The English Premier League is back in action this weekend following the international break and although the title race is all but over there’s lots to play for at both ends of the table.
Premier League bottom feeders will hope to fight off relegation to the second-tier Championship League at the end of the season, while the top squads will battle for a European Champions League berth. There’s literally millions of dollars at stake here for all teams involved, considering relegation costs clubs a huge chunk of revenue and a Champions League spot results in a multi-million dollar windfall.
Just one problem. The math doesn’t work. We have a situation where six clubs are fighting for the top four positions. We can now safely say there’s five teams fighting for three spots since nobody’s going to knock Manchester City out of the top spot — let alone knock them out of the top four.
Manchester United, Liverpool, Tottenham Hotspur, Chelsea and Arsenal all have a shot at a top-four finish (heading into the weekend, all sides had eight games to play and Liverpool had seven).
Man United sits in second place with 65 points followed by Liverpool (63), Tottenham (61), Chelsea (56) and Arsenal (48). Therefore, Tottenham owns the final Champions League spot. Meanwhile, Arsenal needs to make up 13 points to catch them and Chelsea needs to close a five-point gap. With 24 points left on the table, we can count Arsenal’s chances as being slim, while fellow Londoners Chelsea still have a slight shot.
We can analyze the team’s chances by taking a look at their remaining schedule.
Manchester United still has to meet Man City and Arsenal, while their other six remaining games are against bottom-half teams.
Liverpool has to meet Chelsea and also has a Merseyside Derby away at Everton. Their other five matches are against bottom-half squads. Tottenham will be kicking off against Chelsea, Manchester City and Leicester City with their other five encounters against bottom-half clubs.
Chelsea has to face off against Tottenham, Burnley and Liverpool with five games against bottom-half teams. Finally, Arsenal will be meeting Man United, Leicester and Burnley with five games against bottom-half clubs. Let’s not forget that Arsenal is still competing in the Europa League quarterfinals and must decide if they should concentrate on that competition or on climbing the Premier League ladder. However, if they win the Europa League (like Man United did last season), they’ll automatically qualify for the Champions League.
In addition, Liverpool and Man City are battling each other in the quarterfinals of the Champions League. So, in theory, Liverpool could slip out of the top four in the Premier League and still qualify for the Champions League if they win it this season. This is a quandary for manager Jurgen Klopp who must decide if he’ll focus on this year’s Champions League or the English league. If he rests players for Europe, but fails to win the tournament and falls out of the top four in the Premier League, then Liverpool will be on the outside looking in.
Things can get a little complicated at this time of the year when trying to figure out who’s in and who’s out of the Champions League qualification spots, but the top four English teams will make it as well as the winners of this year’s Champions League and Europa League.
The fifth-place Premier League team will qualify for the Europa League as will the winners of the FA Cup and League Cup. If the FA Cup and League Cup winners finish fifth in the Premier League or higher then their Europa League spot goes to the next-highest English club that hasn’t qualified for Europe.
That’s a lot of information to digest, but anyway, let’s look at the bet365 odds of finishing in the top four of the Premier League as of March 28:*
Manchester United 1/66
Liverpool at 1/12
Tottenham Hotspur at 1/7
Chelsea at 5/2
Arsenal at 100/1
**The odds were correct at the time of publishing.