Juventus has been crowned Serie A champions while in France, the battle for Ligue 1 was over weeks ago, with Paris Saint-Germain retaining the title for a fourth consecutive year on March 13. However, England is yet to witness a champion of current Premier League season, and whosoever it may be, there is much more at stake than just the crown.
The Case of Witty Foxes and Lingering Spurs
Is the title race over? Is Leicester City the reigning champion of Premier League? Well, statistically, no. However, with one more win, the Foxes can make history and get their hands on the Premier League title for the very first time.
The Spurs, on the contrary, have never had a better chance of winning the league but their crucial slips in recent matches, especially the 1-1 draw against West Brom, have denied them the knocking opportunity while putting the Foxes into the driving seat.
As of now, with 35 game weeks gone and three more fixtures in hand for each side, Tottenham, with 69 on the table, is seven points behind league leaders Leicester City that has accumulated 76 points so far in BPL.
If Tottenham wins all three remaining fixtures from here on, they finish with 78 points which means that Ranieri and co need a single win or three more points in total to take their tally to 79 points. Regarding numbers, the title would be beyond Tottenham’s reach no matter what magic, unless it is ‘black’, Harry Kane or Pochettino can pull off.
However, Like England’s weather, its football is unpredictable, especially the Premier League. So to say, Leicester is up against Manchester United, Everton, and Chelsea in the game of death.
Subsequently, if Ranieri’s men cannot pull off a win in any of the three fixtures, they need all three draws, at least. However, if they lose one and draw the other two, and on the other hand, Tottenham will have to win all of its remaining fixtures to win the title which would be outrageous.
Sure, the Foxes have delineated their command and skill, but there is nothing more unpredictable in the world than a Premier League table of the last month of a season.
All three teams that the Foxes will have to see-off are craving EPL points, either to retain their spots or to end up in the top half of the table.
Nonetheless, considering the form the Foxes are in, it should not be too difficult for Ranieri to make sure his club makes that last gasp and goes on to lift the trophy it deserves. People had written Leicester off at the end of December, as one twit ranted about it on Twitter saying, “Manchester City or Arsenal to win the title. Leicester might end up at 5th, or maybe 4th if they push hard till the end.”
At the moment, I am feeling jubilant that I did not place my million-dollar bet on the guy! Surely, no one can write them off now, and most probably, the hard work of Riyad Mahrez and Jamie Vardy will bear good fruit.
On the other hand, Tottenham still cannot afford to drop any points since its tail is wagging, with Sky Blues, the Gunners, and the Red Devils seeking a place in the Champions League.
A Battle Within a Battle
Now with Arsenal out of the title race, Arsene Wenger should not have much to complain about. Oh, wait! The Gunners have an ongoing battle for the next season’s Champions League spot; so do Manchester City and Manchester United, and probably West Ham as well.
The only team to have booked a place in Champions League so far is Leicester City because as of now, they cannot drop below the second spot. The bunch beneath the Foxes is lingering in the dark over the qualification saga, and rightly so.
With UEFA making amendments to the qualification procedures, it can get all confusing to understand which teams can qualify and which cannot, and at what stage any team in any particular league enters into the UCL. Let’s break it down piece by piece.
As per UEFA’s association coefficient for England, four clubs will qualify for UCL. The catch, however, is that a fifth team could enter the UCL if Manchester City goes on to win the Champions League AND Liverpool triumphs in the Europa League.
Now let’s assume that both the Sky Blues and Liverpool win their respective European tournaments while slipping in domestic leagues, giving way to three other clubs in the top three positions. This would mean that the top three in BPL would qualify for the UCL, and the fourth-placed team would enter the Europa League.
Manchester City will qualify for the group stage of the next season. On the other hand, for Liverpool to enter directly into the group stage of UCL, either City or Klopp XI will have to qualify for the UCL through their domestic league position. Otherwise, Liverpool will start their campaign from the playoffs.
On the contrary, if either City or Liverpool wins its respective European title, the top three from EPL, along with the winner of UCL or Europa League will qualify for Champions League next year, with the fourth team entering the playoff round of the UCL. The same would happen if City and Liverpool both slump in Europe.
Now that the rules are out of the way, what does it mean for the Premier League clubs?
It means we are in for some surprising slips and a breathtaking and uncanny finish to the Premier League, yet again.
It is important to note that the safest places on the EPL table are the first three because the title race for Liverpool and Manchester City in Europe is still on.
Considering the form Tottenham has been in, Pochettino XI looks very safe to qualify for UCL. Following Tottenham are the two giants, Manchester City, and Arsenal, who have the same points, and only the goal difference separates them. Both teams will lock horns on May 8, and the fate of that match will significantly alter the course of progression since the winner will, at least temporarily, claim the third spot.
Manchester United is catching up on Gunners and Sky Blues. Any slip from here on by Arsenal and City will benefit the Red Devils. If United wins all four matches, it can statistically secure the second spot from Tottenham, considering Tottenham loses all remaining fixtures. Realistically, Manchester United are at a disadvantage because it is five points behind the third and fourth and has an inferior goal difference.
If West Ham beats United in the postponed fixture, Steven Bilic’s side will have a go at the top spots due to superior goal difference to Van Gaal’s squad.
This much sums up what is about to happen in the next month. However, only time will tell who secures what and who ends up where in the current and the next season. For now, we can only say that Leicester and Tottenham are most probably going to the Champions League. Manchester City has a good chance because they have both the options open. Arsenal, along with the lurching West Ham and Manchester United, will have to push extremely hard for a Champions League berth.