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With nine games left Arsenal are the favourites to win the Premiership, with Manchester United and Newcastle United chasing in2nd and 3rd place.

Arsenal, current English champions, have combined fine displays of fluid football with competitive tenacity and have found contributions from star striker Thierry Henry particularly significant.

However, the threat posed by Manchester United should not be ignored as Sir Alex Ferguson gears his troops for the run in to the end of the season.

Ferguson has a habit of getting the best out of his players but he still has to make trips away to Newcastle and Arsenal before the season is out.

Newcastle United, whose frontline of Shearer and Bellamy has proved very successful, although reluctant to consider themselves title challengers, could hit top form just in time to give Arsenal a serious run, not to mention Manchester United.

All three top teams look fairly healthy in theChampion’s League with Man United favourite to qualify for the quarter-finals. Arsenal, although second in their group, have a tough last game at the Mestalla, in Valencia, and Newcastle, currently 3rd, still have to go to the San Siro to face Inter.

Everton are surprise contenders for the fourth Champion’s League place and are battling for points to stay above fifth-place Chelsea, although the London club may prove to have sufficient class to win the long-term battle.

Charlton, Blackburn, Tottenham and Southhampton are all in with a cchance of a UEFA Cup spot, while seventh placed Liverpool have already managed to claim a place in Europe by winning the Worthington Cup.

Liverpool have also managed to progress to the UEFA Cup quarter-finals, an achievement which masks what has been by their standards, a disappointing season.

At the bottom of the table, the appointment of Howard Wilkinson has done little to change Sunderland’s fortunes and they along with West Brom will have to struggle hard if they want to avoid relegation.

A recent spate of good form, notwithstanding petulant displays from Paulo Di Canio, sees West Ham level on points with Bolton, although the hammers remain in the relegation zone. Both sides possess good players but just above them, the more coherent and industrious Birmingham remain six points ahead and are fighting hard not to be dragged into the battle.

Ahead of the Blues are Leeds and Aston Villa both of whom have probably done enough to avooid relegation, though neither will be happy with their performances this season.

Arsenal must be favourites to retain the FA Cup, although they face a potential stumbling block in the form of Chelsea, whilst Southampton and Leeds will be hoping that they can open up a route to Europe by progressing in the competition.

LEAGUE STANDINGS

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