The COVID-19 fractured English Premier League [EPL] season is in the last furlough with the race to pick UEFA Champions League tickets the last real show in town.
With Liverpool having run away with the title and Manchester City floundering in second place–six teams–Leicester City, Chelsea, Manchester United, Wolverhampton Wanderers, Sheffield United, and Arsenal, who are separated by 10 points.
Leicester have a hard road ahead
Leicester have a one-point advantage over Chelsea and three over Manchester United and the Foxes, comfortable for a long time, now have it all to do because they have Arsenal, Tottenham, and United to duel against in their last five matches. The match against United–on the last day of the season could be one blockbuster if both teams need the points to grab a Champions League slot.
Chelsea have their fate locked on the champions
After the shocking 3-2 defeat to West Ham, Frank Lampard knew the pressure was on, and it will not cease, even on the last day when they face Wolves at Stamford Bridge. Though there is still the minor matter of the FA Cup, against a surging Manchester United team.
Matches against Palace and Norwich should be a given, but Chelsea have lost the most to teams below them on the table. Liverpool will not be easy even though it could be easier now the Reds are champions and mentally on the beach for the summer but matches against Sheffield and Wolves could be the real determinants to snagging one of those UCL spots.
Manchester United tick all the boxes
Ole Gunnar Solskjaer has got his team ticking and they look the likeliest of the six to march all the way to the Champions League, even though the route through the Europa League is still open. On an unbeaten 16-game run since January 22, 2020, Bruno Fernandes has showered some stardust on the Mancunians, and they look formidable.
With four consecutive matches against Aston Villa, Southampton, Crystal Palace, and West Ham, the Red Devils could already have the ticket secured before their last match–a trip to the King Power to face Leicester.
|Man. United||55||5th||Aston Villa||Southampton||Crystal Palace||West Ham||Leicester|
|Arsenal||49||7th||Leicester||Tottenham||Liverpool||Man. City||Aston Villa|
Wolves have a mountain to climb
The surprise 2-0 defeat handed out by Arsenal at the Molineux checked their progress, but they have winnable games on their horizon–starting with a tough trip to face Sheffield United on Wednesday. The goals conceded to Arsenal were the first Nuno Espirito Santo’s team were conceding after the restart, and then they have a cliffhanger of a tie against another Champions League spot-chasing team in Chelsea. It is conceivable that they must have the points they need in the bag before visiting Stamford Bridge on the last day.
Arsenal will hope for some stumbling
With just five matches left in the season, the Gunners will hope some teams above them stumble in pursuit of the Holy Grail, but they have to cause that stumbling. Mikel Arteta’s next four matches are against Leicester City, Tottenham, Liverpool, and Manchester City. If they can take maximum points in these four matches, then their way to Europe will have been guaranteed, even if they could still land in the Europa League.
Sheffield can continue to dream
If anyone had wagered that the Blades will be in the chase for a European ticket at the beginning, the person will cash out handsomely. The newly-promoted side have stunned the division and if not for some hiccups after the restart, their chase would have been for the Champions League, though a European ticket would be a bonus. Their path to Europe is however lined with teams, chasing the same aim – Wolves, Chelsea, Everton, and Leicester.
No one can predict how this multi-team tussle will end, but one thing is guaranteed between now and the end of the season–the drama and excitement will not let up.