Tottenham beat Blackburn 2-0 to move into fourth place in English soccer’s Premier League above Newcastle and Chelsea, which routed Queens Park Rangers 6-1.
Rafael Van der Vaart poked in a rebound in front of goal in the 22nd minute and Kyle Walker curled in a free kick in the 75th minute to seal Tottenham’s victory yesterday. Blackburn, which is in the relegation zone, failed to get a shot on goal.
Tottenham and Newcastle have 62 points, with Spurs ahead on goal difference. Arsenal, which drew 1-1 at Stoke two days ago, is in third place with 66 points and has played one more game than Tottenham, Newcastle and Chelsea, which has 61 points in sixth place.
“It’s gonna be close,” Tottenham coach Harry Redknapp said of the race to finish in the top four. “We’ll see how we go. If we win the games no one can finish above us, that’s the top and bottom of it.”
Fourth place in the Premier League would normally guarantee a playoff-round berth for next season’s Champions League, though Chelsea could claim that spot if it wins Europe’s elite club competition next month and finishes outside the top four.
League leader Manchester United visits Manchester City tonight in a match that could decide the title. Defending champion United has a three-point lead with 83 points, while City has a better goal difference.
At Stamford Bridge yesterday, Fernando Torres scored three goals as Chelsea boosted its chances of Champions League soccer next season and deepened QPR’s relegation concerns.
Daniel Sturridge gave Chelsea a first-minute lead with a right-foot shot from outside the penalty area. Blues captain John Terry made it 2-0 in the 13th minute, heading in from a corner.
Torres, who’d previously scored only eight goals this season, got the third in the 19th minute before making it 4-0 soon afterwards following a defensive mix-up. Juan Mata’s pass set up his third score, and his first hat trick for Chelsea, in the 64th minute.
On a rainswept, soggy playing surface, Florent Malouda slammed the ball in from close range for the Blues’ sixth goal 10 minutes from the end before Djibril Cisse scored a consolation for the visiting team.
Struggle for Fourth
Chelsea’s victory came five days after it advanced to the Champions League final against Bayern Munich with a 3-2 aggregate win over Barcelona. The Blues need to concentrate on their Premier League performance, Torres said.
“We need to finish in the top four,” Torres, a 50 million-pound ($81 million) signing from Liverpool, told Sky Sports. “To be honest I feel I’m not playing as well as before but I’m scoring goals and that’s the more important thing for a striker.”
QPR, battling to stay in the top division after promotion last year, has won only three away games and yesterday’s rout damages the west London team’s goal difference.
The league scrapped the pre-match handshake between the teams amid legal concerns over the situation between Terry and QPR’s Anton Ferdinand.
Terry was charged with a racially aggravated public order offense for alleged comments in a QPR-Chelsea game last October. He denies wrongdoing. The Football Association also canceled the handshake before an F.A. Cup game between the teams in January.
As well as the Champions League final, the Blues are in the domestic F.A. Cup final, playing Liverpool on May 5.
In the Premier League two days ago, Everton beat Fulham 4-0, Wigan defeated Newcastle by the same score, and Liverpool won 3-0 at Norwich. Arsenal drew 1-1 at Stoke and the scores also finished level between Sunderland and Bolton (2-2), Swansea and Wolves (4-4), and West Brom and Aston Villa (0-0).
At the bottom of the standings, already relegated Wolves are last with 24 points, behind Blackburn (31), Bolton and QPR (34) and Wigan and Aston Villa (37).