Gunners in pole position to clinch final Champions League spot

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The destination of the Premier League title was decided long enough ago for the winners to have changed manager since clinching top spot.

But just a few places adrift of the table’s summit, the scrap for Champions League places has gone right to the wire.

North London duo Arsenal and Tottenham are the two teams battling it out for a top-four berth and both come up against opposition from the north-east as they seek to have the final say.

Currently in the driver’s seat, the Gunners are odds-on favourites at 3/4 with Paddy Power to pick up a crucial maximum haul at Newcastle, BetVIctor’s 21/5 outsiders, who have little to play for having confirmed their safety with a victory at QPR last time out.

The Magpies will nevertheless put up a fight but the performances in their last couple of home matches – a 3-0 derby reverse to Sunderland and a 6-0 mauling against Liverpool – don’t exactly point to an upset.

Moreover, Alan Pardew’s charges have managed just four goals in their last seven outings, a statistic that lends appeal to an away success ‘to nil’ at 9/4 (Skybet) while William Hill mark 17/2 against Arsene Wenger’s side notching twice without reply and Theo Walcott is 5/1 via BetVictor to break the deadlock on Tyneside.

For their part, Tottenham, a point adrift of their neighbours, are just 4/11 courtesy of Stan James to get the better of Sunderland at White Hart Lane and after they came from behind to beat Stoke on Sunday, it’s easy to see why Spurs are such emphatic favourites.

Bet365 quote Andre Villas-Boas’s troops at 3/1 to shade it by a one-goal margin, Ladbrokes offer 15/2 about the hosts registering a 1-0 triumph and as the visitors are short on attacking options, Stan James’s 13/10 for the contest to produce fewer than three goals seems a touch high.

Champions Manchester United said goodbye to Sir Alex Ferguson at Old Trafford last weekend but his final match in charge is against West Brom and he’s 5/6 (BetVictor) to end his reign with a victory at the Hawthorns, where Stan James price a 2-1 away win at 17/2.

Meanwhile, neighbours Manchester City, without a manager following the sacking of Roberto Mancini on Monday, can complete their disappointing campaign by getting the better of Norwich, an outcome bet365 chalk up at 4/11.

Another boss bidding farewell to his club is Everton’s David Moyes, whose departure is 4/6 (Skybet) to be marked by a defeat at Chelsea. However, the latter could be a touch fatigued following their Europa League exploits and it would be no surprise if punters backing the stalemate at BetVictor were rewarded at odds of 3/1.

At Anfield, bet365 post 10/3 against Daniel Sturridge following his impressive hat trick at Fulham with the opener as Liverpool (1/4, Paddy Power) entertain rock bottom QPR and FA Cup winners Wigan, now relegated, are a 13/5 chance at Ladbrokes to slip into the Championship meekly by drawing with Aston Villa at the DW Stadium.

Elsewhere, a trio of likely home wins completes the coupon. William Hill rate Southampton at 4/5 to see off Stoke, Stan James go 10/11 about Swansea getting the better of Fulham and West Ham are 7/10 via BetVictor as they host relegated Reading.

This weekend’s Heineken Cup final is an all-French affair as Clermont Auvergne and Toulon lock horns at Dublin’s Aviva Stadium and it’s Clermont, France’s regular season table toppers, who get the nod from bookies, Paddy Power pricing them at 8/13 to come out on top.

Johnny Wilkinson’s Toulon, who finished just a point behind their opponents domestically, are a 13/8 chance at BetVictor and as the two league matches between the pair were so close (a draw and a Clermont success by three), the underdogs are worth an interest in the handicaps at 10/11 (Skybet) when starting four points in front.

In the big televised Super League clashes this weekend, third-placed Warrington (2/9, Skybet) should have too much for Hull at the Halliwell Jones Stadium, where the Wolves are 4/5 via bet365 to cover the Black and Whites’ dozen-point advantage.

Meanwhile, on Monday, Leeds look to bounce back from their Challenge Cup exit as they entertain St Helens at Headingley. The Rhinos are 2/9 at Stan James to land maximum points and like Warrington they should overhaul the visitors’ 12-point cushion (10/11, Ladbrokes).

Finally, fans of a novelty bet can stick a couple of quid on the Eurovision circus on Saturday, although bookies report that the UK’s entry, performed by Bonnie Tyler, has attracted very few wagers and is subsequently available at 50/1 (Stan James).

Paddy Power make ‘Believe In Me’ 11/8 to end up between 21st and 26th in the final standings and it’s 8/1 courtesy of William Hill for the UK to finish in last place.

Denmark have been all the rage with punters in the lead up to Saturday’s event, in Stockholm, the Danes now odds-on at 4/5 with BetVictor.

Bet of the week: Arsenal to beat Newcastle ‘to nil’ – 9/4 (Skybet).

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