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Chelsea's Frank Lampard, left, scored the winner from a penalty against United on Tuesday. Matt Dunham / AP Photo
Chelsea's Frank Lampard, left, scored the winner from a penalty against United on Tuesday. Matt Dunham / AP Photo

The grip of the Big Four of Premier League is not for granted

Results between the Premier League's traditional dominant teams are key to titles.

For the past decade, the Premier League has been dominated by the "Big Four". Chelsea, Manchester United, Arsenal and Liverpool have monopolised the Champions League positions - first to fourth - to such an extent that since 2000/01 they have filled 35 of the 40 qualifying places.

Last season marked progress for the league's other contenders, with Tottenham Hotspur claiming fourth, Manchester City fifth and Liverpool seventh. For the previous four seasons, the Big Four had claimed all the top-four slots.

This season promises to another that breaks the Big Four's grip on the Champions League.

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Also: Reality check for falling star Phil Brown
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However, it is fair to say titles are still decided by games between those four teams.

In that case - we are set for an intriguing run-in, with United (1st, played 28, points 60) leading Arsenal (2nd, played 27, points 56).

Chelsea are 12 points behind United with a game in hand. Logic says that is too much of a gap, and they also have to deal with City in third and Spurs in fifth.

However, they could play a big part in the destination of the trophy. The might already have done.

The 2-1 win over United on Tuesday night continued their dominance against Sir Alex Ferguson's team at home. United have lost six and drawn three of their last nine games at Stamford Bridge.

Suddenly, it looks like advantage Arsenal: United have to travel to Liverpool, on Sunday, and Arsenal, while they also have to play Chelsea at home and are likely to drop more points from those games.

However, a look at the records between the Big Four gives United hope. Liverpool are the relative whipping boys of the quartet. In the last 10 seasons - United have won 12, lost six, drawn once against them. But it is anyone's guess as to the outcome of the other fixtures: United lead Arsenal eight wins to five, but trail Chelsea five wins to nine.

One thing is sure: United should not expect any favours from Liverpool when they visit Arsenal on April 17 - they have won just three of their last 19 league games against the Gunners and have not won at Arsenal since 2000.

 

twoods@thenational.ae

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