Premier League Final Day Could Force Playoff Between Arsenal and Chelsea

Arsene Wenger Zipper

Relegation went less crazily than it could have, with yesterday’s 4-1 Arsenal loss leaving FA Cup winner Wigan down and out in London. The final day could still bring some craziness, though. Tottenham and Arsenal are still playing for a fourth Champions League place. But, beyond that, Arsenal and Chelsea playing a 39th match playoff for third-place looks very feasible.

The clubs finish level on 73 points if Arsenal beats Newcastle and Chelsea draws with Everton. The two tiebreakers are goal differential and goals scored. Chelsea has a 73-38 goal differential. Arsenal has a 71-37 goal differential. If Chelsea draws 0-0 and Arsenal wins 2-1. They both finish 73-38. There are also variations of that with more goals scored (1-1, 3-2 etc.).

Why is third-place important? The Premier League receives four Champions League places, but only three clubs are guaranteed through to the group stage. The fourth club must play a preliminary qualifying round. Normally, the EPL club will win that home and home easily. Though, the draw could see the fourth-place team face a home and home with AC Milan, Schalke or Valencia with about $60 million at stake.

Likelihood? It’s possible, but not probable. Chelsea and Everton drawing might be worth a bet. Everton, locked in 6th, have nothing to play for. Chelsea may coast to the finish after the Europa League Final. The team that may foil it may be Newcastle. Those players, now safe after a disappointing league campaign, may have at least one, if not both, eyes on the beach. Arsenal playing with urgency against a flat, defensively vulnerable Newcastle does not scream nervy 2-1 win.

When would it take place? That would be an issue. The EPL season ends May 19. Chelsea are due in St. Louis for a friendly match with Manchester City on May 23 and New York on May 25. Playing on the 21st would see Chelsea play two competitive matches and two friendlies in seven days, not to mention the cross-continental flight.


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