City Champions League ban overturned: How Premier League top four race now looks

Sports


The race for the top four took an interesting turn on Monday morning, after the news was confirmed that Manchester City have won a historic Court of Arbitration for Sport ruling and will play in next season’s Champions League.

Pep Guardiola‘s side will incur no ban from European competition, but will instead pay a £10million fine for misconduct regarding Financial Fair Play.

A cloud of uncertainty had shrouded the upper tier of the Premier League, with teams at the top of the pile knowing that of Champions League football could perhaps present itself for finishing in fifth place.

That scenario is no longer possible, meaning only a conventional top four finish will now be good enough to enter football’s elite competition next season.

With title-winners Liverpool having already rubber stamped their passport for the Champions League and City now well set in second place, Sportsmail takes a look at the chasing pack as the race for the top four becomes the big focus. 

Chelsea

Current position: 3rd. 

60 points. 35 matches played.

Frank Lampard’s men currently occupy third position, but it’s been far from plain sailing for the Blues.

An erratic streak has crept into the play of the West London side, with Chelsea’s suspect defence coming under heavy questioning in recent weeks.

A crucial victory over Manchester City – which handed Liverpool the Premier League title – was closely followed by defeats to both West Ham and Sheffield United.

Frank Lampard’s men currently occupy third, but it’s been far from plain sailing for the Blues.

It’s a case of one step forward and two steps back for Lampard’s troops, who now run the real risk of seeing their momentum halted and Champions League hopes dashed at the finishing line.

While they sit one point ahead of Leicester in fourth – who have played the same amount of matches – Ole Gunnar’s Solskjaer’s in-form Manchester United have a game in hand and an easier run of games on paper.

Chelsea play already relegated Norwich next, a fixture in which they must take all three points. Thereafter they face confirmed champions Liverpool followed by a mouthwatering final day clash with fellow European hopefuls Wolves.

Additionally, of course, the Blues carry the added distraction of an FA Cup semi-final clash, in which Lampard will be desperate to win in order to have a shot at debut season silverware. 

Remaining league fixtures: Norwich (H), Liverpool (A), Wolves (H).

Predicted points total: 64 points 

Predicted finish: FOURTH 

Leicester City

Current position: 4th

59 points. 35 matches played 

If it can be said that Chelsea are experiencing something of a wobble, then Brendan Rodgers’ Foxes are having a full-blown tremor.

The historic mid-season break brought about by the coronavirus pandemic has seemingly knocked the wind of Leicester’s sails, and they now run the very real risk of undoing a season of hard work and crashing out of the top four.

Leicester have experienced something of a meltdown and are yet to win since returning

Leicester have experienced something of a meltdown and are yet to win since returning

Their most recent result best exemplified this, with a complete meltdown against relegation-stricken Bournemouth – in which four goals were conceded from a leading position and star defender Caglar Soyuncu saw red and received marching orders.

Leicester have won just once since the return, having squandered the buffer they had built up prior to the break.

Despite having the league’s leading goalscoring, Jamie Vardy, at their disposal, the volatile nature of Leicester’s approach right now sees them on the brink of missing out on a Champions League dream. They do however have the chance to dash the hopes of Sheffield United, before a final day of the season clash against Manchester United could well be defining.

Remaining fixtures: Sheffield United (H), Tottenham (A), Manchester United (H)

Predicted points total: 63 points

Predicted finish: FIFTH 

Manchester United

Current position: 5th

58 points. 34 matches played

Seemingly out of nowhere United have shot back into firm contention and will be the favourites of many to obtain Champions League qualification.

Such is the resurgence of Solskjaer’s side that some around Old Trafford will have serious ambitions to get third place in the bag as the season comes to a close.

In contrast, Manchester United are flying and have dropped only two points since the restart

In contrast, Manchester United are flying and have dropped only two points since the restart

The mercurial form of January signing Bruno Fernandes, coupled with the return of Paul Pogba and the free-scoring front line has seen the Red Devils collect win after win.

United are undefeated since the return, and have dropped only two points along the way. Their run in for the remaining games, in comparison to that of their rivals, looks much more favourable.

Should United win their game in hand, against Southampton tonight, they will feel very much in the driving seat regarding the top four. As with Chelsea, the FA Cup semi-final tie does also sit on the horizon, adding some complexity to proceedings.

Remaining league fixtures: Southampton (H), Crystal Palace (A), West Ham (H), Leicester (A).

Predicted points total: 66 points

Predicted finish: THIRD 

Wolves

Current position: 6th

55 points. 35 matches played

A strong start to the campaign has petered out a little for Wolves, who have struggled in recent weeks and handed maximum points to the likes of Arsenal and Sheffield United.

They do, of course, still have European duties to content with this season once the reshuffled Europa League returns, though Nuno Santo’s side sense there is a real opportunity to steal a slice of Champions League action against the odds. 

Wolves now have an outside chance of making the top four, but have lost their momentum

Wolves now have an outside chance of making the top four, but have lost their momentum

Wolves currently sit sixth though have fallen three points adrift of United, who have played a match fewer.

A tough trip to Burnley comes next, while the Midlands side must hope to beat Chelsea on their own turf on the final weekend of the season in order to realise their Champions League dreams.

Remaining fixtures: Burnley (A), Crystal Palace (H), Chelsea (A)

Predicted points total: 59 points

Predicted finish: SEVENTH 

Sheffield United

Current position: 7th

54 points. 35 matches played 

The division’s surprise package have shown no signs of slowing down.

Chris Wilder has undeniably worked miracles this season, and Sheffield United have shown they have the legs heading into the latter part of a prolonged season by pulling off a remarkable 3-0 victory over Chelsea.

Prior to that they had defeated fellow hopefuls Wolves, showing once and for all that adaption to the top flight was more than complete.

Chris Wilder has worked miracles this season and the Blades are still pulling off performances

Chris Wilder has worked miracles this season and the Blades are still pulling off performances

The Blades have an opportunity to inflict a huge blow on Leicester next up, as the sides meet at the King Power stadium on Thursday.

Victory there would move them within twi points of Leicester, who must still lock horns with United on a nail-biting final day.

Remaining fixtures: Leicester (A), Everton (H), Southampton (A) 

Predicted points total: 60 points

Predicted finish: SIXTH



Source link

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *