Premier League Playback: How things stand in Europe, relegation battles

1 Comment

ARSENAL OR SPURS FOR SECOND

1 – Leicester – 77 points – CHAMPIONS
2 – Tottenham – 70 points
3 – Arsenal – 68 points

With one game left, Arsenal trails Tottenham Hotspur by two points in the table.

Spurs sit in second place on 70 points, while Arsenal has 68 points. Spurs travel to Newcastle for their final game, while Arsenal host already relegated Aston Villa.

Premier League Schedule – Week 37

Result Recap & Highlights
A. Villa 0-0 N’castle Recap, watch here
B’mouth 1-1 WBA Recap, watch here
C. Palace 2-1 Stoke Recap, watch here
Leicester 3-1 Everton Recap, watch here
Liverpool 2-0 Watford Recap, watch here
Norwich 0-1 Man Utd Recap, watch here
Man City 2-2 Arsenal Recap, watch here
Sunderland 3-2 Chelsea Recap, watch here
Tottenham 1-2 Saints Recap, watch here
West Ham 1-4 Swansea Recap, watch here

Both second and third place are already assured of qualifying for the UEFA Champions League group stage and Spurs can finish no lower than third which means just a second-ever appearance in the UCL group stage is secured. However, they want to finish above Arsenal for the first time in 20 years.

[ MORE: PL Standings | Schedule

Arsenal fans have dubbed the day that Spurs could no longer mathematically finish above them in the PL “St Totteringham’s Day” and it has been going strong for over two decades.

Tottenham’s fans are desperate for them to finish above Arsenal and just a point away at Newcastle (who may already be relegated by then) will get the job done. However, there’s still a nagging feeling among Spurs fans that now the wheels have well and truly come off with no win in any of their last three games plus Dele Alli and Mousa Dembele suspended, that Arsenal will pip them to second.


TOP FOUR BATTLE INTENSE

3 – Arsenal – 68 points
4 – Man City – 65 points
5 – Man United – 63 points (have a game in hand)

7 – West Ham – 59 points (have a game in hand)

The battle to finish fourth has basically come down to an all-out battle in Manchester. With City slipping up in recent weeks they’ve let neighbors Manchester United in and if Louis Van Gaal‘s boys win their final two games they will finish in at least fourth.

[ MORE: Watch full PL match replays

Man United play West Ham United on Tuesday at Upton Park and although the Hammers can mathematically still finish fourth they’d have to win their final two games and hope the others slip up, then get a huge goal difference swing in their favor. Despite a fine season for Slaven Bilic‘s men, it ain’t happening.

So, it’s all about United and City, although if Arsenal lost against Aston Villa and both City and United win-out then the Gunners would drop out of the top four on goal difference. There is still plenty to play for and for Manchester United the equation is simple: beat West Ham away and Bournemouth at home and they are in the Champions League next season which will likely save Van Gaal his job.

Plus, they’ll scupper Man City’s plans of welcoming Pep Guardiola with Champions League action. So, yeah, so much on the line here.


RACE FOR EUROPA LEAGUE

5 – Man United – 63 points (have a game in hand)
6 – Southampton – 60 points
7 – West Ham – 59 points (have a game in hand)
8 – Liverpool 58 points (have a game in hand)

This is going to be very, very tight. Southampton has ridden a surge in the second half season (only champions Leicester have picked up more points in the PL since Jan. 1, 2016) to give themselves a great chance of European qualification for the second-straight season.

However, all the teams around Saints have a game in-hand. That monster clash between West Ham and Manchester United on Tuesday will go a long way to deciding both teams’ European fate, while Liverpool (who have the Europa League final against Sevilla in Basel on May 18) can still finish in fifth place if all the teams above them falter.

[ VIDEO: Premier League highlights

Looking at the schedule, West Ham have Stoke City away on the final day while Southampton host Crystal Palace who will have one eye on the FA Cup final. Liverpool host Chelsea on Wednesday and finish with a trip to West Brom on the final day.

It’s very likely that the battle to finish in fifth, sixth and seventh could go down to goal difference and listen to this: Manchester United’s goal difference is +13, Southampton’s is +15, West Ham’s is +14 and Liverpool’s is +13. Rack up those goals, boys.

And of course, there are some bizarre scenarios which could see eighth place grab a Europa League spot if both Man United win the FA Cup and Liverpool win the Europa League.

Here are the scenarios for Europa League spots going to the teams who finish in sixth, seventh and eighth place. Brace yourselves, this is complicated.

Premier League sixth place: Will qualify for UEFA Europa League third qualifying round IF Manchester City (Capital One Cup winner) finish in top four

Premier League seventh place: Will qualify for UEFA Europa League qualifiers IF Man United win the FA Cup AND finish in the top six

To further complicate the situation: If Liverpool win the Europa League and finish in the top seven, it is likely the Premier League will lose one of its Europa League spots, meaning the team who finished in seventh won’t qualify for the Europa League. If Liverpool win the Europa League and finish in eighth, the team in seventh would qualify for the Europa League. Such is the bizarre nature of this scenario, UEFA’s rules are currently being interpreted in contrasting ways by many.

To further complicate an already complicated situation: If Crystal Palace win the FA Cup and Liverpool win the Europa League and finish in seventh then the Premier League will also have eight teams in Europe. The Premier League would also have eight teams in Europe if Man United won the FA Cup and finished in eighth and Liverpool won the Europa League and finished in seventh.


BATTLE AGAINST RELEGATION CLIMAXING

17 – Sunderland – 35 points (have a game in hand)

18 – Newcastle – 34 points
19 – Norwich – 31 points (have a game in hand)
20 – Aston Villa – 17 points  – RELEGATED

Okay, this is getting very close between Sunderland, Newcastle and Norwich but the Black Cats will be feeling very good about this situation following their big win against Chelsea.

The equation for Sunderland is simple: win against Everton on Wednesday night at home and you stay up. A Sunderland victory in midweek would therefore relegate both bitter rivals Newcastle and struggling Norwich in the process.

Even if Sam Allardyce‘s side grab a point against Everton it would be a very advantageous position for them to be in as they face Watford away in the final game of the season. Following their disappointing draw at already relegated Aston Villa, Newcastle have just one game remaining and that’s a tough one, at home to Tottenham who know a win or draw will guarantee them second place and finishing above Arsenal.

Norwich must beat Watford at home on Wednesday to keep their survival bid going into the final game of the season as Alex Neil’s men have lost three-straight and have lost momentum at precisely the wrong time of the season. If they beat Watford on Wednesday and results go their way then Norwich must get a least a point at Everton on the final day to have any chance of surviving. If Sunderland lose their final two games and Newcastle lose their game, plus Norwich pick up four points then the Canaries would be level on points with Sunderland.

However, goal difference for the three teams are as follows: Sunderland, -17. Newcastle, -25. Norwich, -27. So, yeah, Norwich needs to win out and hope both Newcastle and Sunderland lose their remaining games. Newcastle cannot rely on goal difference to save them either and they must simply beat Tottenham at St James’ Park to have any chance.

The trap door is creaking open for both Newcastle and Norwich, while Sunderland can see the light…

Premier League Playback comes out every week as PST’s Lead Writer and Editor takes an alternative look at all the action from the weekend. Read the full archive, here.