The Premier League is approaching its final two match days. Though the title race has been sewn for some time, the Champions League and Relegation races could come down to the finish. Decisive matches in each race, Wigan vs. Swansea (relegation) and Tottenham vs. Chelsea (top four) will be played today and tomorrow respectively. Here is a breakdown of how each race plays out.
3. Chelsea [68 pts, +34GD] Tottenham, at Aston Villa, Everton
4. Arsenal [67pts, +31GD] Wigan, at Newcastle
5. Tottenham [65pts, +18GD] at Chelsea, at Stoke, Sunderland
Arsenal have two matches left. Chelsea and Tottenham play a game in hand, against each other. That match, tomorrow, will change this race dramatically. A Chelsea win puts Spurs, way behind on goal difference, in the shit, so to speak. Their max would be 71 points. Chelsea would be all but into the Champions League regardless of the final results. Arsenal would go through with a win and a draw, unless Spurs won a match by 15-0 or so. If Chelsea and Tottenham draw, Spurs’ limit is 72 points. Chelsea could clinch with a win in the final two matches. Arsenal could clinch with two wins.
Tottenham beating Chelsea would make things hairy for Arsenal. That result would put Chelsea and Tottenham level with a max of 74 points. The Gunners, with a max of 73, would need to win out and have at least one of the two drop points. That’s not inconceivable, but hardly ideal. Now is the time where it’s opportune to mention Spurs last beat Chelsea at Stamford Bridge in the league in February 1990. Nelson Mandela was still in prison. Germany was separate countries. The Premier League did not exist yet. I had just turned six.
Slip-ups are possible in the other matches as well. Chelsea has the softest league road. Aston Villa has won two in a row, and five of nine since March. That said, they have taken one point from nine matches against the Top Five this season and been outscored 30-3. Everton will have nothing to play for and David Moyes has a poor record on the road against top-caliber clubs. Chelsea also have a slight distraction, playing in the Europa League Final. Arsenal face Wigan (No. 17) and Newcastle (No. 18), two teams fighting for their Premier League lives. Spurs have to go away to Sunderland on the final day, when they may need a win to stay up.
11. Stoke [41pts, -10GD] Tottenham, at Southampton
12. Fulham [40pts, -11GD] Liverpool, at Swansea
13. Aston Villa [40pts, -21GD] Chelsea, at Wigan
14. Southampton [39pts, -11GD] at Sunderland, Stoke
15. Sunderland [38pts, -12GD] Southampton, at Tottenham
16. Norwich [38pts, -22GD] West Brom, at Man City
17. Newcastle [38pts, -23GD] at QPR, Arsenal
18. Wigan [35pts, -22GD] Swansea, at Arsenal, Aston Villa
One relegation place is still in contest. Wigan winning its game in hand against Swansea could set up apocalyptic final weekends. Eight teams would be within three points heading into the last two matches. Four of those teams would be level on 38 points. Three of those teams would be within a goal of each other on goal difference.
If Wigan drop points, it’s hard to see them clawing their way out. Their away match at Arsenal is also a must win for the Gunners. Aston Villa probably need a result at home their final day of the season. Wigan also face a triumph vs. practicality dilemma with the FA Cup.
Wigan plays Man City in the FA Cup Final this weekend. They have never won a “major” trophy. They might get a serious crack at one about once per decade, if that. Do they go for the glory or, do they do the practical thing, and conserve their top players to stay in the lucrative league (and save most of their jobs)? Roberto Martinez fielded weekend teams in earlier matches. The trouble was they kept winning and ended up in the final.
Presuming Wigan keep it interesting. Multiple clubs should be concerned. Predicting the results. The final day could be Stoke (41), Newcastle (41), Fulham (40), Southampton (40), Aston Villa (40), Sunderland (39), Norwich (39) and Wigan (38). Aston Villa/Wigan and Stoke/Southampton would be on the fixture list. Newcastle and Sunderland would be playing teams also gunning for the fourth Champions League place.
Prediction: Champions League (3. Chelsea, 4. Arsenal). Relegated: Wigan
[Photos via Getty]
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