As we approach the end of another season, fans across the country will be nervously considering their team’s chances of Champions League qualification or relegation from the Premier League. Here are my predictions for the final Champions League places:
Two teams are already guaranteed qualification to the Champions League and one is Manchester United, who are 21 points clear from 5th place Spurs. With only 18 possible points remaining for Spurs this season, Manchester City are also certain to participate with Europe’s elite as they are 20 points from Spurs. This leaves four contenders for the final two Champions League spots; Chelsea, Arsenal, Tottenham Hotspur and Everton.
4th place Chelsea have the biggest fixture list of the four contenders, with 10 games remaining for them. If they beat FC Basel they will have 11 games to play. Chelsea will have played over 70 games this season, and this is very physically draining on a squad. However, Rafael Benítez has shown before that he is adept at squad rotation, which is what is needed to prevent Chelsea’s season being ruined by exhaustion. They are currently two points adrift of Arsenal, with a two games in hand. Tomorrow Chelsea play Liverpool, a tough fixture as Liverpool look to cement their 6th place position and try to overtake Everton. Chelsea face their first midweek fixture against FC Basel in Switzerland, in the Europa League quarter final, on Thursday. They then only have three days to recover to face Swansea, a team who like to keep the ball. This could be a tough test for Chelsea. Chelsea then host Basel at home before travelling to Manchester to face Manchester United 2 days later. This is a ridiculous recuperation time but the fixture may be easier than people think as Manchester United should have won the league by then. Sir Alex might want to break the record points total though… Aston Villa away would ordinarily look an easy fixture, but Villa will be fighting to stay up and are currently in form. Chelsea’s last game of the season is against Everton at home. Everton may need to win this game to stay clear of Liverpool, and, even worse for Chelsea, may need to win to finish fourth. This should be a thriller. My Prediction: 4th
3rd place Arsenal are now 5 points clear of their rivals Spurs, but Spurs have 2 games in hand. Wenger will need to make sure that the squad does not panic, but, Arsenal have more experience this season and this will benefit them massively in these crucial last few games. Next Sunday, Arsenal host a Manchester United side, their toughest game remaining, who may need to win to be crowned officially as champions. Travelling to West-London to face QPR could be easy or very hard. QPR may have already been relegated, meaning they will either fight or collapse to Arsenal. If they are still in the hunt for survival though, Arsenal will face one of the most difficult games of their whole season. Wigan Athletic at home is also tough, with Wigan needing to win and then Newcastle away could be another hard game. Newcastle, depending on their previous games, may need to win. My Prediction:3rd
5th place Tottenham Hotspur are just 2 points clear of Everton and just 3 points away from Chelsea. Tottenham, now knocked out of the Europa League after losing to FC Basel, can now focus on finishing in the Champions League spots. (See my article “FC Basel 2-Tottenham Hotspur 2” for a match report). With the return of their key man, Gareth Bale, Spurs may be in with a chance for finishing third. However, Spurs probably face nearly all of the worst teams possible in their run-in. Manchester City at home tomorrow is a horrible fixture. City will need to win as they keep trying to derail United like they did last season. Wigan away might end in Spurs losing. Wigan play lovely counter-attacking football and will need to win. Southampton at home is another tricky game. Southampton are in form and play lovely passing football. With Southampton keeping possession, are draw or a high scoring game look likely, both bad things for Spur’s. The Saints may also need to win to keep themselves clear of danger. Tottenham then travel to another team who needs to win, Stoke City. There they will be in for a physical encounter and may also suffer potential injuries. My prediction:5th
6th place Everton look very unlikely to finish fourth after today’s bad result against Sunderland. They are 2 points away from Spurs who have two games in hand. They may need to finish fourth if David Moyes is to stay at the club. The lack of squad depth for Everton though has cost them dearly and now they may need to focus on finishing ahead of Liverpool. Fulham on the 27th April should be an easy game, but Fulham may need to win to make certain of their survival, with surprising results happening every week. The trip to Anfield for a crucial Merseyside derby could see them be overtaken by Liverpool. Hosting West Ham is probably their easiest remaining game, and easy games must be won at this stage. With Chelsea away as their last game of the season, Everton may not even finish sixth. Chelsea will be pushing for third place along with Arsenal, making the trip to London very hard for the Toffees. My Prediction:7th (Liverpool 6th)
So, those are my predictions for the final Champions League places, we will see if they turn out to be correct! Next week I will write a prediction for the teams who I think will go down.