THE Premier League season has finally entered the home straight following its resumption in June on the back of a three-month hiatus due to the coronavirus pandemic.
Liverpool may have been crowned the season’s champions but there is still plenty to play for at both ends of the table. All this while Manchester City, who did not live up to their billing this season, saw a two-year European football ban overturned and thus sealing their spot in next season’s Champions League with a second-place finish behind The Reds, albeit with two more rounds of fixtures to contest.
Charge for a top-four finish
Chelsea and Leicester City currently sit in third and fourth places on the Premier League table but have a rampant Manchester United breathing down their necks. Tied on 62 points, The Foxes edge the Red Devils by a slightly more superior goal difference with both outfits trailing The Blues by a single point.
Hoping to maintain their hold, Leicester face a tricky trip to Tottenham on Sunday with a loss here likely to see their hopes dashed should United get one over West Ham United in their Wednesday fixture. Chelsea travel to Liverpool on the same day with only a victory in sight. The final round of matches are scheduled to be played on July 26.
Chelsea need four points from their last two games to guarantee qualification and play Wolverhampton Wanderers at Stamford Bridge on the last day. Leicester and United meet in what could be a decisive showdown at the King Power Stadium for this last bout of the season.
Race for Europa League berths
The teams who finish fifth and sixth will qualify for next season’s Europa League, unless either of the sides in those positions wins the Champions League or the Europa League – United and Wolves (currently fifth and sixth respectively in the Premier League) are contenders in the latter competition – when they restart next month.
Winning those tournaments is rewarded with automatic qualification for Europe’s elite club cup competition, the Champions League. If the FA Cup winners finish in the top six, then seventh place in the Premier League would qualify for the Europa League. Sixth-placed Wolves will qualify for the Europa League if they win their last two encounters against Crystal Palace and Chelsea.
Tottenham, one point behind Wolves, will be guaranteed to hold onto seventh place, at least, if they win their final two games against Leicester and Palace. Sheffield United, who face Everton and Southampton, are one point behind Tottenham in eighth and need Jose Mourinho’s men or Wolves to slip up, if they are to stand any chance of qualification.
Fight for relegation survival
Norwich City are already relegated, leaving two places to be filled by unwilling teams over the next week, while newly-promoted Championship side Leeds United await their highly-anticipated return to English football’s top-flight at the start of next season.
West Ham and Brighton are effectively safe after moving six points clear of the relegation zone, leaving Watford, Bournemouth and Aston Villa scrapping for survival. Third-from-bottom Bournemouth are three points behind Watford and can move level on points if they beat Southampton on Sunday, with a three-goal margin of victory enough to take them above The Hornets on goal difference.
Watford take on Manchester City at Vicarage Road on Tuesday and shortly afterwards Villa host Arsenal. If Watford beat City or take a point, then Bournemouth or Villa would be relegated if they fail to match the Hornets’ result. On the last day, Villa head to West Ham, Bournemouth are at Everton and Watford travel to Arsenal.
How do you see the top-four, Europa League and relegation battles playing out as the Premier League enters the home straight this week? Leave your comment below.