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EPL: Who has the best chance to seal a Top 4 spot?

Chelsea, Leicester, Manchester United: Who has the best fixtures to secure a top-four finish?

July 20, 2020 By Emmanuel K. Budu-Annor
It all comes down the to the final day!

The Premier League is swiftly approaching its end but has retained the buzz that characterized it for the most part of a season marred by the COVID-19 pandemic. While Liverpool may have demoted Manchester City to become the new champions owning to a domineering campaign, there is more left to savor as far as the top half of the table is concerned.

Obviously, the first and second positions are out of reach but two slots remain to be filled for England's contingents for next season's Champion League to be complete. Just like the persevering pandemic, 'Project Restart' has presented odd happenings while the bookies have also been defied with respect to outcomes of matches. Now, with a game or two remaining for a number of clubs, the 2019/2020 Premier League campaign will go down to the wire before a clearer picture of the table can be seen.

As things stand, Chelsea, Leicester City, and Manchester United lead the charge to make either the third or fourth position their own while the likes of Tottenham Hotspur and Wolves remain outsiders. Live Soccer TV analyzes the chances of the teams in the race for a top-four finish by taking into consideration the fixtures left for each of these clubs.

1. Chelsea

  • Current position: 3rd

  • Matches remaining: Two

Having headed into the season with a transfer ban and a relatively inexperienced manager, not many saw Chelsea as a formidable group to make a strong claim for a top-four finish let alone stage a challenge for the Premier League title. An opening day 4-0 defeat away to Manchester United reinforced the agenda of a prospective decline awaiting the Stamford Bridge outfit. Nevertheless, the passing of time has made the narrative a figment of imagination in the minds of naysayers as the Blues are just three points away from securing a top-four finish.

In hindsight, Frank Lampard's brigade could not have asked for a tough run of games at a point where the stakes are extremely high. Among the three teams aiming to secure a top-four finish, they arguably have the toughest set of fixtures – the first coming against Liverpool on Wednesday and a final day blockbuster clash with Wolves who are chasing Europa League football next season.

Primarily, Chelsea will be required to ruin the unbeaten home record of Jurgen Klopp and his men on the day of their coronation if they fancy wrapping up their quest for a top-four finish before the final day. While the Blues beat Manchester City to fast-forward Liverpool's celebration as champions, the Merseysiders may not be keen on returning the favor.

Following a 2-1 defeat to Arsenal in their previous Premier League outing, Klopp and a host of his players vowed to make amends and make Wednesday a memorable day for fans who have waited for 30 years to see them lift a league trophy. Essentially, the Reds are aiming to make it win number 31 in 37 appearances while extending the unbeaten run at home to 18. As a result, Chelsea will have all to play for when Wolves come to Stamford Bridge in the last game of the season.

Mathematically, it will be impossible for Nuno Espirito Santos' men to secure a top-four finish. For that to happen, Manchester United and Leicester City – who play each other on the final day – would have to lose all their remaining games, an outcome which is clearly impossible. But the prospect of securing Europa League football for next season firmly exists for the Molineux outfit.

Sitting in the 6th position with 59 points, Wolves need to win their final game against Chelsea to be safe. Any outcome contrary to this could result in their demotion to seventh or eighth should Tottenham win their last match against Crystal Palace and, Arsenal, their games with Aston Villa and Watford.

Meanwhile, a slim chance exists for Wolves' European football aspirations outside the league but that will only be a possibility if they finish seventh, followed by a win for Chelsea in the FA Cup final with Arsenal in August.

2. Leicester City

  • Current position: 4th

  • Remaining match: One

If anybody had mentioned that Leicester City will be in their current predicament after Matchday 24, very little would have believed. At the time, Brendan Rodgers' men, having accumulated 40 points, were 14 points clear of Manchester United. 13 rounds of games later, they are tied on points with the Red Devils and only edge them with a superior goal difference although Ole's men have a game in hand with West Ham.

The hiatus necessitated by the coronavirus has superficially affected the momentum of the Foxes who have won just two out of eight Premier League games since the season resumed. Now their quest for Champions League football is in a balance and solely hinges on them beating Manchester United in the last game of the season.

A win will take their points tally after 38 games to 65 and secure at least fourth position for the 2017 Premier League winners. As to whether they will be able to pull off the coup against the Reds remains to be seen in what has become one of the biggest games of the season.

3. Manchester United

  • Current position: 5th

  • Remaining matches: Two

Two tricky tests await Manchester United whose destiny now lies in their own hands. After failing to secure Champions League qualification last season, the Red Devils are at least two draws away from making it into the promise-land. Tied on 62 points with Leicester City, they will look to get the better of West Ham at Old Trafford in their Matchday 37 outing before traveling to take on the Foxes on the Premier League's final day.

The first of the two games will see the 13-time Premier League champions reuniting with former boss David Moyes, whose side has put in a remarkable late fight to stay afloat. The post-lockdown form of the Hammers has been inferior to just a handful despite the team commencing with two defeats to Wolves and Tottenham Hotspur respectively.

With the Londoners being unbeaten in four of their last five outings, a strong performance will be expected at Old Trafford although the stakes are not as high as they were a few weeks ago. Needless to say, Manchester United's 12-game unbeaten record in the Premiership could motivate them to hold their ground, especially when they have a trip to Leicester in their last game.

In perspective, a draw should suffice for the Red Devils at the King Power Stadium should they successfully defeat or draw with West Ham in the first of the two games.

Verdict:

Fine margins will decide the final outlook of the Premier League table and, on paper, none of the three teams have an easy stroll in the quest to secure a Champions League slot for next season. Based on the above stated we expect Chelsea to at least secure a point from the two remaining games. Anfield remains a fortress for Liverpool and Wolves, despite falling to a 5-2 defeat in the reverse fixture, should put in a solid shift at Stamford Bridge to safeguard their position from the advances of Spurs.

On the contrary, Leicester City's chances look less promising with their form and the magnitude of the game with Manchester United put into perspective. A point against the Red Devils looks like a possibility but that will only suffice if Chelsea fails to secure any point from their two remaining games and Manchester United loses to West Ham.

This will mean that Rodgers' men will finish third with a superior goal difference while the Red Devils come in at fourth with a better goal ratio than the Blues. A safer option will be for Leicester to beat Manchester United to earn a guaranteed spot.

For Manchester United, we expect a cagey affair against West Ham as the latter have proved to be formidable opponents in recent weeks. Still, the Old Trafford outfit should do enough to secure the three points here. Against Leicester City, we expect a draw.

Final standings:

3rd Manchester United: 66 points (win vs. West Ham and a draw vs. Leicester City)

4th Chelsea: 66 points (loss vs. Liverpool and win vs. Wolves)

5th Leicester City: 63 points (draw vs. Manchester United).

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