The end is here. Championship Sunday is upon us, and there’s still plenty of jockeying for position happening throughout the table. While Huddersfield, Fulham, and Cardiff City are already locked into relegation, there are battles at the top and middle of the table that will come down to the wire.
The Top Two
Manchester City and Liverpool sit one and two respectively, and are a single point apart. For a number of weeks, every time one of them plays, they move from second to first. All the chips seem to be in City’s favor, but Brighton & Hove Albion may have one last card to play when they face the Manchester club on Sunday. I’d expect the south coast club to keep 10 men behind the ball and defend for their lives. If they can play spoiler, they open up the door for Liverpool.
The Reds have no small task on their hands. They host Wolves on Sunday, and need a victory paired with City dropping points to keep their title hopes alive. Much like Brighton, Wolves will be setting out to play spoiler. Meanwhile Liverpool are riding the high of their Champions League final berth, and will have the belief that they can do their part.
Unfortunately I don’t think Brighton will be able to do enough, but we’ll find out on Sunday. Regardless, Liverpool will be finishing with more points than any of Sir Alex Ferguson’s Manchester United Sides.
Rounding out the Top Four
Chelsea clinched a top four spot last weekend and, barring an eight goal swing with Arsenal, Tottenham will join them. Chelsea has done a great job pulling themselves up and back into a Champions League place. Particularly at a time during which it seemed nobody wanted to finish Top 4. The likes of Chelsea, Spurs, Arsenal, and Manchester United have limped toward the finish line, and have all dropped an extraordinary number of points.
While talking about putting together this preview, fellow Turf writer Dave Bolton asked if I could include the following, which I could not have said better myself. “Despite losing 13 games this season, Spurs are still in contention for a third place spot. A win over Everton and defeat for Chelsea at Leicester will see the Londoners clinch not only their third successive “best-of-the-rest” title, but also ensure that the rest of the table will be looking up and saying WTF. The fact that Spurs even have a chance of finishing behind Manchester City and Liverpool speaks volumes about the actual quality of the Premier League, because no team who has lost 13 times should be anywhere near the top four.”
The others who will play in Europe next season
Tottenham’s near inability to draw has kept them ahead of Arsenal and United, who seem to have done their best to match Spurs’ results. As it stands Arsenal sit one point above United, and have a tougher matchup come Sunday.
The Gunners will travel to Turf Moor and face a Burnley squad who drew United and Chelsea and beat Spurs. The real question is can Unai Emery’s men improve upon their latest league results, winning only two of their previous seven, and solidify fifth. Their ability to sneak into the top four is nearly impossible at this point, but they do have a road to the Champions League if they can manage to beat Chelsea in the Europa League Final. That said, if they can’t manage to win that game they won’t want United stepping over them for fifth.
However United have a much easier ride, in theory. They’ll be facing Cardiff at Old Trafford, and should have no problem dispatching them. It seems as though the brass in Manchester may have given their boy Ole Gunner Solskjaer the reins a little too early. The Red Devils have only three league wins since February. And their last match was a 1-1 draw against Huddersfield. So, really, anything could happen here.
Then there’s Wolves. This club has been a giant killer this season. They’ve gotten results against big clubs, and deserve to be sitting 7th in the league. Everton gave them a run for their money with their recent form, but couldn’t do enough to get themselves into a Europa spot. Wolves have a hell of a task ahead of them on Sunday, but we’ll see if they have one last bit of magic in them.
The rest of the table
Everton looks poised to finished eighth or ninth, depending on which Tottenham team they come up against. Leicester could leapfrog them with a win over Chelsea, which is totally possible after the way they matched up against City last weekend. The only real intriguing matchup outside the top six will be West Ham traveling to Watford to see which club can land in the top ten. West Ham even getting eleventh is a feat considering they sat pretty low in the table not too long ago.
Crystal Palace continues to be a club hovering in the bottom half of the table, despite the talent they have running up and down the pitch. Bournemouth are safe again, but will be wondering how long they can hold on to young coach Eddie Howe. Newcastle needs to give Rafa Benitez all the money they have if they want to compete again, and Southampton is probably lucky to stay up again.
Despite the fact that many of the matches on Championship Sunday won’t mean anything as far as a title race goes, it’s worth tuning in to whatever you can. The beauty of the final day is that all matches are played at the same time. No club vying for a position in Europa can rest, because they won’t know how the other matches are going to turn out. Check your local listings to see what obscure channel your club is playing on.
I for one will be watching Spurs play on SYFY, which seems apropos after this season.