It seems like only yesterday that the new Premier League season began. But now, with May only days away, another season is about to be in the books. The 2016-17 season won’t beat the fairy tale of Leicester City’s 2016 season, of course. However, it’s still been one of the best seasons in recent memory.
For much of this season, it’s been Chelsea’s title to lose. But it seems like they’ve always had at least one team very closely behind them nipping at their heels. Whether it was Manchester City, Liverpool, or Tottenham Hotspur, Chelsea’s second title in three seasons will be a hard-fought and well-deserved championship.
As of now, Chelsea are on top of the league table with 78 points. Spurs, meanwhile, follow closely behind them with 74 points. Below Spurs is Liverpool (66) but with one more game played than both. With only five matches remaining, it’s safe to say that Spurs and Chelsea will finish at the top of the PL table this season. Starting with Liverpool, it’s the race for the top-four that’s really starting to rev up.
Only six points separate clubs from third to sixth place. And again, Liverpool (66) has played one more game than the next two sides—this time Manchester City (65) and Manchester United (64). Not to mention, two more games than sixth-place Arsenal (60).
When deciding the league’s top-four—the coveted Champions League spots—it’s difficult to leave out one of those PL giants because of so many factors working in their favor. And, another variety of factors also working against them.
The same can be said for the relegation places at the bottom of the table, which we’ll cover a little later on today. Relegation—where teams like Sunderland and Middlesbrough, who are on their way to the Championship—are wrapping up their last days in the English Premiership. For the time being, of course.
Together, the title race and the threat of relegation fuel the exhilaration that makes the Premier League one of the best. Here’s a breakdown of who will win it all, finish top-five—automatic UCL and Europa League spots—and which sides will be unfortunate enough to drop.
Although they seemed to have peaked much earlier, Chelsea just need to see themselves through to Championship Sunday. West Brom (8th), Watford (10th), Middlesbrough (19th) and Sunderland (20th) are four of their final five opponents. Spurs’ opponents, however, are much more dangerous. Chelsea dropping more points than Spurs in the same stretch just does not seem plausible. They have secured 18 of their last 24 possible points. So because of their dominant form combined with their fixtures to end the season, Chelsea will be crowned 2016-17 champions.
2. Tottenham Hotspur
Not far away, Spurs are finishing up one of their most successful Premier League seasons. And while they are closing in on the predicted-champion Blues, they will need to not only keep up with the form of Chelsea, they will need to get all three points versus tough opponents. Their biggest test will be against rival neighbors, Arsenal F.C. This game is just as important to Spurs as it is to Arsenal, who is looking to finish top-four.
Two weeks after the North London derby, they play Manchester United in the final match at White Hart Lane. The Red Devils are another tough opponent, but again, it’s not just that Spurs will need to win every game. They also have to rely on Chelsea dropping more than a couple of points. You know, something Chelsea has not made a habit of doing this season.
The gap between them and Chelsea might get closer. But, the gap between the top-two and teams below them is just too large. Spurs should finish second.
3. Manchester City
Manchester City had three straight league games versus Liverpool (draw), Arsenal (draw) and Chelsea (loss) last month. Unfortunately for them, they dropped points each time out. However, City is in the fortunate position to have the most favorable schedule to finish the season—aside from maybe Chelsea—who plays the two worst EPL clubs.
Four of City’s final five fixtures come against teams 10th or worse. They include but are not limited to: Crystal Palace (12th), Leicester City (16th) and Middlesbrough (19th). City are also benefiting from the torrid 2017 that Liverpool had, with the Reds dropping an incredible amount of points between January and February. City, on the other hand, has only lost one league game—to league-leaders Chelsea—since mid-January. And, they also have a game in hand over Liverpool.
City will only need to keep the pace with Liverpool, and they should overcome a fragile one-point lead. They will finish top-four for a seventh straight season.
The Reds saw their title hopes slip away in January by failing to win a match in 10 straight (all competitions). They had only one EPL win in all of January/February, which came against Tottenham. Liverpool had such a great 2016, though, that they’re not completely out of the top-four conversation just yet. With City and United breathing down their necks, the Reds can feel comfortable with an easy run of games to end the season.
City and United just played each other to a draw. So now, with only one game in hand over the Reds, both Manchester teams are hoping Liverpool are stunned at least once in May. Chances of that happening are very slim, however, as Liverpool’s last four games come against: Watford, Southampton, West Ham and Middlesbrough. In other words, some of the league-leaders in goals conceded—while Liverpool, on the other hand, lead the league in goals scored.
Liverpool are also only playing four total games in four weeks. Arsenal have seven in five weeks, and United have seven in four weeks. Liverpool’s light workload, along with an easy schedule and the declining form of Arsenal and United, should help Liverpool return to the Champions League for the first time since 2014.
Considering how Arsenal has played this season, a fourth-place finish will come as a surprise. However, knowing their recent history, a fourth place finish seems very fitting. Still, that almost seems impossible at this point. This season has truly been a roller-coaster for the Gunners. With losses to Watford, West Brom and Crystal Palace, the Gunners are now tasked with a rough stretch of matches to end what could be one of their worst seasons in the PL era.
Beginning with the previously mentioned North London derby at White Hart Lane, they then go back to the Emirates to play United. Then, to mid-table threats Southampton (9th) and Stoke City (11th). There’s lowly Sunderland, then the team that’s currently right on their heels—seventh-place Everton.
Arsenal has only five wins from their last 10 league games, but can make the most of another team’s misfortune. United, the team right above them in fifth, has a loaded schedule to finish the season. And, the team also lost one of their superstars in Zlatan Ibrahimović. Ibra, among a handful of others, is a major part of United’s success this season. Even if it is considered to be minor success.
Ibrahimović scored timely and spectacularly, netting plenty of goals that gave United an extra two points. An exhausted United team, who has just dropped points against City, might struggle to find a replacement for Ibrahimović, who had a hand in 22 (17 goals, five assists) of the team’s 50 league goals.
Arsenal should be able to overtake United and qualify for European football for one more year—yes, the Europa league still counts as European football.