Race for Champions League places going down to the wire; all the permutations ahead of the penultimate Premier League weekend
The race for a Champions League place is still set up nicely to go down to the wire, after another thrilling night in the Premier League.
The big game of the night was Newcastle United’s trip to Stamford Bridge to face Chelsea, with the Magpies holding a one-point ascendancy over the London side at kick-off.
Two stunning goals from Newcastle’s Papiss Cisse though (the second of which is likely to win Goal of the Season), ruined Chelsea’s hopes of gaining an automatic place in next season’s Champions League.
The Magpies’ 2-0 win in the capital has left the Tyneside club embroiled in a battle with Spurs and Arsenal for a Champions League spot.
In Wednesday night’s other Premier League match, Tottenham travelled to Bolton and put on a clinical show of counter-attacking to see off the relegation-threatened Trotters 4-1.
So where are things standing in the race to book a place in the lucrative draw for next season’s Champions League? The top four spots in the Premier League bring the reward of Champions League football next season and there are three clubs realistically left in the race for the remaining two spots.
First of all, Chelsea, now down in sixth place, are out of the picture as they would essentially need two wins from their remaining two matches and hope that Spurs or Newcastle don’t pick up a win in either of their remaining games. Chelsea are four points out of fourth place now following the home defeat against Newcastle and are in danger of not even making fifth place.
With the title race being fought out between Manchester City and Manchester United, Arsenal are holding on to third place, just about.
They have a one-point advantage over both Newcastle and their North London rivals Tottenham and so have a small buffer to work with.
Arsenal’s remaining two matches of the season consist of a home fixture against Norwich on Saturday and they finish up with a trip to West Brom.
The Gunners, who are stumbling towards the finish line, are expected to do just enough from those two matches to hold on to third, leaving a two way race for fourth.
Tottenham are in the driving seat at the moment in fourth, as they have a superior goal difference to that of Newcastle. Both are sat on 65 points, but Tottenham have an easier run in.
Harry Redknapp’s crew have to visit struggling Aston Villa next weekend, while they host Fulham on the final day of the season.
With Spurs rediscovering their winning touch just at the right time, all they need to do is just secure two wins in order to guarantee a top four place. That is because Newcastle are 13 goals behind in terms of goal difference and are unlikely to make that up in two matches.
Newcastle’s next match is also against league leaders Manchester City, so that is a going to be a tense, tough match in which to pull out a result, especially with City needing a win to keep themselves on track for the league title.
So the real race looks as if it is between Tottenham and Newcastle for fourth. However, there is a big contingency hanging over all of this.
If Chelsea happen to beat Bayern Munich in the final of this season’s Champions League, then only the top three in the Premier League get into the Champions League, along with Chelsea who would be the defending champions.
So Tottenham and Newcastle could still miss out on UEFA’s top club competition if Chelsea celebrate victory in Munich. If that does happen, then Spurs and the Magpies would have to settle for the Europa League.
The fifth placed team in the final standings automatically gets a shot at the Europa League. The sixth and seventh teams can also get into the Europa League, depending on what happens in the FA Cup and Carling Cups.
If the League Cup and FA Cup winners have already qualified, then sixth and seventh can join in UEFA’s second tier club competition.
Liverpool have already booked one of those places by winning the Carling Cup. So if they win the FA Cup as well, Chelsea would get into the Europa League if they finish the season in sixth without a cup. Similarly, if Chelsea win the FA Cup, but fail to win the Champions League, the Blues will be in the Europa League.
If Roberto Di Matteo’s team win just the Champions League or do the cup double, then they will take the Champions League spot, leaving Spurs and Newcastle with a place in the Europa League alongside Liverpool.
If the standings finished as they are at the moment of first Man City, second Man Utd, third Arsenal, fourth Spurs, fifth Newcastle and sixth Chelsea then:
If Chelsea lose both the Champions League and FA Cup Finals Man City, Man Utd, Arsenal and Spurs are in the Champions League and Newcastle, Chelsea and Liverpool are in the Europa League.
If Chelsea win the Champions League and FA Cup Finals Man City, Man Utd, Arsenal and Chelsea are in the Champions League and Spurs, Newcastle and Liverpool are in the Europa League.
If Chelsea win the FA Cup and lose the Champions League Final Man City, Man Utd, Arsenal and Spurs are in the Champions League and Newcastle, Chelsea and Liverpool are in the Europa League.