The final day of the most extraordinary Premier League season is upon us.
At 4pm tomorrow (Sunday), 10 Premier League games will kick-off as the season-that-nearly-never-was comes to an exciting conclusion.
With several things still to be decided, we’ll explain all the possibilities of how the Premier League table could look come dinner time tomorrow.
Liverpool have already been crowned Premier League champions and lifted the trophy on Wednesday during their 5-3 win against Chelsea at Anfield. This means they have qualified to be one of the teams competing in the FA Community Shield at the end of August, a fixture which reportedly could be one of the first to welcome fans back in some capacity.
Champions League Spots
It is worth noting that, if Chelsea finish outside the top four, and win the Champions League (they are 3-0 down against Bayern Munich), and Wolves win the Europa League, 4th place will no longer be a Champions League spot.
Manchester City: 2nd, 78pts. Final Game: vs Norwich (H).
Manchester City will, regardless of results tomorrow, finish as runners-up to the Reds. After their two-year European football ban was overturned by the Court for Arbitration in Sport (CAS), this means they will automatically qualify for the UEFA Champions League group stages next year. They can also qualify by winning the Champions League – they have an 2-1 advantage in their tie against Real Madrid.
The remaining spots are slightly trickier.
Manchester United: 3rd, 63pts, GD: +28. Final Game: vs Leicester City (A).
Manchester United finish their season with a decider against other Champions League hopefuls Leicester. United have fired their way to a simple route to the Champions League: at least draw, and Manchester United are assured of a top four spot.
A defeat for Manchester United will require Chelsea to lose, too, and United will have to avoid a huge goal difference swing.
Chelsea: 4th, 63pts, GD: +13. Final Game: vs Wolves (H).
In another game with both sides competing for European football, Chelsea have lucked out with the fixture list. A point at home to Wolves will give Chelsea a top-four spot due to the game between Man Utd and Leicester. Losing at home to Nuno Espirito Santo’s side will mean Chelsea require Manchester United to beat Leicester to qualify via the top 4.
Leicester City: 5th, 62pts. Final Game: vs Manchester United (H).
Leicester’s pre-lockdown form has fallen apart and the Foxes now face a tough task to qualify for the Champions League next season. Beating in-form Manchester United at the King Power will secure a place in the top four. A draw, though, will be enough if Chelsea lose at Stamford Bridge, due to the Foxes’ greater goal difference.
Europa League Spots
All of those in the Champions League race have guaranteed qualification for some form of European football next season, so the Europa League group stage spot (5th) is sealed – it will go to one of Chelsea, Leicester City or Manchester United. However, with 6th and potentially 7th getting European football, the final day is still set to provide some drama for Europe’s second-tier competition.
Wolves: 6th, 59pts. Final Game: vs Chelsea (A)
A Wolves win will ensure they finish 6th, which is guaranteed to be a Europa League spot. However, a draw at Stamford Bridge will be enough as long as Tottenham don’t beat Crystal Palace. A defeat will mean they need Tottenham to lose at Selhurst Park – Tottenham have a greater goal difference and finishing level on points would relegate Wolves to 7th. Wolves would qualify for the Champions League if they win the Europa League.
Tottenham Hotspur: 7th, 58pts. Final Game: vs Crystal Palace (A).
Having said that, 7th could well be a Europa League spot. If Chelsea win the FA Cup, 7th will become a European spot, and neither Spurs nor Wolves will worry about where they finish. However, to guarantee European football Spurs need to win and hope that Wolves drop points. A draw would be enough at Selhurst Park if Chelsea can beat Wolves.
Norwich City: 20th, 21pts. Final Game: vs Manchester City (A).
Norwich City have already been relegated, but it will be a nervy final day for Bournemouth, Watford and Aston Villa, two of whom will be relegated to the Championship tomorrow depending on results.
Bournemouth: 19th, 31pts, GD: -27. Final Game: vs Everton (A).
Most likely to go down are Bournemouth. The Cherries’ five-year stay in the Premier League will be over if they lose or draw to Everton at Goodison Park. A win may not be enough either; if the Cherries do beat the Toffees, they will need defeats for both Aston Villa and Watford to stay up.
Watford: 18th, 34pts, GD: -27. Final Game: Arsenal (A).
The Hornets have arguably the toughest test on paper in terms of opponents. Arsenal, who now have nothing to play for as they can no longer qualify for Europe via the league, may choose to rest players ahead of the FA Cup final against Chelsea. Whatever decision Mikel Arteta makes, managerless Watford – who will be led by former West Ham and Crystal Palace midfielder Hayden Mullins – need to win to give themselves the best chance of survival. A win for Watford will put them onto 37 points. If, then, Aston Villa also manage to get a win, the Watford result will need to be 2 goals better than the Aston Villa result. Here’s an example to demonstrate.
If Aston Villa – away to West Ham (see below) – win 2-0, then Watford must win 4-0 to stay up (as Watford would then stay up on goal difference – -23 for the Hornets, -24 for the Villains). If, though, Watford only won 3-0, and Villa won 2-0 (i.e. they finished on the same goal difference), Watford would be relegated as they will have scored fewer goals this season than Villa.
If Aston Villa draw, Watford need to win to guarantee safety.
If Aston Villa lose, a draw will be enough to keep the Vicarage Road side playing Premier League football.
Watford can stay up with a defeat; if Bournemouth draw or lose, and Aston Villa’s defeat is by two more goals than Watford’s is, then Watford will stay up with a superior goal difference. Again, an example:
Arsenal beat Watford 1-0. For Watford to stay up, they need to hope that Aston Villa were beaten by 3 goals (3-0, 4-1, 5-2 etc) or more to stay up.
Aston Villa: 17th, 34pts, GD: -26. Final Game: West Ham (A).
Just down the road in Stratford, Aston Villa play for their survival. It is a little – but only a little – less complicated. Win, and Villa will be safe, so long as Watford don’t win by a two-goal-greater margin. So in essence, if Villa do exactly what Watford do, they are definitely safe.
If Aston Villa and Watford finish on the same goal difference, assuming no ridiculous scorelines at the Emirates, Villa will stay up on goals scored. The only way this won’t work is if both sides lose, and Watford score 7 or more goals than Aston Villa do. For example:
Villa will be relegated if they lose 2-0 and Watford lose 8-7, because Watford will have scored more goals than them in the season. Bear in mind, though, that the last time Watford scored 7 goals in a league game was in 2015, during a 7-2 win over Blackpool in the Championship – four of them coming from Manchester United’s loanee striker Odion Ighalo.
If, though, in the scenario above, Watford lost 7-6, and therefore ended the season with the same goals scored as Aston Villa, then it would come down to head-to-head. As both sides won, and got 3 points (Villa beat Watford, Watford beat Villa), then in this ridiculously unlikely event, there would need to be a play-off at a neutral venue. As the saying goes, if that happens, I’ll eat my hat.
In short, Villa can pretty much stay up with almost any result, but a win might just stop any sweating coming tomorrow evening.