Chelsea actually stand three games away from making fourth place academic, although the Blues would need to beat Barcelona over two legs before defeating Bayern or Barca in the final to ensure their place at the Champions League high table.
Instead it is Tottenham who look more likely to be finishing in the top four and the north London side are first up on Saturday.
Sunderland v Tottenham 12:45 BST
Tottenham Hotspur are in pole position when it comes to qualifying for next season’s Champions League, with Spurs beating Swansea 3-1 on Sunday to keep Chelsea and Newcastle five points at bay.
Harry Redknapp’s side know that a couple more wins will practically put them out of reach, with the team creating a hatful of chances against the Swans and they are slight favourites at 13/10 (Paddy Power free bets) to claim victory at the Stadium of Light, just as they did against Sunderland at White Hart Lane.
The two teams clashed shortly after Martin O’Neill was installed as manager, although there wasn’t much between the sides when Tottenham won 1-0 and the Black Cats come into this game full of confidence after being the first side to avoid defeat at the City of Manchester Stadium this season.
Sunderland are a massive 23/10 (Bet Victor £50 free bets) to claim victory and that looks a big price about a side that have Stephane Sessegnon back and pulling the strings in midfield for the Wearside team. Nicklas Bendtner will also be out to silence the visiting supporters and the Arsenal loanee is a 9/1 chance to score the first goal of the game.
Emmanuel Adebayor made a timely return to the scoresheet against the Swans with a brace and he will out to outdo Bendtner, with no love lost between the two strikers who nearly came to blows during a north London derby.
Bolton v Fulham 15:00 BST
The bookmakers are struggling to split the two teams at the Reebok Stadium on Saturday, although one must surely favour Bolton Wanderers based on recent form.
While nobody would have wished to see the frightening scenes at White Hart Lane involving Fabrice Muamba, the whole affair seems to have brought the Bolton squad closer together and Owen Coyle’s team are now 16th in the table with a chance to put some daylight between themselves and the bottom three.
Wanderers are available at 17/10 (William Hill free £25 bet) to claim victory and you can ignore their home stats for the season when you consider that the Trotters have won three of their last four including victories over QPR and Blackburn at the Reebok Stadium.
Both of these wins were by a 2-1 scoreline and odds of 10/1 (Betfred) seem pretty generous about the same thing happening, with Fulham struggling to get many points on the road which has been the story for several seasons.
The Cottagers’ supporters must be getting tired of travelling long distances and witnessing underwhelming performances although Martin Jol’s side were unlucky to lose 1-0 at Old Trafford in their last game and followed this up with a 2-1 win against Norwich.
The visitors are a 17/10 chance (Boylesports bookmaker) to claim what would be their third away win of the campaign although a draw seems more reasonably priced considering that Fulham have managed to do this five times.
Clint Dempsey has been outstanding for the west London side this season and could play as a striker if Pavel Pogrebnyak fails a fitness test, with Under 2.5 Goals making appeal at even money.
Chelsea v Wigan Athletic 15:00 BST
It was always going to be awkward for Chelsea against Benfica on Wednesday, with the west London side trying to protect their lead and book a place in the Champions League semi final, something that they successfully managed to do.
Roberto di Matteo must now focus the team’s mind away from Barcelona and instead try to catch either Arsenal or Tottenham in the Premier League, with both London rivals five points better off with seven games remaining.
Saturday’s clash against the Latics is a must-win contest and the bookies offer a best price of 3/10 (Bet Victor free bets) about Chelsea winning the match against a team that are enjoying a resurgence as they bid to complete their customary great escape.
Wigan’s recent victories over Liverpool and Stoke has made staying up a real possibility and this is a match that they can afford to lose, leaving them with six remaining games to accumulate more points than three other teams at the foot of the table.
Even so, Roberto Martinez won’t consider this a bad time to be playing a side coming down from the euphoria of a Champions League success and you can get a whopping 12/1 (Blue Square free bets) that the Lancashire side claim yet another scalp.
The 5/1 about the draw is sorely tempting when you consider the visitors have lost just one of the last six matches and it’s a result that Wigan would take ahead of the game, with Victor Moses looking sharp in front of goal at the moment.
Chelsea may rest several of the players that featured against Benfica and Didier Drogba will surely start this match and the Ivorian looks a good bet at 4/1 to score the first goal of this contest.
Liverpool v Aston Villa 15:00 BST
According to former player John Aldridge, Liverpool FC are a club in crisis at the moment, with the ex-striker claiming he is embarrassed to be associated with the Merseyside outfit at the moment.
These public comments won’t have gone down too well with former manager Kenny Dalglish at Anfield, who has called for the players to put aside the disappointment of recent results and focus on getting back to winning ways.
Everything seemed to be rosy in the Liverpool garden after wins against Everton and Stoke, although three straight defeats against QPR, Wigan and Newcastle mean that the Reds are closer to the relegation zone than Manchester United.
They have a very winnable home match on Saturday and odds of 9/20 (Sportingbet) are available about a home victory, something which would be just their 6th win at Anfield all season.
Dalglish was unhappy with Andy Carroll’s reaction to being substituted at St James’ Park although the striker did look sharp during that match and is an 11/2 chance (bet365 free bets) to score the first of this match, with Luis Suarez the 4/1 favourite.
Aston Villa could yet be sucked into a relegation dogfight which is the last thing the Midlands club need considering they are without their captain Stiliyan Petrov who is fighting against leukemia right now.
Alex McLeish’s team are 15th in the table and just five points clear of the relegation zone although they do have a game in hand on the teams below them, albeit against Bolton.
What the Scot would give for three points in this match which would keep them well clear of trouble and the visitors are 8/1 (Boylesports) to follow in the footsteps of Wigan and claim victory at Anfield.
Gabby Agbonlahor has just been made captain of the Midlands side and the Brummie is a 12/1 chance with bet365 to score the first goal of this game, although we could see a Liverpool backlash and the home team are 6/5 to lead at half-time and full-time.
Norwich City v Everton 15:00 BST
Everton have spent a good deal of the season sitting below the Canaries although the Merseyside club are enjoying a typically decent second half to the campaign which has seen them climb to seventh in the table.
David Moyes’ team are one of the form teams in the division, having recently booked their place in the FA Cup semi-finals and the squad will be buzzing going into this match as they look to keep the winning run going before that Wembley showdown with Liverpool.
The Toffees are a 6/4 chance (Paddy Power £100 free bet) to win at Carrow Road, having won their last three including a 2-0 victory at the Liberty Stadium, although it should be noted that Everton have only managed 5 away wins from 15 matches on the road this term.
Even so, they have won their last three by a 2-0 scoreline and you can get 11/1 (Coral bookmaker) that they keep yet another clean sheet and score a brace against a Norwich side who have also accumulated enough points to stay in the Premier League.
Paul Lambert’s side are 12th in the table and they don’t lose too many at home, with a 2-1 win over Wolves in their last home game seeing the Canaries come from behind to effectively cement their place in the top flight for another season.
However, it is just one win in seven and this game looks ripe for Nikica Jelavic to get back on the goal trail for Everton with the former Rangers man a 6/1 chance to score the first goal.
West Brom v Blackburn 15:00 BST
West Brom seem to have been hovering in 14th place for most of the season and the Baggies’ poor home form means that it might not be until the final couple of matches that their place in the Premier League is confirmed for another season.
Roy Hodgson’s team succumbed to their ninth home defeat of the season when losing 3-1 against Newcastle a fortnight ago and followed this up with a 2-0 defeat at Everton last weekend which means they are only eight points above the relegation zone with seven games left.
Blackburn are one of the teams at the bottom and will be aiming to close the gap on Saturday, with Steve Kean’s men looking a big price at 31/10 (Bet Victor free bets) to claim victory at The Hawthorns considering they came desperately close to taking a point off Manchester United on Monday.
Yakubu and Junior Hoilett teamed up to good effect against the Red Devils and the Nigerian is an 8/1 chance (Stan James) to score the first goal of this game, with the Baggies having lost their way since beating Chelsea at home.
In fairness, the home reverse against Newcastle was the only game that will have really disappointed Hodgson and some will consider them a big price at even money (Paddy Power £100 free bets) to beat a side that have only won twice on the road all term.
West Brom could do with Peter Odemwingie getting back among the goals rather than scrapping with goalkeeper Ben Foster and the Nigerian is an 11/2 poke (Coral bookmaker) beat compatriot Yakubu to the scoresheet.
Stoke City v Wolves 17:30 BST
We should know better than to write any team off for Premier League relegation considering that Wigan have worked their way out of trouble on several occasions this term.
Even so, the plight of Wolves looks pretty bleak considering they have just 22 points on the board after 31 games played. The sacking of Mick McCarthy is looking more and more like a mistake and Saturday’s home reverse against Bolton saw Roger Johnson and Wayne Hennessey nearly come to blows.
Can a Staffordshire derby mark a turning point for Wanderers? The answer is probably not, considering that the only example of fighting spirit (and a point) since Terry Connor took charge has been a 2-2 draw at St James’ Park where the visitors came from two goals down.
Wolves are a 5/1 chance (Bet Victor free bets) to win at the Britannia Stadium and bolster their survival hopes and they are going to be supported by thousands of visiting supporters, although this fixture is not what the Black Country side need right now.
Stoke are a tough team to play against when you are scrapping for survival and the Potters will be looking to surpass that magical 40-point mark in this contest, having secured recent home wins against Swansea and Norwich before taking a point off Manchester City.
Many will be lapping up the 4/6 (Betfred) about Tony Pulis’ side and the home supporters will be urging Peter Crouch to shoot on sight following his amazing volley against City which saw the former England man acrobatically score from outside the area. He’s a 5/1 poke to score first in this game.
Another England hopeful on the pitch is Matt Jarvis, who has stood out for Wolves in recent weeks despite the team’s poor results and the winger scored again versus Bolton last weekend.