Posted on April 17, 2018
Manchester City have wrapped up the Premier League title with a month to spare, courtesy of Manchester United’s shock home defeat to basement boys West Bromwich Albion on Sunday.
It’s the first thing to be decided this season, but there’s still lots to play for in the remaining weeks. Here, we take a look at the outstanding issues.
Champions League places
Who qualifies: Positions 1-4 (group stage)
Who’s in already: Manchester City
Who’s still in contention: Manchester United (71), Liverpool (70), Tottenham Hotspur (67), Chelsea (60)
A change to the Champions League access rules from next season means the top four teams in the Premier League will go straight into the group stage. No longer does the fourth-placed team have to negotiate a qualifying playoff.
United and Liverpool have a huge advantage over Chelsea, who can get a maximum of 75 points from their remaining five games. It’s hard to see Antonio Conte being able to haul his side above one of those sat inside the top four. Maybe his only hope is that Liverpool get distracted by the Champions League, as the Reds have to go to Stamford Bridge on the penultimate weekend.
Arsenal (54) and Burnley (52) are still mathematically in contention, but it’s no more than that.
However, the Gunners could slip in through the backdoor if they win the Europa League, though they must get past favourites Atletico Madrid in the semifinals first. If Arsenal do win the Europa League, then England would have five teams in the Champions League and two in the Europa, just as with this season after Manchester United’s success last year.
Europa League places
Who qualifies: FA Cup winners*, 5th place (group stage); 6th place (second qualifying round)
Who’s still in contention: Chelsea (60), Arsenal (54), Burnley (52), Leicester (43)
With Man City winning the Carabao Cup, it means that sixth place will now enter in the second qualifying round. However, there is still some uncertainty here as that place will go to seventh (with sixth direct to the group stage) unless Southampton win the FA Cup.
That’s because the other three teams left in the FA Cup (Chelsea, Man United, Tottenham) will have already qualified for Europe via the league, and with the FA Cup runners-up no longer able to take a Europa League place it would transfer to the Premier League.
Chelsea are odds-on to take the automatic place in the group stage (if they do not catch the top four) by finishing fifth, but the battle for sixth and seventh between Arsenal and Burnley could go down to the wire. There’s currently just two points between the clubs. And, though Arsenal have a big goal difference advantage, they are the only club not to pick up a single point away from home in 2018.
Arsenal: West Ham, Man United, Burnley, Leicester, Huddersfield
Burnley: Chelsea, Stoke, Brighton, Arsenal, Bournemouth
Is the Premier League harder to win than the UCL?
The FC boys share their thoughts on Pep Guardiola’s assertion that the Premier League is harder to win than the Champions League.
It could come down to the meeting between the two sides at the Emirates on the penultimate weekend.
No one will want to be thrown in at the qualifying stage, however, as a change in rules for next season means a Premier League team will start out a round earlier. And that means a European campaign beginning on July 26 — 11 days after the World Cup final.
Leicester are the only team with any kind of outside chance of snatching seventh with an amazing run of form.
Who goes down: Positions 18-20
Who’s still in contention: WBA (24), Stoke (28), Southampton (28), Swansea (33), Crystal Palace (34), Huddersfield (35), West Ham (35), Brighton (35)
Just about safe: Watford (37), Bournemouth (38)
West Brom gave themselves at least some hope with the 1-0 victory at Man United, but they remain nine points adrift of safety with only 12 left to play for and are doomed.
Stoke’s failure to hold on to their 1-0 lead at West Ham on Monday, succumbing to Andy Carroll’s late leveller, leaves them in deep trouble. They are now five points adrift with four games left and the worst goal difference in the division, plus they have not won since Paul Lambert’s first game in charge on Jan. 20. The Potters host Burnley and go to Liverpool in their next two games, so they could already be down before they finish up against relegation rivals Crystal Palace and Swansea.
Southampton have a played a game fewer, so have more hope of climbing their way out. Upcoming games against Leicester, Bournemouth, Everton and Swansea should be viewed as winnable, but they won’t want to be needing points on the final day when they host champions Manchester City.
The five teams directly outside the drop zone will probably feel 38 points will see them safe. Swansea have Man City and Chelsea up next, though they have shown great resilience to beat some of the Premier League’s top sides since Carlos Carvalhal took charge. Finishing up against Bournemouth, Southampton and and Stoke means their fate is very much in their own hands against the teams in 18th and 19th.
Palace have a very favourable run-in, with Watford, Leicester, Stoke and West Brom to play.
The same cannot be said of the remaining three teams, who have very difficult run-ins — and have to hope they can find the one win they probably need.
West Ham: Arsenal, Man City, Leicester, Man United, Everton.
Huddersfield: Everton, Man City, Chelsea, Arsenal.
Brighton: Tottenham, Burnley, Man United, Man City, Liverpool
Who goes up: Position 1-2, plus one of 3-6 via playoffs
Who’s already up: Wolverhampton Wanderers (95)
Who’s battling for second: Cardiff (83), Fulham (82), Aston Villa (79)
Who else can make the playoffs: Middlesbrough (69), Millwall (69), Derby (68), Preston (66), Sheffield United (66), Brentford (65), Bristol City (65)
Wolves have won promotion back to the Premier League at a canter, while Cardiff are in pole position for second having a one-point advantage over Fulham with a game in hand. It would be a miracle if Villa missed the playoffs now.
It’s then an almighty scramble for the two remaining playoff places, with just four points separating seven teams.