Chelsea v Arsenal third place play-off: Petr Cech perplexed by potential for Premier League showdown

The sides could realistically end up level on points, goal difference and goals scored

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The Independent Football

Petr Cech has questioned the Premier League rule which could mean Chelsea have to play Arsenal in an end-of-season play-off.

If the two London clubs finish the season level on points, goal difference and goals scored, a play-off will be necessary to decide third place and the automatic Champions League qualification spot.

That scenario could happen if the Gunners win 2-1 at Newcastle and Chelsea draw 0-0 at home to Everton in the final round of matches this weekend, or any scoreline where Chelsea draw and Arsenal score two more goals than them and win by the odd goal.

If this scenario was played out in a European competition, Chelsea would advance because they have beaten Arsenal twice this season.

But unlike UEFA, the Premier League do not take into account the two teams' head-to-head record, much to Cech's bemusement.

"I don't really understand (the Premier League rule)," the Chelsea goalkeeper said.

"I know this is the rule, but we beat them twice over the course of the season - home and away - so a play-off would be really extraordinary.

"The rules are like that. Hopefully it won't happen for both of us."

A play-off between the two sides is the last thing either club wants.

Chelsea have an end-of-season tour to the United States to play two friendlies against Manchester City next week while there are also England's friendlies against the Republic of Ireland (on May 29) and Brazil (on June 2) to consider.

Should a play-off take place, it would also be Chelsea's 70th match of a long season that has seen them travel 21,000 miles across the world in addition to their domestic commitments.

For that reason, Cech would prefer not to have to go through another important game before the summer break.

When it was pointed out that this season had been a particularly gruelling one for the club, Cech said: "Tell me about it! You go places every other day, you play games every other day and you have to refocus.

"We have played in so many competitions, we have flown all over the world. It's tiring, it's stressful, but in the end you get the reward and you forget about all this."

Branislav Ivanovic headed home Juan Mata's corner in the third and final minute of injury time in Amsterdam last night to claim the Europa League title for the Blues over Benfica after Oscar Cardozo had cancelled out Fernando Torres' brilliant opener.

Rafael Benitez's team were second best in the first half but Cech, who was part of the Blues team that achieved an unlikely win in Munich this time last year, always thought his team-mates would pull through.

"We had so many unlucky moments this season, but this time when the corner came in the last minute I just said to myself 'we are going to score' and we did. It was a bit of luck but it was a great header," the Czech Republic stopper said.

"We didn't play well in the first half, they were on top of us. But in the second half we improved and we scored in the last second which is always the best option."