Slowly but surely, the 2020/21 season of the English Premier League is drawing to a close. We already know that Manchester City have been crowned champions for the third time in five years under Pep Guardiola, while the relegation battle has been settled, as Fulham, West Bromwich Albion and Sheffield United will all be playing in the English championship next season.
There is still lots to play for, as the race for the top four remains undecided. Two of the four spots have already been taken; Manchester City and Manchester United are guaranteed to play Champions League football next season. The remaining two slots remain up for grabs as we get set for match day 37. Three teams are currently locked in a fight to get the two spots: Leicester City, Chelsea and Liverpool.
The Foxes are looking to reach the UCL for only the second time after the 2016/17 season, when they got to the quarterfinals. They are also looking to avoid yet another UCL qualification heartbreak, having bottled a top four finish last season. For Chelsea, they were in a similar qualification fight last season where they had to wait until the last game of the season to seal a top four finish. They will have to do so again here, as Thomas Tuchel seeks to achieve the aim for which he was hired. Liverpool meanwhile have been out of the top four for a while, but their recent league form has given them a huge chance to make it to Europe’s elite football showpiece next season.
What does each club need to finish in the top four?
Leicester and Chelsea are third and fourth with 66 and 64 points respectively. Liverpool are fifth but they have 63 points, just one adrift the top four. Plus, the Reds have a relatively easier schedule; they play Burnley and Crystal Palace in their last two games. By contrast, Chelsea and Leicester play each other in match day 37, and then Leicester entertains Tottenham while Chelsea hosts Aston Villa on the last day.
Now if Leicester or Chelsea win their remaining two games, they will qualify. That cannot happen for both teams, as they will play each other. So one or both of them will have to drop points. As for Liverpool, victories in their last two games might not be enough. Let’s examine a scenario where they win their last two games, while Leicester loses to Chelsea but beats Tottenham. This would mean that Liverpool would move from 60 points to 69 points, and Leicester would move from 66 points to 69 points. Goals difference would then have to come into play, and it could favour either club, and Leicester have a slight advantage in that area.
So Liverpool are the most disadvantaged of the three clubs. The good news for them is that Leicester and Chelsea play each other so, one or both teams would drop points. They stand a better chance of making the top four if Chelsea looses, or if the game ends in a draw.
So in summary, if Leicester wins their remaining games, they will qualify for the Champions league. If Chelsea wins their remaining games, they will qualify for the Champions league. But if Liverpool wins their remaining three games, it might still not be enough, if other results do not go their way.
Some other teams still possess an outside chance of making the top four, most especially West Ham. Unfortunately for the hammers, they suffered a huge blow to their fading top four hopes as they were held to a 1-1 draw against Brighton on Saturday. They still have a very slim chance, but their current tally of 59 points from 36 games means they will need to win their last two games, while hoping that Chelsea and Liverpool lose theirs. In truth, it is looking very bleak for David Moyes’ side and they may have to settle for an Europa League spot.
The real battle is between Leicester, Chelsea and Liverpool. And as such, Chelsea vs Leicester, coming up this Tuesday, could end up being a top four decider. It’s even more interesting because both teams just played each other in the FA Cup final, with Leicester emerging champions courtesy of a wonderful Youri Tielemans strike. Chelsea will be looking to avenge that painful loss, while Leicester will be hoping to avoid a defeat so as to avoid bottling the top four in back to back seasons. It is indeed the biggest game of the season for both teams, and Liverpool would be watching with keen interest.
Still all to play for as the race for the top four heats up in the English Premier League.