quite possibly as City have only lost one game at Eastlands all campaign with impressive wins against Chelsea and Arsenal (although they were both under Hughes). Twelve points would mean City definitly finish ahead of Liverpool. I can foresee them acheiving 11 points which wouldn't be bad considering they play Manchester United, Arsenal, Aston Villa and Tottenham. Although their only away game from the quartet is at the Emirates.

Remaining fixtures

Man City v Birmingham
Man City v Man Utd
Arsenal v Man City
Man City v Aston Villa
Man City v Spurs
West Ham v Man City

Tottenham Hotspur

Spurs were dislodged from fourth spot over the weekend after a surprise defeat to Sunderland. Unfortunately for Harry Redknapp and co. that game was certainly one of their 'easier' fixtures in the end of season run-in. Tottenham have played some sparkling football at times this season, most notably the 9-1 thrashing of Wigan, but have also failed to deliver in equal measures. Defeats at home to Stoke City and Wolves could prove costly and let's not forget Spurs have been here before and felt the pressure. Remember 2005/06 when a Tottenham win on the last day would have seen them claim Champions League football ahead of rivals Arsenal? Unfortunately for Spurs they buckled - away to West Ham, a team that had nothing to play for.

The run-in

Looking objectively there are only two games that Tottenham must see as 'bankers' in their final six games of the season. Games against Bolton (h) and Burnley (a) are simply must wins if they are to finish fourth. The four remaining games though are stinkers and Tottenham certainly have the toughest run-in of all four clubs involved. Their run-in is such that even nine points would be looked at as an achievement. Even more daunting is that in the reverse fixtures Tottenham lost all three games against Arsenal, Chelsea and Manchester United.

Remaining fixtures

Spurs v Arsenal
Spurs v Chelsea
Man Utd v Spurs
Spurs v Bolton
Man City v Spurs
Burnley v Spurs

Aston Villa

Villa's win at Bolton has just edged them into the race again after a disappointing recent spell. It's become cliche of Martin O'Neill's side but evidence shows his Villa team always finish poorly. Perhaps linked to the O'Neill's lack of rotation and squad depth? Two extended cup runs may also be to blame. Expectations are high in Birmingham though and after being defeated by Wigan at home on the opening day they were roundly boo'd off the field. But it's an idication of the terrific job O'Neill has done that the Villa fans expect so much.

The run-in

Despite their obligatory end-of-season fold you could make a case for Villa claiming atleast 15 points in their remaining games. However history tells us not to make too much of a case for the Villans at this stage. Nevertheless if the Villa players truely believe they can reach fourth spot and are unnerved by the prospect they may have an outside chance. Their next game is a big'un, win against Everton and there's reason to be optimistic if you're a Villa fan.

Remaining fixtures

Aston Villa v Everton
Portsmouth v Aston Villa
Hull City v Aston Villa
Aston Villa v Birmingham
Man City v Aston Villa
Aston Villa v Blackburn


The thing that worries me about Liverpool is that we haven't put a consistent run together all season long, a genuine string of wins. Rafa's teams historically finish well but this season has been different to any other I've previously witnessed and it's impossible to tell what could happen next. In our favour of course is Fernando Torres (barring today), who is in scintillating form just as Liverpool need him most.

The run-in

However, among the doom and gloom is Liverpool's remaining fixture list, it couldn't read much healthier. The Reds have struggled away from home all season but the two final games outside of Anfield are at Burnley and Hull City, need I say more? Two of the three remaining home games are against Fulham and West Ham. If there aren't 12 points up for grabs there then please shoot me. With Torres and Steven Gerrard on their game there is no reason to be particularly worried. Chelsea at home is the spanner in the works but I fancy Liverpool for that game behind a roaring Kop.

Remaining fixtures

Liverpool v Fulham
Liverpool v West Ham
Burnley v Liverpool
Liverpool v Chelsea
Hull City v Liverpool

The Verdict

It's impossible to call football, that's what keeps as all watching week in, week out. However, you cannot deny that Manchester City are in a strong position and they have the big name players with egotistical personalities who you feel could well handle the pressure from the expectant owners. I can't really say the same for Villa and Spurs, they've both done well this season but come the cut and thrust of the season I can see them falling at the final hurdle.

Liverpool probably need to win all of their five games, if they do I think they will finish fourth - City and Spurs' run-in is too much for them to win four to five games.

Ultimately I feel Manchester City will probably finish fourth, many believe that could be a cue for an Anfield exodus but I'd be surprised to see that. The main worry, as it has been for a while, will be the financial structure of the club. Without Champions League investment it's unlikely Liverpool are going to significantly strengthen next season unless Hicks and Gillett can finally sell-up to a suitable buyer.