Tightest top four race ever goes down to the wire
• Spurs, Chelsea Can Seal Champions League Spots With Wins
• Will Arsenal, Man United Fight Back To Keep Euro Dreams Alive?
The race for the Premier League top four has been unpredictable all season and continues on ahead of the penultimate round of fixtures with four teams still jockeying for two spots.
Tottenham, Chelsea, Arsenal and Manchester United are all desperate to secure Champions League football through league position – even though both Chelsea and Arsenal could book their place by winning the Europa League this month. Sportsmail assesses the four teams fighting it out and how their remaining fixtures could shape the final league standings.
Current league position: 3rd (70 points)
Saturday, May 4: Bournemouth (A)
Sunday, May 12: Everton (H)
Had Michail Antonio not fired West Ham to victory at Tottenham’s new stadium last week, Mauricio Pochettino and his players could have put all their focus on the Champions League.
Down 1-0 to Ajax after their semi-final first leg in north London, Spurs still need to mathematically secure a place in the top four – ideally the top three – with a result away to Bournemouth this weekend before turning attention back to exploits in Europe.
Given they hold a four point lead over bitter rivals Arsenal, victory for Tottenham on the south coast will ensure Champions League football for next season.
Losing four of their last seven Premier League games remains a concern but given their advantage over rivals, one win from two games is enough to seal a place in Europe’s premier club competition next year.
Tottenham hit Eddie Howe’s side for five earlier this season but Bournemouth’s 4-0 home win over Chelsea – their only home win against Spurs’ top six rivals this season – should serve as a reminder against complacency. Players would be forgiven for having one eye on Wednesday night’s semi-final second-leg in Amsterdam but defeat at Bournemouth could see them welcome Everton with just a point keeping them inside the top four.
Everton and Bournemouth could be accused of having little else left to play for this season but both will want to remain competitive before departing for post-season holidays.
Victory against Bournemouth would both secure Champions League football – vital given the costs of the new stadium – and act as a real momentum boost ahead of the biggest game in their history against Ajax.
Current league position: 4th (68 points)
Sunday, May 5: Watford (H)
Sunday, May 12: Leicester City (A)
Despite the turmoil and frustrations since Maurizio Sarri took charge, Chelsea have steadied the ship in recent weeks and are now in pole position to finish fourth.
They welcome Watford to Stamford Bridge tomorrow for the final home league game of the season knowing a victory will take them to within touching distance of clinching Champions League football for 2019-20.
While Watford will be looking to build some momentum ahead of the FA Cup final, their record away to Chelsea’s top six rivals will provide little hope ahead of their visit to Stamford Bridge.Javi Gracia’s side have lost all five games, conceding 14 goals and scoring just three goals – away to Tottenham, Manchester United and Manchester City.
A brace from Eden Hazard sealed three points in a 2-1 win at Vicarage Road earlier this season and home fans will hope the Belgian can again have the telling say.
Sarri’s side have lost just once in their last six league games – a 2-0 defeat at Anfield to title-chasing Liverpool – and have found confidence at a crucial stage as they battle on two fronts with the Europa League semi-finals underway.
Should league position hinge on the final round of matches, Chelsea fans have a right to be anxious making the trip to face a rejuvenated Leicester City side.
Jamie Vardy has found form at the wrong time for top four chasers, as Arsenal found out in their 3-0 defeat last weekend.
Current league position: 5th (66 points)
Sunday, May 5: Brighton (H)
Sunday, May 12: Burnley (A)
If form is the key signifier, Arsenal have picked a terrible time to lose their ability to win games in the league.
Unai Emery has rapidly improved the Gunners’ squad while his rivals have spent many millions to get ahead.
But Arsenal have won just once in their last five games, losing their last three. Two of those more recent defeats came away from home with a 3-1 defeat to Wolves followed up by a 3-0 loss to Leicester City.
Returning back to the Emirates comes at a perfect time on the back of Thursday’s crucial 3-1 home win over Valencia in the first leg of their Europa League semi-final.
Brighton are scrapping at the bottom but are short on attacking threat and Arsenal will be expected to pounce should Chelsea slip up at home to Watford.Should they narrowly miss out, their last home game before this weekend could prove the game that cost them a top four spot.
The 3-2 defeat at Crystal Palace handed the advantage back to Chelsea and now they are chasing the tails of their London rivals in the league.
A trip to Turf Moor on the final day would by no means be a given for Arsenal but should they head to Lancashire with a top four spot in their hands, it would be difficult, even with their perils on the road, to look past them.
Emery is a master in the Europa League and should results go against them this weekend, he could well begin to prioritise getting into the Champions League through winning the cup competition in Baku, Azerbaijan.
Current league position: 6th (65 points)
Sunday, May 5: Huddersfield (A)
Sunday, May 12: Cardiff City (H)
After the honeymoon period where Ole Gunnar Solskjaer looked like a manager who simply did not know how to lose, Manchester United have seen their season cave in.With just one win in their last seven games in all competitions, United’s frailties have been exposed with a Champions League exit at the hands of Barcelona followed up by disappointing defeats to Everton and Manchester City.
It is clear United are plotting a major overhaul on and off the pitch come the summer but a failure to secure Champions League football comes at a cost on the pitch and in the boardroom. Compared to their top four rivals, United, on paper at least, have the easiest of the remaining games as they go to already-relegated Huddersfield Town before finishing with a home game against Cardiff City.
United can get a maximum of 71 points and so if Chelsea were to beat Watford this weekend, hopes of a top four finish for Solskjaer and Co would all but be extinguished.
Chelsea hold an eight goal advantage in their goal difference and it would be unlikely for the Reds to claw their way into the top four at that stage. If United fans had a choice of two games that best represent a potential to change the goal difference scales it would probably be Huddersfield and Cardiff.
Huddersfield were hit for five by Liverpool in a recent trip to Anfield – it could have been more – and having conceded 74 goals this season in the league, United travel there confident of a routine victory. And the Terriers are so toothless in front of goal they have the chance to break Manchester City’s record for lowest number of goals scored at home in a Premier League season (10 goals, 2006-07) if they fail to score against United.
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