In what has been one of the more dramatic Premier League seasons in recent years – there have been some shocking results, extraordinary games, from astounding highs to dramatic lows – it has all boiled down to the final day of the season with the majority of the positions of interest and worth to be finally decided. The title, European places and Premier League survival are up for grabs, with one relegation place yet to be filled. Here’s your guide to the final day of the season and the various permutations required:
Who would have thought it? Manchester United blowing a – what many would consider to be an unassailable – eight point lead at the top of the Premier League to let their rivals, Manchester City, back into the title race. Roberto Mancini’s side have been impressive this season, and it is incredibly rare for a team to win the title at their first attempt in their first credible title race. However, they haven’t won it just yet – it is advantage City who top the table with 86 points and a goal difference of +63, while United are second, also on 86 points but with an inferior goal difference of +55. So, barring a dramatic swing in goal difference, City will land the title should they win against QPR (managed by ex-City manager and ex-Manchester United player – Mark Hughes) on the final day – goal difference has never decided the Premier League title in its modern form. It is also likely that QPR will be needing a win to secure their top flight status for another season. While City are at home, Manchester United, on the other hand are away to Sunderland. The only way the Red Devils can secure their 20th league title is to a) win and hope that QPR beat/draw with City or b) win by a significant and nigh on impossible goal margin (yeah, right!) If both teams were to lose, City would still win the title on goal difference, unless they concede more than nine goals (and score none) in the process…
Nobody wants Champions League football, it seems. At one stage Spurs look a dead cert for 3rd place (if not a title challenge) – their nearest challengers Arsenal and Chelsea were perceived to be in ‘crisis’. Spurs collapsed, coincidentally, around the time the England job became vacant as the media fluttered their eyelashes at Harry Redknapp. Arsenal found form, as did Newcastle and Chelsea. Despite their run of defeats – Spurs remain 4th. Arsenal are 3rd, while Newcastle and Chelsea are 5th and 6th, respectively.
Arsenal take on West Brom in what is Roy Hodgson’s final game as West Brom manager, the Gunners will secure 3rd place and a place in the group stages of next seasons Champions League with a win. Should they draw or lose 3rd place would become available to Spurs and Newcastle. Spurs take on former manager, Martin Jol’s Fulham at White Hart Lane where a win will secure 4th place – should they lose or draw Newcastle (can’t finish any lower than 5th) could pounce and snatch 4th with a win away to Everton, 3rd is also possible for the Magpies if Spurs and Arsenal lose or if Spurs draw and Arsenal lose. Got it? Good. Now for the kingmakers.
It is Chelsea (whom can’t finish higher than 6th) that still holds the key to the door for Champions League football next season – having won the FA Cup they have secured a Europa League place should they not win the Champions League. If Chelsea do win the CL they will enter the next season’s competition in the group stages as tournament winners. Because they are now guaranteed to finish 6th, should Chelsea win the CL the team that finishes 4th will enter the Europa League – as no association can have more than four CL participants (1st, 2nd, 3rd and Chelsea *if* they win the CL)
English clubs have three Europa League places – for the FA Cup winners (Chelsea), Carling Cup winners and the fifth-placed Premier League team. Liverpool will be in next seasons Europa League having won the Carling Cup earlier in the season, along with the teams that finish 4th and 5th should Chelsea win the CL. If Chelsea don’t win the CL then the teams in 1st, 2nd, 3rd and 4th qualify for the CL and the team in 5th place joins Chelsea and Liverpool in the Europa League.
Wolves are already down, having been relegated after a defeat to Manchester City in late April. Blackburn will also be playing Championship football next season having been beaten by Wigan 1-0 on Monday night. That leaves us entering the final day of the season with one relegation place undecided. Wigan are safe in 15th on 40 points, following that victory over Rovers having won 6 of their last 8 Premier League games, as are Aston Villa in 16th on 38 points. In danger, QPR travel to Mark Hughes’ former employers, Manchester City knowing that a win or a draw will be enough to survive – City needing a win to secure the title. Bolton, on the other hand, travel to the Britannia stadium to play Stoke knowing that if they win and QPR lose they will stay in the Premier League – if they lose they will be relegated. A draw for Trotters would not be good enough, while a draw for QPR would mean Bolton needing to win by a significant goal margin to remain in the top flight.
We’ve had some dramatic weekends in the Premier League this season and no doubt there will still be room for some final day drama. All will become clearer come 5pm on Sunday evening as the 20th season of the Premier League comes to a close.
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