With Tottenham extending the gap between themselves and North London rivals Arsenal, and Exeter continuing their promotion push, we’re looking at the week’s biggest Market Movers.
A week really is a long time in football isn’t it? Just when you thought Arsenal might finally secure a top-four place for the first time since 2016, they lose at Crystal Palace and at home to Brighton, while Tottenham record a 5-1 win over Newcastle and a 4-0 win at Aston Villa.
Dejan Kulusevski has been a revelation since his arrival, with nine G/A in 11 games. Son Heung-min and Harry Kane are both fit and firing again, and with only one midweek game – against Arsenal of all sides – to fit in between now and the end of the season, Spurs suddenly look well placed to finish fourth.
After a disastrous start to the season under Nuno Espirito Santo, Spurs were out to 7/1 for a top-four finish before his dismissal. Antonio Conte’s impact was instant, but with fixtures piling up, his players were falling short of the demands required.
With an eight-game unbeaten run to start his tenure, Conte’s side were into 5/2 for a top-four finish, shortening to 11/8 before losing three on the bounce when they drifted out to 5/1.
However with just nine games in the last seven weeks, Conte’s getting a tune out of his players once more, scoring at will and looking defensively formidable, and they’re now as short as 4/11 to secure Champions League football.
QPR had such a good end to last season that I thought they could be top six challengers this time around with Mark Warburton at the helm.
I was feeling pretty smug after Andre Gray’s stunning 90th-minute volley at Derby in late November when the Super Hoops went odds-on for the first time this season in that market.
Two months on and a Lyndon Dykes double against Reading took the Loftus Road side into 4/11 with a 4-0 victory taking them two points behind 2nd spot with a game in hand. A play-off challenge, at the very least, looked on the cards.
Unfortunately, the wheels have come off the QPR play-off bus big time, with the defeat at Deepdale making it seven defeats in the last eight and an unlikely 40/1 for a Top 6 finish.
Inevitably, there were fingers pointed at Warburton, but, and this is an opinion of an outsider, I feel a little bit sorry for a manager that seemingly over-achieved earlier in the campaign and whose squad has been hit by a crippling injury list, including a ridiculous amount in the goalkeeping department.
Either way, my QPR Top 6 slip is in the bin.
One side is going to feel very hard done by in a few weeks’ time to miss out on the League One play-offs. A points total in the mid-70s is usually enough to secure a play-off berth; this season 80 might not be good enough.
With that in mind, Sheffield Wednesday will have been gutted not to make it three wins in a row at Bolton on Saturday, with MJ Williams’ 90th-minute equaliser halting the momentum somewhat.
But there’s plenty of reasons for optimism at Hillsborough right now. Despite the form of MK Dons, Plymouth, Sunderland, even Wycombe, the Owls look good for a top-six finish at 1/6, having been 11/8 at the end of January following a third defeat in four games.
They’ve only lost twice since, though, picking up more points than high-flying Wigan and Rotherham in that period, and are2/1 for promotion.
Admittedly, their run-in isn’t the easiest, starting with a trip to form side MK Dons and with just one home game against already-relegated Crewe, but should they make the play-offs, they’ll be well fancied to go all the way.
Exeter were a double figure price for a Top 3 finish and 10/3 for the Top 7 after a slow start to their League Two campaign, with one win in their first six games, scoring just two goals.
But they now find themselves in pole position for the automatic spots after recording their third win on the trot making it one league defeat since New Year’s Day and 1/12 for the Top 3 and 1/1000 for a Top 7 finish.
Padraig Armond’s late header at Carlisle saw the Grecians cut into 6/1 for the title having been a 50/1 shot when going through a sticky spell of three defeats and a draw around Christmas time.
Their next four games see them host Colchester, Rochdale and Barrow, and should they fall into the play-offs, they have an opportunity to put down a marker in their final two games against potential opponents Northampton and Port Vale.
By Steve Freeth