Premier League State of Play and the Title Run-In

Who will win the title? Who secures European qualification and who gets relegated? The final weeks of the Premier League season offer some tantalizing permutations and combinations
The Nike Flight Premier League Football For 2020/21 Season
The Nike Flight Premier League Football For 2020/21 Season / Alex Pantling/GettyImages

The Premier League title race is balanced on a knife’s edge—Manchester City sit one point behind both Arsenal [who lead the table on goal difference] and Liverpool but do have one game in hand.

The caveat for City is they might still find themselves third, again with one game in hand, even if they win away against Brighton. In fact, City will remain one game behind Arsenal and Liverpool until 14th May, when they travel to Tottenham for their penultimate game of the season.

Now, it is an incredibly tough ask but if Arsenal and Liverpool were to win all four of their games each, it creates an intense amount of pressure on City who must match those results and yet find themselves trailing their rivals. Whether they eventually succumb to it or indeed relish it and win six in a row on their way to a historic, record-breaking fourth consecutive Premier League title is, of course, the multi-million dollar question.

Few might bet against them, given recent history and their remarkable aptitude for relentlessly winning game after game in the run-in until they have secured the title. And yet, they have looked fatigued recently and have certainly not been at their imperious best this campaign. Their rivals too appear to be going nowhere at all.

Arsenal seem more mature than last season, and less likely to fade away while Liverpool are intent on giving the departing Klopp a perfect farewell. All three of them have been eliminated from European competition, and can focus all their energy and effort to the domestic title.

Immediately behind them in the table sit Aston Villa, six points clear of their only competition for the fourth Champions League spot, but Tottenham do have two games in hand which could bring them level on points. However, Villa might feel the more confident because Spurs still have to play the three title contenders: Arsenal and City at home, and Liverpool away.

A potential fifth Champions League spot for English clubs next season may now be nigh impossible, given Manchester City, Arsenal, Liverpool, and West Ham were all eliminated from European competition in one week, leaving Aston Villa as the only remaining English club still fighting in Europe.

Tottenham appear near certain to secure fifth place which gives them one of the two Europa League spots. Manchester United can secure the other in one of two ways: win the FA Cup final against arch-rivals City or finish sixth above Newcastle United, who currently sit ahead of them only on goal difference.

Quite astonishingly, even Chelsea have a shout at qualifying for the Europa League: win their game in hand to climb above Manchester United in the table, then trump them and Newcastle to sixth spot, and hope Manchester City win the FA Cup.

West Ham, on the other hand, appear to have wrecked their chances by losing 5-2 away at Crystal Palace. They are now two points behind, having played two more games. They do still have an outside chance of qualifying for the Europa Conference League if they manage to secure seventh place but Newcastle, Man Utd, Chelsea, and even Brighton are all better placed to finish above them.

The 11th to 15th places look certain to be occupied by the five clubs who sit there now—Wolverhampton Wanderers, Fulham, Bournemouth, Crystal Palace, and Brentford—with not much to be gained or lost by the actual final position other than another season in the top flight.

Everton, despite the eight points deducted for breach of financial regulations, should be safe now after their 2-0 win at home against Nottingham Forest, given they have a game in hand over the three teams immediately below them and they play two of the bottom three—Luton Town and Sheffield United, away and home respectively—in their final five games.

So, we are left with Nottingham Forest [17th with 26 points], Luton Town [18th with 25 points], and Burnley [19th with 23 points] fighting for the prized 17th place which guarantees them at least one more season amongst the elite. It is fair to say Sheffield United are already practically relegated, even if they do have one game in hand.

Luton have the most difficult final four games but Burnley and Nottingham actually play each other on the final day of the season in a match which just might decide their fate. Nottingham, however, also face Sheffield away, where a win may see them safe before the Burnley relegation six-pointer.

It is rare to be this close to the end of a Premier League season with so much left undecided but it should mean we are in for an absolute treat these next few weeks.