Chelsea have won the Premier League and Tottenham will finish second. Sunderland, Middlesbrough and Hull are relegated. Sky Sports pay a fortune for the pick of the matches and will have to work hard to create a final day drama. The most important outstanding issue is which teams will qualify for the Champions League and its any two from Manchester City, Liverpool and Arsenal. It will take some strange results for Arsenal to qualify again and Arsene Wenger may miss out for the first time as the manager of the Gunners.
It is now tradition for all the last day matches to start at the same time. The thinking is that no team should have an advantage of knowing the desired result to achieve a specific objective. However, injury time is not set in stone so there is still potential for sides desperate to score or not concede a goal while other crucial fixtures are over. You have the strange situation of fans going crazy when scores from other matches filter through. It still hurts that Blackburn lost at Anfield but won the Premier League in 1995 because Any Cole couldn’t hit a barn for Manchester United at West Ham.
United and Everton can’t improve their position from the final fixtures but can’t drop a place. As it stands both teams will be in the Europa League at worst but for United things could be so much better. If they beat Ajax in the final of the Europa League next Wednesday they will qualify for the Champions League and also become just the third team to win four different European competitions. Jose Mourinho gave up the ghost for a top four finish some weeks ago.
United have had a busy schedule and had more than their fair share of injuries. At one point Mourinho was threatening to play in the centre of the defence. However, the workload is not unprecedented and other teams have coped in the past. Mourinho is playing a dangerous game by putting all his eggs in the Europa League basket. It could all go horribly wrong if Ajax beat them but on form the English team should oblige and make Mourinho’s first season at Old Trafford a successful one.
The Champions League is the Holy Grail of European football. TV earnings are huge so clubs can invest in the best players attracted by the top wages. United cannot afford to be absent again so the pressure is on Mourinho to deliver. The three clubs still in the mix to qualify for next season’s competition are under extreme stress as owner’s business plans could stand or fall by Champions league qualification or the nightmare scenario of missing out on the highly lucrative tournament.
Arsenal must get a better result against Everton than Liverpool against Middlesbrough to overhaul them and beat Everton and City to lose to finish above that side. The most likely scenario is wins for all three which means the places would remain unaltered Only City can afford not to win and Arsenal could score a hatful against Everton and still miss out because the two other sides are in better shape and have more points in the bag. If Everton take a point of Arsenal Liverpool’s task is easier so there is a subplot involving the Merseyside clubs. Will the Blues really want to help the Reds?
The situation is complicated by the fact that the three teams fighting over the last two Champions League places are meeting sides with nothing to play for except finishing positions. Everton will finish seventh, Middlesbrough are relegated and Watford are free of relegation issues. It would be typical of Liverpool to beat West Ham away 4-0 and then slip up at home against Boro. However, they should have enough to get the job done but an early goal is crucial and could lead to a few more. However, the fans might have to sweat and wait until the second half before Liverpool have a significant advantage. Draw at half time/home win at full time could be the bet.
Assuming Arsenal beat Everton City cannot afford to lose at Watford but goal difference could come into play. City have the better goal difference by five goals so a 4-0 win for Arsenal and 1-0 defeat for City makes things even and by definition Arsenal will have scored more goals. Basically it will be all over and done and dusted for City and Liverpool if they win and Arsenal will finish fifth, even if they beat Everton twenty-nil!