On Monday night, Manchester United recorded what could be a vital 2-0 victory at fourth-place Chelsea. The victory has blown the race for the Premier League’s four Champions League spots wide open. There is now just five points between fourth-place Chelsea and ninth-place Everton, in what could be the most interesting fight for European places we have seen for a while.
Teams battling for top-four spots
Although the recent news of Manchester City’s two-year ban from Europe has led to fifth-place being enough for a place in the Champions League next season, teams will still be aiming for the top-four.
City will appeal the ban and have a lot of financial resources to get it overturned. They also have powerful owners, who are unlikely to let the matter lie. In the end, fifth-place will not necessarily be enough for a place in Europe’s elite competition next season.
If in the unlikely circumstances City’s ban does stick, then it means two of the six teams from fourth to ninth will get into the Champions League next season. There is also a scenario were eighth place could earn a team qualification for the Europa League.
Chasing pack struggling for consistency
The strange thing about the fight for the European places is that no team has been outstanding this season from the chasing pack. It’s hard to say but Liverpool have been a class apart, with City’s current likely absence Leicester look nailed on for Champions League football next season.
However, below the Foxes, every team has struggled for consistency and have failed to be outstanding at any point in the season. The likes of Tottenham, Chelsea, Wolves and Manchester United have all struggled for consistency. Sheffield United deserve massive credit, though, maybe they have been outstanding.
Then you have the curious case of Everton. A few months ago, the Toffees were in the relegation zone and struggling for points now they are in the thick of the battle for the European places, even if they do have a nightmare remaining fixture list.
All the above teams will believe they have a realistic chance of playing in Europe’s elite competition next season. One thing is for sure they would all need to improve on their current consistency to have an effect in the latter stages of the Champions League.
The likes of Tottenham and Chelsea managed to qualify from their groups. However, some would say they were relatively fortunate to make it to the last-16 for various reasons.
Chelsea and Tottenham favourites
Without the Premier League’s top-three, Chelsea and Tottenham are the favourites to qualify for the Champions League next season. The Blues are still fourth-place and odds of 10/11 for a top-four finish this season.
However, Frank Lampard’s team have now failed to win in four Premier League games, having won just once in six league outings. Meanwhile, Tottenham seems to be finding form at the right time in the English top-flight. Jose Mourinho’s team has now won their last three league games.
The early kick-off on Saturday in the Premier League this weekend is Chelsea v Tottenham at Stamford Bridge. The game could have a massive barring on the race for the top-four spots this season. The best result for their rivals would be a draw, which could make things even more interesting.
At the moment it is difficult to predict who will finish in those Champions League spots. There is sure to be plenty more twists and turns in the campaign, which just adds excitement to the end of the Premier League season, in which the title race is all but over.
Who will finish in the Champions League spots this season in the Premier League?
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