Written by Sam Greasley-Machin (@Greasley_Machin)
Twelve games remain of the current Premier League season in what is truly the business end of the campaign.
However, the business of who will take England’s top division crown has been set out for a while now with the race for a treasured Champions League place where the real competition is at.
That competition has really heated up in the last few days with the announcement that Manchester City are set to be banned from competing in the Champions League and Europa league for the next two years – meaning fifth place will be enough to qualify.
Currently the top eleven teams remain six points or less from fifth place in the Premier League as we attempt to assess their chances of Champions League qualification for next season.
Liverpool’s first league title win since 1989 seems to be set in stone for this season and a pointless inclusion on this list, but a necessary one nonetheless. The Reds’ current campaign is now just a question of how much they can win the league by. Can they beat the current 100 points record set by Manchester City in 2017-18? Can they go unbeaten? Jurgen Klopp’s side are certainly going the right way about it.
Likeliness – 11/10
Brendan Rodger’s side have managed to establish themselves as the newest member of the so called ‘big-six’ this season, although in part due to many of the other big sides faltering during this campaign. Currently third in the division, Leicester have provided some eye-catching displays this season, but have dipped in form recently.
Still, the Foxes remain ten points above fifth, but end the season having to play Sheffield United, Arsenal and Manchester United consecutively so a change in form is really needed sooner rather than later to pick up points and consolidate a Champions League spot rather than having to leave it late against tougher opponents. Not currently being in the Champions League will also certainly aid their cause.
Likeliness – 9/10
The inaugural season of Frank Lampard’s Stamford Bridge reign hasn’t been the easiest start for the former Derby County boss having come fresh off the back of a transfer embargo to start his tenure and with a few injuries along the way. But ‘super’ Frank seems to be doing a good job all things considered and a Champions League spot is well within reach.
However, the Blues will need to improve their form if they are to reach the top level of European football, having won only once in the league since the turn of the year. That in part isn’t helped by the lack of a goalscorer and injuries. And with the way things are heading will be slipping out of at least the top four unless the London side can find a way to change their fortunes. Still being in the Champions League and FA Cup will no doubt put a strain on the squad as well, as it looks to become a real slog to grind out the remainder of the season successfully.
The reign of Jose Mourinho is well and truly underway at Tottenham as the North London side look to close in on the top four following a poor start to the season under Mauricio Pochettino. Spurs have only lost twice since Christamas, one of which was against Liverpool, and currently only one point behind Chelsea – but with much better form.
Although, Spurs’ fixtures to round off the season are no doubt slightly tougher than that of Frank Lampard’s side, having to face seven of the top ten in their remaining games. However, Tottenham certainly have goalscorers, even without talisman Harry Kane, and proving to be quite the force under Mourinho as of late. Strengthening in January, where their rivals haven’t, with Steven Bergwijn and Gedson Fernandes will no doubt help in their plight.
The Blades have definitely shocked fans across the Premier League with their impressive return to the top-flight. No one would have imagined the Yorkshire would be doing as well as they are and to put them in the brackett of Champions League chasers is crazy. But that’s football! Chris Wilder’s team has without a doubt earned their place in the top six (currently) and are only two points off fourth as of writing this.
Sheffield United are still to play six of the top ten, but haven’t lost to a side outside of the top two since early December. The Blades boast one of the best defensive records in the division, second only to Liverpool, and are the fairytale story that all fans love to see in football. There certainly are many fans who prefer them to take the fifth Champions League spot and it is well within reach if they can maintain the excellence they have shown thus far. Where they may lack in individual quality they make up for in discipline, unity and good all round football.
Manchester United this season have been well below the standards expected from then. Inconsistency has been the biggest issue combined with injuries, but still after what feels like a bad season for the Red Devils they are within a shot of still getting top-flight European football.
Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s side play five of the top ten in their remaining twelve games and with the return of Anthony Martial’s form and the the winter acquisition of Bruno Fernandes are well within a decent shot. But as mentioned before consistency has been an issue so far and will no doubt play a part still between now and the conclusion of the season.
Honourable Mentions (Wolves, Everton and Arsenal)
Both Wolves and Everton tie on 36 points at the moment and three/four places off of the final Champions League respectively. However in reality the two sides will be competing for Europa League football. Swapping Marco Silva for Carlo Ancellotti has without question improved Everton’s fortunes, but it came a little too late to truly contest for a Championship League spot. While Wolves just don’t seem to have enough about them yet to advance from Europa League contests to Champions League – that said both teams really aren’t far off.
Where Manchester United have had a bad season Arsenal’s has been much worse. While the Gunners currently occupy tenth spot in the Premier League, Mikel Arteta’s side have only won seven times in 26 matches. That is far from the type of form needed to qualify for UEFA’s top competition. Admittedly their results are on the up, but it seems too little too late to be able to reach the top five and are even facing a real battle just to reach the Europa League next season. Perhaps a season out of Europe would do the North London side a world of good though
Likeliness: Wolves 3/10, Everton 3/10, Arsenal 2/10
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