The Premier League’s midweek results mean the race for the top four looks poised to go down to the final day of the season.
We take a look at what Tottenham, Chelsea, Arsenal and Manchester United have in front of them over the final three games and assess each team’s chances of qualifying for the Champions League.
|Spurs (70pts)||Chelsea (67pts)||Arsenal (66pts)||Man Utd (64pts)|
|April 27||West Ham (H)|
|April 28||Man Utd (A)||Leicester (A)||Chelsea (H)|
|May 4||Bournemouth (A)|
|May 5||Watford (H)||Brighton (H)||Huddersfield (A)|
|May 12||Everton (H)||Leicester (A)||Burnley (A)||Cardiff (H)|
Tottenham (70pts, +30GD)
In mid-February, Spurs were third, just five points off the top of the table and nine clear of fourth-placed Manchester United. Arsenal and Chelsea were 10 points back.
But a nightmare run over the next six weeks saw that lead eroded to the point where the 2-1 defeat to Liverpool at the end of March left them level on points with United and just a point clear of Arsenal and Chelsea.
Skip forward three-and-a-bit weeks and things are looking a lot healthier for Mauricio Pochettino’s side, who have slotted seamlessly into their new home, scoring eight goals and conceding none in four wins – three in the league – to extend their winning run in N17 to 21 consecutive games – dating back to November 2016.
Spurs won all three of the reverse fixtures, thrashing Everton and Bournemouth 6-2 and 5-0 respectively in successive games over Christmas and they have beaten West Ham twice this season – 1-0 in the league and 3-1 in the Carabao Cup.
Tottenham vs West Ham
April 27, 2019, 11:30am
Spurs’ main injury concerns remain in central midfield. Tuesday’s 1-0 win against Brighton was achieved without Moussa Sissoko and Harry Winks, meaning fit-again Victor Wanyama was forced to play his second game in four days.
Harry Kane remains out with the ankle injury sustained in the Champions League first leg against Manchester City, and Sissoko is not expected back for a couple of weeks after he pulled up in the second leg. Winks is being assessed day-to-day, but Eric Dier is available for the final three games.
It’s fairly simple for Spurs. Two wins from their final three games virtually guarantees a top-four spot given their superior goal difference over their rivals.
Indeed, if results go their way this weekend, their place in the top four could be all-but sealed, which would allow Pochettino to consider resting players against Bournemouth ahead of the Champions League semi-final second leg against Ajax.
Lots of work to do before then, starting with a Sky Live lunchtime clash with West Ham, who will be only too keen to become the first team to beat Spurs at their new stadium, and the potential distraction of the Champions League is a concern to a squad that is already stretched thin.
But should Spurs stumble domestically, they do have an unlikely back door into next season’s competition – by winning the tournament itself this year.
Chelsea (67pts, +21GD)
The pain of Monday’s 2-2 draw with Burnley will have been partially offset by Arsenal’s subsequent defeat at Wolves, but much like their top-four rivals, Chelsea arrive at the critical point of the season in indifferent form.
Three straight wins against Cardiff, Brighton and West Ham were book-ended by 2-0 defeats on Merseyside and they will only hope the dropped points against the Clarets will not come back to haunt them.
Arsenal and Chelsea have been table buddies all season, with barely a point separating them throughout the campaign and while that looks unlikely to change before the final day, they could also, of course, meet in the Europa League final in what could be a shootout for Champions League football next term.
Chelsea, who were held 2-2 by Manchester United at Stamford Bridge in October, lost 1-0 at home to Leicester in December before a battling 2-1 win at Watford on Boxing Day.
Man Utd vs Chelsea
April 28, 2019, 4:15pm
Callum Hudson-Odoi, having started four straight games for Maurizio Sarri, will not feature again this season after rupturing his Achilles tendon in Tuesday’s draw with Burnley.
Antonio Rudiger continues to struggle with a knee injury sustained in the defeat to Liverpool, while N’Golo Kante was forced off against Burnley with a rib injury but is expected to return.
Marcos Alonso has missed the last three games with a muscle injury, but will be in contention to return at Old Trafford and boost Sarri’s options.
Arsenal’s defeat at Wolves means Sarri’s men have their fate in their own hands ahead of the final stretch, but they have a tricky final three games, beginning with a trip to a wounded Manchester United on Sunday – a game you can see live on Sky Sports.
Despite United’s recent woes, they can go level on points with the Blues with a win at Old Trafford and Chelsea then face two teams gunning for Europa League qualification in Watford and Leicester.
Neither of those games look easy, and Chelsea may hope that Leicester – resurgent under Brendan Rodgers – have already guaranteed European football when they travel to the former champions on the final day of the season.
But their first priority is to avoid defeat to United, which would at least rule their opponents out of top four contention, before they turn their attention to Frankfurt in the Europa League.
Arsenal (66pts, +23GD)
Arsenal have had a shocking few days. After Spurs’ defeat to Manchester City on Saturday afternoon, they had the chance to leapfrog their rivals back into third on Sunday, only to fall to a 3-2 home defeat to Crystal Palace.
Then, after watching Chelsea labour to a 2-2 draw with Burnley, they failed to climb back above the Blues into fourth with a 3-1 capitulation at Wolves on Wednesday evening.
The Palace defeat could be particularly damaging, undoing all the good work of their battling 1-0 win at Watford six days previously.
Arsenal beat both Leicester and Burnley 3-1 at home earlier in the season, but could only manage a 1-1 draw at Brighton on Boxing Day.
Leicester vs Arsenal
April 28, 2019, 11:30am
Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang missed the Molineux defeat with a sinus problem and remains a doubt for the trip to Leicester on Sunday, while Aaron Ramsey continues to be assessed following the hamstring injury he sustained on Europa League duty against Napoli.
Denis Suarez is out with a groin injury, but Granit Xhaka played at Wolves after recovering from a hip problem that kept him out of the Palace defeat.
Danny Welbeck, Rob Holding and Hector Bellerin remain out for the Gunners.
Two damaging defeats inside a week have left the Gunners on the outside looking in with only three games to go. Add to that the fact that two of their last three games are away from home and the odds look stacked against Unai Emery’s side.
Arsenal have been miserable away from home this season, winning just six of their 17 games. Trips to a vibrant Leicester and a resilient Burnley do not look particularly appetising for Emery.
One factor in Arsenal’s favour is the fact Chelsea must visit Manchester United on Sunday. If the Gunners can dig out a result at Leicester on Sunday, anything other than a Chelsea win at Old Trafford will see them seize control of their destiny again ahead of a home clash with relegation-threatened Brighton.
Like Chelsea, Arsenal also have the distraction of a Europa League semi-final and in a couple of weeks, it may be that the Gunners see that competition as their best route into the Champions League.
But in terms of top four, it looks likely to come down to the final day, with Chelsea and Arsenal both facing away games – at Leicester and Burnley respectively – before a potential winner-takes-all Europa League final.
Man Utd (64pts, +13GD)
United’s glorious winning run in deep mid-winter under Ole Gunnar Solskjaer feels like an awfully long time ago now.
The 3-2 win over Southampton on March 2 put them fourth, five points clear of Chelsea in sixth. But a 2-0 defeat at Arsenal followed and although they recovered to beat Watford at Old Trafford, three defeats in their last four look to have torpedoed their Champions League hopes.
The last two defeats have been especially painful. Sunday’s 4-0 humiliation at Everton exposed all the old frailties that saw Jose Mourinho’s time at Old Trafford brought to a premature end, and while losing to Manchester City is hardly a disgrace these days, United have now failed to score in three straight games in all competitions while conceding nine.
United earned a 2-2 draw with Chelsea at Stamford Bridge in October, before beating Cardiff 5-1 in south Wales and Huddersfield 3-1 at home over the Christmas period.
Ander Herrera has struggled for fitness since February and Solskjaer will be desperate for the Spaniard to return given his influence in the winning run when the Norwegian first took over from Mourinho.
Matteo Darmian returned to the starting line-up for the defeat to Manchester City having missed the thrashing at Everton, but Antonio Valencia, Marcos Rojo and Eric Bailly – who have been on the fringes at Old Trafford under Solskjaer in any case – remain unavailable.
It looks bleak for United, but hope is not entirely lost for Solskjaer. If United can fashion a win against Chelsea on Sunday, they then face two very winnable games to close out their campaign against already-relegated Huddersfield and struggling Cardiff.
Win their last three and United will finish on 73 points, forcing Chelsea to beat both Watford and Leicester and Arsenal to get seven points from their final three fixtures. With two of those away from the Emirates, United fans should retain some hope. But they have to win on Sunday.