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Champions League race analysed: Hopes - and title - in Tottenham's hands with Aston Villa still in strong position

Tottenham are in control of their Champions League destiny after dismantling Aston Villa; Spurs have a game in hand and could overtake Unai Emery's side with a third straight win at Fulham on Saturday, live on Sky Sports; Ange Postecoglou's side will also have a huge say in title race

Ange Postecoglou is remaining grounded despite Tottenham basking in the afterglow of a significant victory in the race for Champions League qualification.

Last Sunday's clash at Villa Park pitted fourth against fifth, with hosts Aston Villa knowing victory would move them eight points clear in the last Premier League spot guaranteed a place at Europe's top table.

Spurs have a game in hand against Villa - away to Chelsea - while a third straight win over Fulham this weekend, live on Sky Sports, would see them overtake Unai Emery's side.

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Put to Postecoglou that it was quite the swing avoiding an eight-point gap and instead cutting Villa's advantage to two, he said: "I guess so. I said before the game that I still think there's a significant part of the season to go. There's still 11 games for us anyway.

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FREE TO WATCH: Highlights from Tottenham’s win against Aston Villa

"There's so many challenging games and every game will have meaning between now and the end of the year. Not just for us, for every team.

"There's a fight at the top, there's a fight down the bottom, there's a fight in the middle somewhere, so we're all fighting for something.

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Ange Postecoglou felt Tottenham made it difficult for Aston Villa as they comprehensively won 4-0 at Villa Park and said the Spurs fans should get excited as they push for a top four finish.

"If we had lost today, I don't think that would have discounted us from whatever other people put on as targets for us.

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"I've been consistent saying what's important for me is our growth as a team and I thought we saw that today. It was another positive step forward."

The quest to qualify for the Champions League is as tense as the three-way title race - further enhanced by the element of the unknown. For the first time, five Premier League teams could qualify through their league position.

Could it come down to goal difference?

Premier League table

Jamie Carragher said: "In the same way the race for the title could come down to goal difference, it could play a huge part in qualifying for the Champions League.

"We're not quite sure if it will be the 'top four' or the 'top five; but the eight-goal swing for Tottenham on Aston Villa at the weekend is huge."

Roy Keane added: "Tottenham have the confidence and the momentum. You've got people coming off the bench and scoring goals. Right now, there will be a feel-good factor around Spurs. It's a big result for them and a huge setback for Villa."

Where are Man Utd in Champions League race?

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FREE TO WATCH: Highlights from Manchester United's win against Everton

United bounced back from two defeats on the spin with victory over Everton last weekend. Despite facing 23 shots, Andre Onana kept an eighth clean sheet of the season. Only David Raya has kept more.

"At the very least you have to finish in the top five so it's hard to tell right now," continued Keane when asked to assess United's Champions League chances. "The main thing for Man Utd is to be consistent and to win football matches. They have to hope others slip up.

"I think it's bit of a stretch to catch Aston Villa in fourth so it'll come down to if that fifth place is available. They just have to keep their heads on and win matches."

Villa have to regroup

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Unai Emery reacted to Aston Villa’s 4-0 defeat to top four rivals Tottenham and felt John McGinn’s red card changed the game.

Villa have a Europa Conference League last-16 second leg at home to Ajax to contend with before returning to Premier League action at West Ham next weekend.

Emery wants to refocus on Thursday's match and move on from a second half he called a "very bad day in the office".

Micah Richards said: "Villa have been excellent this season and can regroup. They've had a few dodgy results but Unai Emery is doing a great job there.

"Ollie Watkins was a little but off it [against Tottenham]. You have to adjust your system to whoever you're playing against and we know Spurs are good down the wings."

Keane added: "It looked like that European game had an affect on them. They were five or 10 per cent off and that was enough to cause a bad result."

Could history repeat itself for Emery?

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On Monday Night Football Jamie Carragher and Ian Wright take a closer look at Tottenham's 4-0 win at Aston Villa and what it means for the race for the top four in the Premier League.

During Emery's first year as Arsenal boss, the Gunners lost out on the top four and were defeated in the Europa League final.

Carragher is fearful that Villa could suffer the same fate if the manager tinkers with his personnel and system as he did towards the end of the 2018/19 season.

"We have loved them this season, but it takes me a little bit back to Arsenal during his first full season," Carragher told Sky Sports.

"He gets a lot of criticism for that season, but actually for a lot of it, he was doing well. But towards the end of the season, because they were in the Europa League, they were in a great position in terms of the top four.

"We can see that with seven games of the season to go, and they got into the quarter-finals, the semi-finals and then the final of the Europa League. And they just miss out because Unai Emery started changing his team with personnel, change in formation.

"He did a lot of back threes and back fours at Arsenal, and in the end he ended up with nothing. They missed out on the Champions League and they lost the final to Chelsea. He's got to be really careful.

"I hope for Aston Villa's sake, it's a one-off in doing something different because of Tottenham and the teams who were playing Tottenham, and get back to being what Aston Villa have been about this season."

Merson: Fixtures give Villa big chance of top-four finish

Manchester United have the slight upper hand when it comes to the average league position of their remaining opposition. The average current league position of United's remaining opponents is 11.3, compared to 10.9 for Spurs and 8.3 for Aston Villa.

But in his latest column, Paul Merson believes Villa can wrestle back control ahead of a pivotal weekend.

Merson wrote: "That Tottenham game was one of Aston Villa's biggest games in years. And they got blown away.

"I've seen two teams destroy them in the last two weeks, Newcastle and Tottenham. All they did was press high and suffocate them. Under that sort of pressure they haven't had a clue or a different plan. That's worrying.

"But you'd take this situation if you were a Villa fan. It's amazing. They're dreaming but it's football and we're allowed to dream. They're still in it. Spurs still have to play Arsenal, Liverpool and Man City. If they get three points out of those games they've had a result. A Villa win at West Ham puts them back in a strong position."

Tottenham to be title kingmakers?

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The Super Sunday studio team debate where they think the Premier League trophy may end up with three teams fighting it out in one of the tightest-ever title races.

The challengers have similar run-ins, with four opponents - Aston Villa, Brighton, Tottenham and Wolves - common to all three. Liverpool have Villa away but Spurs and Brighton at home, the inverse of City and Arsenal's fixtures, while Wolves welcome Arsenal to Molineux but travel to City and Liverpool.

Tottenham's visit on the weekend of April 27 stands out among Arsenal's fixtures and Liverpool also face a derby, with a date to be confirmed for their trip to Everton. City have completed their engagements against local rivals Manchester United, who still have to play Liverpool and Arsenal at Old Trafford.

Liverpool have bottom club Sheffield United still to play, while Arsenal and City both host 18th-placed Luton. The average current league position of Arsenal's remaining opponents is 9.3, compared to 9.5 for City and 10.1 for Liverpool.

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