As we approach the final few games of the season, there are several prizes left to play for. The title race may be done and dusted, but the relegation scrap is still well and truly on. There is only one point between Aston Villa in 14th and Sunderland in 18th, and the fight for survival is set to go right down to the wire.
Until recent weeks, the fight for the top 4 Champions League places looked like being more or less over. Arsenal and Manchester United both hit some very good form and cemented their places, along with Chelsea and Manchester City, over whom there has hardly been any doubts. Liverpool and Tottenham Hotspur, just like they have in the last few seasons, messed it up when it mattered most and looked to be out of it.
With 4 games to go though, everything has changed. Brendan Rodgers’ side are well and truly back in it after yesterday’s results. United have hit rock bottom when it comes to form, as a run of three successive losses means that they are just 4 points ahead of Liverpool in 5th. Their latest failure, a 1-0 loss at home against West Bromwich Albion, has put things in real doubt. They were on a 6-match winning streak till a fortnight ago when they lost 1-0 away at Stamford Bridge, before putting in one of the worst performances of their season in a 3-0 defeat to Everton at Goodison Park.
Liverpool, on the other hand, aren’t in promising forms themselves, as they needed a late winner from Steven Gerrard to beat bottom club Queens Park Rangers at Anfield. Just like the Red Devils, their dazzling start to 2015 has been followed by a run of indifferent results.
Manchester City were challenging for the title in 2014, but have shown mid-table form since the turn of the year. They seemed to be losing their grip on their Champions League spot, but with a 6 point-lead and a game in hand, they should limp through.
The Remaining Fixtures
A look at the remaining games for Manchester United and Liverpool shows a similar kind of run-in for both sides. Louis Van Gaal’s men travel to Selhurst Park to take on Crystal Palace next weekend, before hosting the most in-form team in the league, Arsenal. They end their campaign with another tricky assignment, away at Hull City. The Tigers are on a good run of late but in a hell of a fight at the bottom, and may need a victory to stay up on the final day. On current form, there isn’t a single game where one can confidently say that United will win.
Brendan Rodgers’ side, on the other hand, go to Stamford Bridge next week to face Chelsea, who will most probably be Champions by then. This is followed by a straightforward-looking home game against Crystal Palace. Their final game in a tough one, as they travel to the Britannia Stadium to take on Stoke City.
Neither side has an easy game, but United’s opponents have much more to play for than Liverpool’s. Crystal Palace’s season is more or less done, as they have all but secured survival. Arsenal are looking to finish as high as possible, while Hull, as stated earlier, are hanging on for their lives.
Even though Liverpool’s games look tough on paper, they will want to get something from all of them. Chelsea will be up for the game against the Reds, but if they have sealed the deal by then, there will be a party atmosphere at the Bridge which Liverpool can use to their advantage. Stoke are in 10th and hardly have any motivation to go the extra mile in their final home game of the season.
The 4-point lead that United currently hold though will be vital. Overturning this deficit will need Liverpool to take at least 7 points out of their remaining 3 games, while hoping United’s drop continues.
In all likeliness, Van Gaal’s men look good to just about scrape through and seal a return to the Champions League. But they will know that they have got out of jail, as a slightly better showing by either Liverpool of Spurs would have seen them drop out. In the end, Chelsea and Arsenal are probably the only two teams happy with their Premier League seasons. Everyone else at the top has under-achieved. The managers have it all to do in the transfer window to make sure that Jose Mourinho doesn’t establish his dominance for several years to come.