Arsenal’s victory over Southampton on Wednesday night not only kept their top four hopes alive, but opened the door to the possibility of a Premier League play-off for the final Champions League-qualifying position with Liverpool.
It initially appeared that the closest chance of a Premier League play-off would take place between Liverpool and Manchester City if the pair ended up equal on points, goal difference and goals scored.
However, after Manchester United managed to ruin their own chances of finishing in the top four after following up draws with Swansea and Burnley with defeat by Arsenal, City have now pulled clear and look set to join Chelsea and Tottenham in next season’s Champions League group stage.
That has now opened the door for the Gunners to push their faint Champions League hopes, with Liverpool’s failure to beat Saints last weekend now handing Arsenal a glimmer of hope. They can still qualify outright if they win their remaining three games and Liverpool fail to win both of their remaining two matches, but there is now also the possibility of a 39th Premier League game between the two.
Premier League rules state: "If at the end of the season either the league champions or the clubs to be relegated or the question of qualification for other competitions cannot be determined because two or more clubs are equal on points, goal difference and goals scored, the clubs concerned shall play off one or more deciding league matches on neutral grounds, the format, timing and venue of which shall be determined by the board."
That means Arsenal need to find their scoring boots in order to match Liverpool’s goal difference and goals scored tally, but a look at the results needed proves it is not that farfetched for the scenario to play out over the final 10 days of the season.
So what needs to happen in order to for the first ever Premier League top-four play-off to take place?
As things stand, the Premier League table looks like this...
Liverpool have 70 points from 36 games, giving them a maximum of 76 points from 38 matches.
Arsenal have 66 points from 35 games, giving them a maximum of 75 points from 38 matches.
So Arsenal need to hope that Liverpool slip up, either at West Ham or against Middlesbrough at home on the final day of the season, while beating Stoke Arsenal and Everton in the process. But they can also end up locked together if the following results occur:
Stoke City 1-1 Arsenal
Arsenal 3-0 Sunderland
Arsenal 2-1 Everton
West Ham 1-0 Liverpool
Liverpool 3-1 Middlesbrough
That would leave both sides level 73 points, with a goal difference of 30 and a goals scored tally of 74, leading to a play-off at a neutral venue before the end of the season and an extra nerve-wracking day out for both sets of fans.
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