Last week, Liverpool became both the latest (25th June) and the earliest (seven games to spare) Premier League champions of all time as they watched Manchester City slip to a 2-1 defeat to Chelsea, ending the title race with a month to spare.
There are still a number of prestigious records Jurgen Klopp’s Reds could break, but the interest at the top of table has effectively been over for a very long time.
Despite that, there’s still an awful lot to play for in England’s top flight, but what are the biggest battles we can look forward to this month?
Premier League top four (or five) scrap
The ongoing demise of Leicester City and the simultaneous resurgence of Manchester United has seen the fight for a spot in next season’s Champions League gain a new level of interest.
There are now just three points between the third placed Foxes and Wolves in sixth. Plus, there’s the added complication of Manchester City’s UEFA appeal which, if unsuccessful, would see them banned from European competition and extend the Champions League qualifying spots down to fifth.
But who has the upper hand in this prestigious and valuable battle?
Back in December Leicester looked almost certain to achieve an unexpected top four finish but, after winning just four of their last 15 in all competitions, they are now in danger of dropping off the radar.
The Foxes are now only three points above Manchester United and enduring a sustained difficult period. With trips to Arsenal and Spurs still to come as well as a hosting of Sheffield United and a final day clash with top four rivals Man Utd, it’s not looking great for Brendan Rodgers and company
Hit or miss? Miss
After winning their first two matches since the resumption of the Premier League, Frank Lampard looked set for an impressive first season in charge of his beloved Blues.
However, a 3-2 reverse at West Ham in midweek has put their position in peril. They are only two points inside the top four heading into this weekend’s home clash with Watford and, with matches against Sheffield United, Liverpool and a final day showdown with Wolves still to play, this one could go down to the wire.
Given their form prior to midweek, we think they’ll make the grade though.
Hit or miss? Hit
Rising like a phoenix from the ashes comes Manchester United. The Red Devils looked on the brink of sacking Ole Gunnar Solskjaer earlier in the season, but the January signing of Bruno Fernandes changed things completely and the three month break allowed Marcus Rashford and Paul Pogba time to recover from injury.
Following their 3-0 win at Brighton on Tuesday, Manchester United are now unbeaten in 15 games in all competitions and remain among the favourites in both the Europa League and the FA Cup.
Not only that, but our FST Premier League run in calculator ranks them as having the easiest remaining fixtures, so it’s all looking rosy on the red side of Manchester.
Hit or miss? Hit
A fantastic return to the Premier League saw Wolves qualify for the Europa League at the first time of asking, a competition they remain in good stead in.
However, now Nuno Espirito Santo is targeting even bigger things, racking up three straight wins since the return of football to leave them only a couple of points off the top four. They are unbeaten in eight Premier League matches now, but there could be a spot of trouble on the horizon.
None of their remaining six games are against teams below 12th in the table, and that final day clash at Stamford Bridge could be the decider. In all honesty, given the form of Chelsea and Manchester United and the difficulty of Wolves’ remaining fixtures, it could be just a step too far.
There’s still the Europa League route though!
Hit or miss? Miss
A six way relegation dogfight
There’s always drama at the bottom of the table, and the 2019/20 season is shaping up to be no different. There are up to six teams battling it out to avoid a drop down to the Championship, with Norwich sitting at the bottom of the pile and Brighton leading the charge towards the imaginary 40-point line in the sand up in 15th.
The bottom three
Unfortunately for the Carrow Road faithful, things are looking almost impossible for Norwich. They have lost four league games on the bounce now and failed to score a single goal, and it’s hard to see them winning many of their remaining games, some of which come against direct relegation rivals. That seven point chasm between them and safety is looking increasingly unbridgeable.
Bournemouth are only a point from safety, but even their prospects don’t look great. They were humiliated at home to Newcastle in midweek and have now lost six of their last seven league games, including all three since the restart. They have matches against a quartet of huge teams in Man Utd, Spurs, Leicester and Man City coming up. It could be too late by the time their penultimate game against Southampton rolls around.
I’m afraid the news doesn’t get any better for 18th placed Aston Villa either. They are above Bournemouth on goal difference but visit Liverpool on Sunday having picked up just two points from the last 24 available. They have tough matches against Man Utd, Everton and Arsenal to come, although a final day trip to West Ham could prove decisive.
For the likes of Watford, who sit a point above the drop zone, they can afford to be a little more optimistic. They are winless in four games but, after their trip to Chelsea, have a very winnable clash with Norwich to play before matches against Newcastle and West Ham. A couple of positive results there and they could find themselves with a comfortable cushion.
West Ham boosted their hopes considerably with a dramatic win over Chelsea in midweek and have now won two of their last five. They have three games against their fellow relegation rivals still to come and a three point cushion on the bottom three, so the Hammers’ future is very much in their own hands.
Brighton are understandably outsiders for the drop. They are six points above Aston Villa and have only actually lost two of their last eight. If they can turn some of their many draws into victories, with the first chance to do so at Carrow Road on Saturday, they should secure safety sooner rather than later.
Battle royale for the Europa League
The 2019/20 season has seen a great many underperformances from traditionally very strong teams and, combined with the overachievement of others, it’s shaping up to be an epic battle for Europa League qualification.
With Manchester City already holding the EFL Cup and three of the four remaining teams in the FA Cup looking all but guaranteed a spot in the top seven, it’s looking like the final Europa League qualification position with be 8th.
Here’s where it gets interesting. Just five points separates Sheffield United in 7th with Newcastle in 13th, and even Southampton in 14th are only six points adrift of 8th place. That’s as many as eight teams battling it out for two achievable Europa League positions, including heavyweights like Spurs and Arsenal.
Sheffield United are the most surprising inclusion here, sitting 7th in the table and only five points adrift of Manchester United. They beat Spurs 3-1 in midweek to further strengthen their European prospects and, while they do have some tough fixtures coming up, you certainly can’t rule them out given their performances this season.
Arsenal in 8th are enjoying something of a resurgence after notching three straight wins but face a tough week as they face Wolves and Leicester, leading up to a potentially pivotal North London Derby next weekend.
Spurs lag behind their arch rivals by just a single point, but their form doesn’t bode well. They lost in midweek and have only won one of their last six in the league, although they do have a good amount of winnable matches coming their way.
As many as five teams could crash the Europa League party, and all but one of them have a decent run of form behind them. It’s very difficult to rule any team out of the running, but if pushed I’d have to point to Southampton.
The Saints are seven points adrift of Sheffield United and, while they have won two of their three matches since the resumption of the top flight, they have tough games against both Manchester clubs and Everton in the next week.
Crystal Palace are real outsiders too. Their gap to The Blades is only five points, but they have lost their last two games and have a very difficult run in featuring clashes against Leicester, Chelsea, Man Utd and Wolves.
When you look at the remaining three, surprisingly it’s Newcastle United that look the most likely to crash the party above. The much maligned Steve Bruce has undoubtedly overachieved with The Magpies and they find themselves only five points behind 7th place.
They might be below Palace on goal difference, but they enter this weekend on the back of a 4-1 thrashing of Bournemouth and have games against West Ham, Watford and Brighton to come. They also have a home match against Europa League rivals Spurs in the penultimate game of the season which could prove extremely important.
Sean Dyche’s Burnley can’t be discounted though. They have won two on the bounce now and are level on points with Spurs, although a trio of games against Sheffield United, Liverpool and Wolves could prove to be their undoing.
Everton are also on a two game winning streak and are only a point behind Burnley, but again they face a potentially difficult run in which features Liverpool, Wolves and Sheffield United.
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