SCRAMBLE FOR SECOND
Manchester City can go 16 points clear atop the Premier League table with 10 games to go if they beat Arsenal this Thursday so, aside from a monumental collapse from Pep Guardiola‘s men, the made scramble for second place is on.
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Yet this isn’t just about being the “best of the rest” behind City’s historic season. Oh no. In the absence of a tight title race, the top four battle is increasingly becoming the story of the season.
Increasingly the question being asked is “who will finish second in the Premier League?”
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Let’s take a closer look at where each club is at in that battle.
Current position: 2nd (59 points)
Remaining schedule: Crystal Palace (A), Liverpool (H), West Ham (A), Swansea (H), Man City (A), West Brom (H), Bournemouth (A), Arsenal (H), Brighton (A), Watford (H)
Second worthy? – Not the most attractive team in the PL but Mourinho’s men are grinding out wins and Romelu Lukaku is doing the business. Games against Man City, Liverpool and Arsenal (the latter two at home) will be key in deciding if they finish second. Runners up behind City, an FA Cup title and a place in the UCL last four would be a very good season for Jose Mourinho and show significant progress. Now, he just needs to get Paul Pogba firing and get some of his key defenders back to full fitness and they can have a real go in Europe and in the FA Cup.
Current position: 3rd (57 points)
Remaining schedule: Newcastle (H), Man United (A), Watford (H), Crystal Palace (A), Everton (A), Bournemouth (H), West Brom (A), Stoke (H), Chelsea (A), Brighton (H)
Second worthy? – No doubt about it, along with Man City and Tottenham, Liverpool are one of the best teams to watch in the Premier League. Jurgen Klopp‘s side boast star attackers in Mohamed Salah, Roberto Firmino and Sadio Mane who are ripping teams apart. Just one defeat in 19 PL games proves their consistency and many will say Liverpool are worthy of second place. Their game at United is huge in deciding where they will finish as Klopp will also eye at least reaching the UCL last four with more than one foot in the last eight. Liverpool’s schedule, on paper, is the easiest of the current top four.
Current position: 4th (55 points)
Remaining schedule: Huddersfield (H), Bournemouth (A), Newcastle (H), Chelsea (A), Stoke (A), Man City (H), Brighton (A), Watford (H), West Brom (A), Leicester (H)
Second worthy? – Like Liverpool, they are right up there when it comes to being attractive to watch. Mauricio Pochettino‘s youngsters have matured this season and they seem set to make the UCL’s last eight too after their coming of age display at Juventus. The FA Cup has been troublesome for Spurs but they should make the semifinals and a second place finish and an FA Cup final along with a deep run in the UCL would be a phenomenal return after their problems at Wembley early on this season. Harry Kane deserves to win some type of silverware but a second-consecutive runners up spot in the PL would be another massive achievement and Spurs’ remaining schedule is pretty kind.
Current position: 5th (53 points)
Remaining schedule: Man City (A), Crystal Palace (H), Burnley (A), Tottenham (H), West Ham (H), Southampton (A), Huddersfield (H), Swansea (A), Liverpool (H), Newcastle (A)
Second worthy? – No, not really. Chelsea have huffed and puffed all season long and there’s something not quite right about Antonio Conte‘s men. We all know there are issues behind-the-scenes and would genuinely be a shock if Conte was still in charge next season. On their day they are still able to beat anyone, but Chelsea haven’t got much momentum and have now won just four of their last 13 games in all competitions. They badly need Alvaro Morata or Olivier Giroud to deliver key goals late in the season to secure a top four spot (they play thre of the current top four), go deep in the FA Cup and to try and somehow get past Barcelona in the second leg of their UCL quarterfinal.
Current position: 6th (45 points)
Remaining schedule: Man City (H), Brighton (A), Watford (H), Leicester (A), Stoke (H), Southampton (H), Newcastle (A), West Ham (H), Man United (A), Burnley (H), Huddersfield (A)
Second worthy? – Nah. Not even top four worthy. Eight points off the top four with a game in hand (albeit against Man City this Thursday) means that Arsene Wenger‘s men have a chance of sneaking in the top four but it’s a very slim chance that will happen. After the League Cup final hammering at the hands of Man City, confidence will be low as it proved just how far Arsenal have fallen. It’s all about winning the Europa League now for Arsenal as that is their most realistic chance of making it into the Champions League next season.
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.