Premier League top four fixtures: Liverpool, Chelsea and Leicester Champions League permutations

The race for a Champions League place set to go down to the final days of the season

Mark Critchley
Northern Football Correspondent
Sunday 23 May 2021 14:25
Who will win the Premier League’s race to finish in the top four?
Who will win the Premier League’s race to finish in the top four?

The Premier League may not have much of a title race to speak of this season but the battle to finish in the top four and earn a place in next year’s Champions League will go down to the final day.

Chelsea took a huge step towards qualification by beating rivals Leicester City on Tuesday night, while that result allowed Liverpool to climb into the top four by beating Burnley the following evening.

The Independent has broken down what is left of the run-ins, checking the average home and away points-per-game and average expected goal difference (xGD) of their remaining opponents.

Who has the best final day fixture and who has the worst?

3. Chelsea

Points: 67

Goal difference: +23

Run-in difficulty: ⭐⭐1/2

Remaining Opponents

PPG: 1.22; xGD: +1.2

23/05 Aston Villa (A)

Anything less than revenge for Saturday’s FA Cup final defeat and a win against Leicester would have spelled trouble for Chelsea’s hopes of playing in the Champions League next season.

Thankfully for Thomas Tuchel, their position suddenly looks much stronger after Antonio Rudiger and Jorginho’s goals at Stamford Bridge on Tuesday night.

Chelsea overtook Leicester to move third, one point clear of the Foxes and with a three-goal cushion on goal difference.

Beat Aston Villa and they will qualify. A draw will only cost them if Liverpool and Leicester both win. A defeat will see them drop out of the top four if either Liverpool or Leicester win.

Most importantly of all, they are in control of their own destiny. A final day trip to Villa Park is not too intimidating but still tough enough. Tuchel will need to make sure that his players get the job done.

4. Liverpool

Points: 66

Goal difference: +24

Run-in difficulty: ⭐1/2

Remaining Opponents

Avg PPG: 1.09; Avg xGD: -19.5

19/05 Burnley (A)

23/05 Crystal Palace (H)

Whatever the result was at Stamford Bridge it was always going to help Liverpool but they needed to follow it up by winning at Turf Moor. They did and have put themselves back in the top four.

In order to guarantee that they salvage Champions League qualification from their wreck of the season, they simply need to match or better Leicester’s final day result.

A win will not be enough on its own if Leicester win big and wipe out the goal difference but with Jurgen Klopp’s men boasting a four-goal advantage, that seems unlikely.

A draw will be enough provided Leicester also fail to win or Chelsea lose. Defeat would mean they’d need Leicester to lose.

Liverpool’s run-in has been the easiest on paper for a long time and Crystal Palace at home on the last weekend is no exception, but could Roy Hodgson deny his former club in his final game in management?

5. Leicester City

Points: 66

Goal difference: +20

Run-in difficulty: ⭐⭐⭐

Remaining Opponents

PPG: 1.44; xGD: +4.0

23/05 Tottenham (H)

Leicester’s defeat at Stamford Bridge and Liverpool’s win at Burnley has left the Foxes relying on results elsewhere on the final day.

Brendan Rodgers is level on points with his former employers at Anfield and crucially, three adrift of last year’s champions on goal difference.

A win against Tottenham at the King Power on the final day will be enough for Leicester so long as either Liverpool or Chelsea fail to win. A draw will only be enough if Liverpool lose. Defeat would not be enough, unless Liverpool lost big.

Leicester can still qualify if Liverpool win but would need to win big and overturn the goal difference. That seems unlikely, given that they have the toughest fixture of the three on paper.

What if Chelsea finish outside the top four but win the Champions League?

In this scenario, Chelsea would join the Premier League’s top four in next season’s Champions League as the Premier League’s fifth representative.

The Premier League can send a maximum of five teams to the Champions League.

The fourth-place finishers would only have missed out on qualification if Chelsea had won the Champions League while finishing outside the top four and Arsenal had also won the Europa League.

Arsenal’s semi-final elimination at the hands of Villarreal means the teams who finish in the top four will all qualify for the Champions League.

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