There’s now just under a week to go to the Premier League finale, and most of the big stuff is sorted.
Chelsea have won the title and Tottenham sewed up second with Sunday’s win over Manchester United.
Sunderland, Middlesborough and Hull have been relegated.
So what’s left?
The small matter of Champions League qualification.
Qualifying for the Champions League has a massive impact on any club that makes it, for two main reasons:
1) For a start, they get a load of cash for playing in the competition. The Champions League ‘pot’ amounts to €1.257bn, so it’s fair to say that most clubs want a slice of that.
2) Qualifying for the Champions League makes it far easier to attract players of the highest calibre to come and play for your club. The best players want to play in the best competitions, so if you want the best players you need to get in the best competition, aka the Champions League.
So it’s a pretty big deal, which is why the race for the Champions League places has always been a competition in its own right.
But with Chelsea and Tottenham snaffling the first two places, there’s only two more. So who’s going to get them? Let’s take a look at the contenders, and analyse their likelihood of finishing in the all important ‘top four’.
Jurgen Klopp’s side lie in third right now, with 73 points. Their final match is at home to Middlesborough, which if I were betting man I’d be backing the Reds to win, 100%.
Boro are already down and with Champions League football on the line, I’d be surprised to see Klopp fail to get his side a win at Anfield. Win and Champions League football is theirs.
Unlike Liverpool, City have two games left to play, and Pep Guardiola’s side are only one point behind the Reds. In other words, if City win both of their games, they’ll secure Champions League football.
City’s two games are against West Brom and Watford, and I can’t see anything but a City win in both of them. In other words, City have all but sewn up their Champions League place.
Ultimately, Arsenal are relying on either City or Liverpool to mess up. If Klopp and Guardiola both steer their teams to maximum points in their remaining games, then Arsenal will miss out, even if they win against both Sunderland and Everton, which is by no means a foregone conclusion. The Gunners only have an outside chance here, and I’m not looking favourably on their odds.
What’s going to happen?
No one knows, but for what it’s worth I think it’s unlikely that City won’t end up in the Champions League, but a frustrating draw or loss in the West Brom fixture is not beyond the realms of possibility.
The jury is still out on Liverpool, who’ve been inconsistent at best this year, but they do at least have their own future in their hands.
Arsenal’s best hope is a shock Boro win; it’s my view that if they don’t get that slice of lucky, it’s all over.
Only time will tell, but this mini competition keeps things exciting right to the last day.