Premier League: Who will seal up the Champions League spots?
The race for the top spots in the Premier League stands to heat up after Manchester City’s appeal to overturn their Champions League exclusion was upheld by the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS). With the former champions having all but sealed second place in the Premier League table, this news comes as a bane for many of the other Premier League teams currently fighting for a place in the coveted Champions League next season.
With the likes of Arsenal and Tottenham all but out of the rat race, the fight for the third and fourth spot, which might guarantee the Champions League football next season has just heated up. On that note, we look at the other clubs in contention for Champions League football.
Remaining fixtures: Home to Norwich City and Wolves, Away at Liverpool
Frank Lampard took over from Maurizio Sarri and has ably led his side this season. The former Blues and England legend has overseen a complete overhaul of the team, with the old guns Pedro and Willian set to depart at the end of the season.
Buoyed by the arrival of Timo Werner and Hakim Ziyech next season, Lampard will hope to lead his side into the Champions League in his first year at the club as manager. Having won the trophy with Chelsea, Lampard has shown that he is a capable manager, with important wins through the season.
Their battle with Leicester City is a topsy-turvy affair, with Chelsea having narrowly won four of six matches since the restart. With tough fixtures against Wolves and Liverpool coming up and currently just one point above Leicester, the battle for third place might go down to the wire.
Remaining fixtures: Home to Sheffield United and Manchester United, Away at Tottenham
Under Brendan Rodgers, Leicester City look like an indomitable force. The Foxes have been in great form this season, with frontman Jamie Vardy having scored 22 goals to lead the goal-scoring charts this season. However, their attack is not the only reason for their great form.
Leicester City can owe their high-class performances to a certain level of consistency. They have a strong defensive unit, which looked unbeatable prior to the lockdown. However, since the beginning of Project Restart, the club has faltered a bit with only one win in six games and finds itself in a spot where it is competing with Chelsea for the third spot.
Their last three fixtures will be a test of their resilience as a Champions League club and they will deservedly qualify for the highest European competition if they perform well against these sides, especially with the looming threat of Chelsea staring at them.
Remaining fixtures: Home to Southampton and West Ham, Away at Crystal Palace and Leicester City
Currently fifth in the Premier League table, Manchester United have been among the best sides in the Premier League since the restart of the division. The combination play of Paul Pogba and Bruno Fernandes has been excellent, while the onus of their upsurge lies on the attackers.
Marcus Rashford, Anthony Martial and Mason Greenwood have established themselves as the dynamic trio for Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s Manchester United. They are yet to lose since Project Restart and have scored 15 goals in these five matches. Anthony Martial became the first player after the departure of Sir Alex Ferguson to score a hat-trick, while Mason Greenwood has also seemingly come of age after scoring a brace against both Brighton and Bournemouth, taking his tally for the season to nine.
United will need their defence at their best in order to try and get the better of both Chelsea and Leicester, with their game against the latter proving crucial to the final standings.
Remaining fixtures: Home to Crystal Palace, Away at Burnley and Chelsea
Wolves have been one of the biggest surprise packages of the Premier League this season, and sit comfortably at sixth, with another Europa League spot almost guaranteed. They are another team to have experienced a mixed restart with four narrow wins.
With a gap of three points between Wolves and United, Nuno Espirito Santo will be looking for inspiration from his forward line, who have looked less threatening since the restart. They are 15 goals behind United on goal difference and will look to buck up in their next three fixtures.
Although Wolves have been a shadow of themselves in an attacking aspect since the restart, they have kept five clean sheets, conceding just two goals during their home fixture against Arsenal. With the only tough fixture in their list being against Chelsea, expect the Wolves to put up a strong fight for Champions League football. If not, the club will definitely be proud of their season, even if it means another year of Europa.
Remaining fixtures: Home to Everton, Away at Leicester City and Southampton
Sheffield United have been one of the biggest revelations this season, having been promoted to Premier League and keeping in mind that they were languishing in the third tier during the 2016-17 season. Chris Wilder’s side has shown that a Premier League club can be successful without many big names.
With three matches left for the season, Sheffield United currently find themselves in seventh, five points behind fourth-placed Leicester City. The Blades will need to be at their firing best against their next three opponents and the club will be buoyed by their 3-0 win over Chelsea.
Overall, the task of overhauling the deficit of almost three points, with both Wolves and Manchester United in the mix, seems daunting to Wilder’s team. However, fans of Sheffield will be very happy with their club’s season and will make do with European football in the league, which will be an achievement unto itself. However, the threat of Tottenham and Arsenal underneath them will hang on their head as they approach the tough task at hand.
Feature image courtesy: AFP / Geoff Caddick
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