With a little over 2 weeks of the 2018/19 Premier League season left to negotiate, Tottenham Hotspur, Chelsea, Arsenal and Manchester United are still locked in a compelling 4-way tussle for 2 of the division’s 4 lucrative Champions League qualification places.
The pressures and incentives to perform are at their highest points of the entire campaign, though time is running out for the quartet of teams to deliver.
Let’s take a closer look at each of the candidates battling it out for a place in next season’s Champions League.
Remaining Premier League Fixtures: (H) vs West Ham, (A) vs Bournemouth, (H) vs Everton
Top 4 Finish Odds: 1/12 (bet365)
Champions League Semi Finalists Tottenham Hotspur took a huge step towards qualifying for next season’s competition last night, when they scored late on through Christian Eriksen to seal a vital win at home to Brighton.
The victory brought Spurs’ point total for the campaign to 70, opening up a 4-point buffer between them and Arsenal in 5th in the process.
Tottenham have played 1 game more than Arsenal in 5th and Manchester United in 6th, though Mauricio Pochettino will feel that there are enough points on offer in his team’s last 3 Premier League fixtures to allow them to get over the qualification line with relative comfort.
Spurs have already beaten West Ham (1-0), Bournemouth (5-0) and Everton (6-2) this season, scoring 12 times and conceding only twice along the way.
Tottenham can of course, still qualify for next season’s Champions League as winners, though somewhat ironically, their pursuit of glory this year could have a negative effect on their attempts to qualify next year, with fatigue a possible and telling factor.
Remaining Premier League Fixtures: (A) vs Man Utd, (H) vs Watford, (A) vs Leicester City
Top 4 Finish Odds: 5/4 (Betvictor)
Ahead of their final 3 Premier League fixtures of the 2018/19 season, 4th placed Chelsea hold a narrow 1-point advantage over Arsenal in 5th and a 3-point lead over Manchester United in 6th.
Crucially, the teams chasing the Blues both have a game in hand however, and Chelsea still have plenty of work to do to ensure that Champions League football returns to Stamford Bridge next season.
Maurizio Sarri’s men have two bites at the Champions League cherry this year – with qualification possible through a top 4 Premier League finish or through winning this season’s Europa League.
Chelsea’s already tough looking league run-in is exacerbated by the club’s extra continental commitments, while confusion over prioritisation of competitions could also present a problem.
The Blues fixture at Old Trafford on Sunday already has a pivotal look about it, and if the Blues can avoid defeat in Manchester, they should be able to wrangle enough points from Watford and Leicester in their final 2 Premier League games to squeeze into 4th.
Remaining Premier League Fixtures: (A) vs Wolves, (A) vs Leicester City, (H) vs Brighton, (A) vs Burnley
Top 4 Finish Odds: 8/11 (Betvictor)
Like Chelsea, 5th placed Arsenal have two possible qualification routes to next season’s Champions League.
The game in hand the Gunners have over Chelsea places their Premier League destiny in their own hands, however, looking at the club’s remaining domestic fixtures, Unai Emery might be tempted to prioritise success in this season’s Europa League.
Arsenal play 3 of their final 4 Premier League games away from the Emirates, heightening fears the Gunners’ appalling away form could scupper their chances of finishing in the division’s top 4.
Emery’s men have won just 6 of their 16 Premier League matches on the road this term, results that have lumbered Arsenal with the league’s 9th best away record in 2018/19.
Arsenal’s shock 2-3 reverse at home to Crystal Palace at the weekend felt like a defining moment in their Premier League campaign, and we think their remaining schedule is littered with more potential slip ups.
Remaining Premier League Fixtures: (H) vs Man City, (H) vs Chelsea, (A) vs Huddersfield, (H) vs Cardiff City
Top 4 Finish Odds: 11/2 (bet365)
After an incredible beginning to his Manchester United managerial career, the wheels have come off for Ole Gunnar Solskjaer in recent weeks.
With 6 defeats in their last 8 games in all competitions United look like they are in freefall, and the same problems in terms of quality, desire and commitment that plagued the team under Jose Mourinho have started to bubble to the surface again.
Yet, for all their problems, a top 4 finish remains a possibility for the club. United are just 3 points off the pace with 4 fixtures remaining, and they have a crucial game in hand over Chelsea, who currently occupy the last Champions League qualification spot.
United finish their league campaign with 3 of their last 4 matches at Old Trafford, though games at the Theatre of Dreams against Man City and Chelsea are about as tough as they come.
In their current form, United’s chances of gathering the points they need to surge past their Champions League rivals look incredibly slim.
However, there is still a shred of possibility that United could absorb a derby day defeat and still finish in the top 4, though 9 points from 9 against Chelsea, Huddersfield and Cardiff is a must.
Unlike their top 4 rivals, United can approach their final league games without the distraction of continental football – something that is certain to buoy their UCL qualification hopes.
United’s meeting with Chelsea at Old Trafford on Sunday looks particularly decisive, though you get the feeling that any eleventh-hour rally from United now might be too little, too late.
There are enough moving parts however, to still make United terrific value at 11/2 with bet365 to sneak in ahead of Arsenal and Chelsea as an outside bet.