Manchester City have won the Premier League, Manchester United and Tottenham have qualified for the Champions League and Swansea, Stoke and West Brom are relegated save for a bizarre set of results. The broadcasters of the last day are struggling for a story and are grasping at straws in focusing on the two matches that will determine who finishes fourth. Even if Chelsea beat Newcastle away from home a draw for Liverpool at home to Brighton should suffice and Chelsea will miss out.
Eight of the fixtures bring together teams with nothing at stake. There could be some changes in the standings which affects prize money. However, the financial rewards from league positions are small compared to the income from television money. Arsenal may be motivated to win at Huddersfield in Arsene Wenger’s last match and Manchester City will be looking to end the season with a win at Southampton. There is nothing on the other six matches on the last day of the league season.
In the past there have been some dramatic storey lines related the final programme of fixtures. In the 1994/95 season Blackburn led Manchester United by two points with one match to play. United were away at West Ham and Blackburn played Liverpool at Anfield. Liverpool supporters faced the dilemma of wanting to see their team win but not wanting United to win the league. The plot was enhanced by the fact that Kenny Dalglish was the manager of Blackburn on the day.
Liverpool beat Blackburn but United could only draw their match so Blackburn won the title by one point. There has not been the same drama since that season but the television companies are duty bound to make the last day exciting even if in reality there is very little on the line. Brighton have nothing to play for and Liverpool have a brilliant home record. It would be a huge upset if Brighton avoided defeat.
Newcastle’s form has dipped since relegation was out of the question. They could finish in the top half despite losing four matches in a row. When a team have secured mid-table security hunger and commitment levels drop and Chelsea can take advantage this Sunday. The motivated teams with something to play for can win the points they need to achieve the objective. Their opponents may already be on the beach but there is no doubting the integrity of the league.
Liverpool will thus qualify for the Champions League through their league position and Chelsea will be playing in the Europa League. Antonio Conte may pay with his job because the Chelsea owner did not invest millions to be not playing in the Champions League. Liverpool could qualify twice by winning this year’s final against Real Madrid but Chelsea will not be given the extra place from the Premier League. The only ways an English team can get into the Champions League are winning the competition or the Europa League or finishing fourth in the Premier League.
Chelsea could still leapfrog Liverpool but if Liverpool draw with Brighton Chelsea will have to beat Newcastle by 16 goals to claim fourth place. The record score in the Premier League is 9-0 so that won’t happen so the onus is on Brighton to do Chelsea a massive favour. Brighton only secured their Premier League status last Friday with a home win over Manchester United so they could be suffering mental letdown. Sadly Chelsea and the broadcasters will have nothing to get excited about during the second half of matches on the final day.