Huge call made in Champions League battle as Aston Villa and Tottenham face pivotal games

A pivotal weekend in the race for Champions League qualification is being predicted as Aston Villa, Tottenham and Manchester United all play key Premier League matches.

Villa, fresh from their Europa Conference League success over Lille, go to title-chasing Arsenal, while Spurs face a tricky trip to St James’ Park to play Newcastle United.

Erik ten Hag’s Red Devils are already huge outsiders to make the top four, sitting 11 points further back that Villa and Tottenham, but a trip to Bournemouth could finally put paid to any outside hopes.

And with that in mind, BBC pundit Chris Sutton has made what could be a decisive call in the race for Champions League football, forecasting a Villa defeat at the Emirates while Spurs win at Newcastle to open up a three-point lead with a game in hand on Unai Emery’s team as the finishing line hives into view.

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As for United, Sutton reckons they could lose on the south coast as Bournemouth seal a league double following their 3-0 success at Old Trafford in December.

In his weekly predictions column for BBC Sport, the former Blackburn, Norwich and Celtic striker says of Sunday’s 4.30pm kick-off in the capital: “This is another tricky game for the Gunners with former boss Unai Emery returning to the Emirates. Aston Villa beat them before Christmas and they are very dangerous coming forward.

“Villa have definitely got a goal in them, but I don't think they are going to outscore Arsenal. There is too much at stake now for Mikel Arteta's side, and the Premier League leaders have too much to lose.”

He is predicting a 3-1 victory for the Gunners, but claims their north London rivals, Spurs, will haver already heaped huge pressure on Emery and Co.

Tottenham are in action at Newcastle on Saturday lunchtime, and he says: “What a game this will be. I was at Newcastle's 4-3 win over West Ham at the end of March and I am expecting a few goals this time too.

“I didn't see Newcastle's win at Fulham last week coming, but it was a great result and it means they are looking up the table now, with their sights set on sixth place.

“Tottenham's target is to finish fourth and they won't settle for a point here. It is going to be very close but I have got a feeling they will edge it.” He is forecasting a 3-2 away success.

As for United, Sutton is tipping a 2-1 home win, adding: “Erik ten Hag claims United should have won their past three games - against Brentford, Chelsea and Liverpool, which I think is based on the fact they were ahead each time and could not see it out, but it leaves me wondering which matches he is watching.

“If you look at the Liverpool game as a whole, then they got absolutely battered. Brentford had stacks of chances too and you could argue United were lucky to get back into the game against Chelsea in the first place, when Moises Caicedo helped them out with a poor backpass.

“Bournemouth were brilliant when they won 3-0 at Old Trafford, so can they do the double over United? I think they will.

“I have had problems getting United scores right because they have got some excellent individual players who keep digging them out of trouble but, as we have seen, they can't rely on that happening in every game.”

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