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Whites in mad Euro scramble

BOLTON Wanderers are locked in a nine-club shoot-out as the battle for Europe approaches a nerve-wracking climax.

Lancashire Telegraph: Bolton Evening News backpage: UEFA Cup place race hots up Bolton Evening News backpage: UEFA Cup place race hots up

Champion League contenders little more than a month ago, Sam Allardyce and his Whites have slipped down the Premiership table so dramatically that their chances of claiming a UEFA Cup place are now in serious jeopardy.

They remain confident, having ended a run of five successive defeats with a scoreless draw at West Brom on Monday night, and are banking on the fact that three of their four remaining games are at the Reebok, where they boast an impressive record.

But, having been in pole positon for much of the season, they are now in the position of having to come from behind after losing ground to Arsenal and Blackburn and being overtaken by Newcastle and Wigan in the last 48 hours.

They could also face fierce competition from West Ham, Charlton, Everton and even Middlesbrough as far down as 13th, as the scramble reaches fever pitch.

Wanderers, who went into Easter in seventh place, dropped to ninth last night after Wigan revived their UEFA Cup hopes with a 3-2 victory over Aston Villa.

And, regardless of the various permutations, they know for sure that they must improve on that if they are to stand any chance of qualifying for Europe for the second successive season.

As things stand today, Chelsea, Manchester United, Liverpool and Spurs will take the four Champions League places allocated to the Premiership. Arsenal and Blackburn fifth and sixth would qualify for the UEFA Cup through their Premiership positions and will be joined by the winners or runners-up in the FA Cup possibly West Ham or Middlesbrough since Chelsea and Liverpool, the other semi-finalists, will already have Champions League places.

The situation is complicated, however, by Middlesbrough also being in the UEFA Cup semi-final. Should they go on and win it, UEFA say they would make another place available, which would go to the seventh-placed Premiership finishers. If they also won the FA Cup, the club finishing as far down as eighth could be in the reckoning.

But in the event of Arsenal winning the Champions League and Spurs finishing fourth, Martin Jol's men would take one of the UEFA Cup places.

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