With the title race all over bar the shouting and QPR and Leicester pretty much relegated, there is a very real danger of this year’s Premier League season petering out in less than pulsating fashion.
It is never an ideal situation when the majority of clubs in the League go into the final few weeks of the season without much to play for but, thankfully, there is at least potential for a twist in the tale of who will play Champions League football next season.
While it looks as if Chelsea have as good as won the league, and City appear likely to finish in second, there is still plenty of competition for the next four places – and football fans will be hoping that the race for the top four is a contest that goes right to the wire. Let’s take a look at each contender:
One would be inclined to think that Arsenal have qualification already in the bag, and it certainly seems as if the Gunners are in the box seat when it comes to finishing in the top four. Their win at the weekend was important after exiting Europe a few days prior, and with 60 points, Arsene Wenger’s side have every chance of usurping Man City in second.
However, an examination of Arsenal’s fixtures suggests that their quest won’t be quite as simple as all that. The Gunners must welcome Liverpool to the Emirates next weekend, while they still have to play Chelsea and Manchester United. Should they lose all three of those games, then there is still a real chance that Arsenal could drop out.
Cometh the hour, cometh the team. Louis van Gaal’s side have suddenly leapt to life in the last few weeks, firstly with a dismantling of a good Tottenham side, and then following it up with a hard-fought win over bitter rivals Liverpool.
United are now sitting pretty in fourth, with a five-point cushion over Liverpool. Taking this into account, it would seem inconceivable for them to miss out, but when one considers the fact that they must play City, Chelsea and Arsenal as well as facing a Villa side desperate for wins, all of a sudden that qualification seems a little less clear cut.
Oh Brendan, Brendan, Brendan. After a less than mediocre beginning to the season, it has appeared in recent weeks that the Reds are back to their best, but a crucial loss at home to United on Sunday has certainly made things rather murky once again.
The Reds must face Arsenal next week, while they are still due to visit Chelsea in West London. Aside from these two games, the rest of Rodgers’ side’s fixtures look rather more straightforward, but with a five-point gap to make up, the journey into the Champions League suddenly looks rather daunting.
The reality is that Saints now only have an outside chance of Champions League qualification this year. After performing well above expectations following a summer in which the anatomy of their team was ripped apart, no one expected Southampton to be in the hunt at this stage of the season. While it seems unlikely that Ronald Koeman’s side can climb the ladder sufficiently quickly, one cannot help but to be impressed with their progress this season.
Another side with only a sniff at the top four, Spurs will no doubt rue a number of their results this season; particularly the high frequency of league losses following Europa League excursions. Tottenham are likely to be in Europe’s secondary cup competition rather than the Champions League next season, and Mauricio Pochettino will be charged with preventing the Europa from impacting on their domestic performances.