2020/21 Premier League Finale: The Race For Champions League Football

Liverpool Manager Jurgen Klopp
Liverpool Manager Jurgen Klopp

After a long season of empty stadiums and more VAR nonsense, we have almost reached the conclusion of the Premier League.

Gameweek 38 comes this Sunday, and as the league table shows, there isn’t a whole lot to play for. Manchester City have won the title, United will finish second, the bottom three has been decided.

However, there is still a tense race for the European spots still wide open. Seven teams competing for the remaining five European places.

Two will qualify for the Champions League, two will be in the Europa League, and one more will enter the new Europa Conference League, while the final two will miss out entirely.

Here are the crucial games to look out for on the Premier League’s final day.

Aston Villa vs Chelsea

Chelsea go into the final day in the driving seat

Chelsea head into the final day knowing that a victory guarantees them third place and Champions League qualification. However, if they drop points they may drop down to fifth.

They travel to Villa Park to face a side with nothing to play for. But they should not take this one lightly. After all, Aston Villa just took three points from Tottenham Hotspur, who are also fighting for European football.

The good news for Thomas Tuchel’s men is that if they fail to finish inside the top four, they will have a second chance to qualify by winning the Champions League final against Man City. Although the German would much rather not have to worry about this.

It won’t be an easy game, but the Blues should be able to come out on top.

Prediction: Aston Villa 0-1 Chelsea

Liverpool vs Crystal Palace

Liverpool could end a disappointing season with a flourish

After a nightmare beginning to 2021, Liverpool have turned things around somewhat, picking up 23 points from their last nine league outings. This Sunday, they’ll have the chance to end a difficult campaign with some joy.

Standing in their way is a lower mid-table Crystal Palace side who have just lost Eberechi Eze to an injury. Should be a pretty straightforward victory, right?

Well, it’s also Roy Hodgson’s final game in charge of the Eagles, and possibly his last game ever in management.

It would be just typical if the man who failed so miserably at Anfield returned to haunt them. It all reeks of an ugly 1-0 away win with Christian Benteke scoring the winner.

Liverpool fans won’t have good memories of previous meetings with Crystal Palace. They infamously blew a 3-0 lead at Selhurst Park back in 2014, effectively ending their title hopes, and the Londoners also spoiled Steven Gerrard’s last game at Anfield in 2015, winning 3-1.

However, with the form they’ve been in, expect Liverpool to exorcise these demons.

Prediction: Liverpool 2-0 Crystal Palace

Leicester City vs Tottenham Hotspur

Leicester won the reverse fixture 2-0 in North London

The headline game of the weekend comes at the King Power Stadium, as Leicester City welcome Tottenham Hotspur.

Leicester have had a bright season, winning the FA Cup for the first time in their history. However, having been in the top four since day one, they will be gutted to miss out on a Champions League place.

The same happened last season, when they fell into fifth place on the final day after a defeat to Manchester United.

Spurs go into the game in seventh place, with Everton and Arsenal breathing down their necks. They could finish sixth if other results go their way.

Either way, it will be a bitterly disappointing finish for a side who were considered title contenders back in December. Those wins over Man City and Arsenal must seem like such a long time ago now.

A place in Europe could also be the difference between Harry Kane staying or going. The England captain’s future has been the subject of a lot of speculation in recent months, and it’s extremely difficult to see a player of his talent settling for a club that isn’t playing in Europe.

The hosts will be particularly worried about Kane. The forward has scored 16 times against the Foxes in all competitions – more than he has bagged against any other opponent.

He currently sits level with Mohamed Salah in the Golden Boot race, so expect him to be desperate for a goal.

Neither side is in brilliant form right now, but given how poor Tottenham were in their last fixture, a home win is looking more likely.

Prediction: Leicester City 4-2 Tottenham Hotspur

West Ham United vs Southampton

West Ham need just a draw

The situation for West Ham is simple. They sit in sixth and can’t finish any higher, but a point guarantees them a Europa League place.

They host Southampton, who are in 14th place and have won just four of their last 20 league games. All they need to do is not lose. It’s really that simple.

However, as their fans would tell you, it would be typical West Ham for them to blow it at this stage. Are things different at the Hammers this time around? We’ll see.

Prediction: West Ham United 2-2 Southampton

Manchester City vs Everton

Richarlison’s header was enough to get the three points last time out

After a strong opening few weeks, Everton have found themselves in eighth going into the final day. They would need a minor miracle to qualify for the Europa League, but seventh place is well in the question.

What they need to do is better Tottenham’s result against Leicester. With a Spurs defeat looking very possible, a point may be enough to take them into the Europa Conference League.

Standing in their way is a small obstacle – runaway champions Manchester City.

Fortunately for the Toffees, Man City have far bigger things to worry about. They face Chelsea in the Champions League final at the end of the month, which they may rest key players for.

In addition, they have conceded six goals in their last two games against Newcastle United and Brighton & Hove Albion, so it isn’t as difficult as it looks.

But Pep Guardiola’s side will be looking to put on a show in front of the fans. And, with it being Sergio Aguero’s last home game for the club, Everton can’t expect an easy ride.

Prediction: Man City 3-2 Everton

Arsenal vs Brighton and Hove Albion

Arsenal still have a chance of finishing in seventh

How on Earth have we ended up in a situation where Arsenal could still qualify for Europe?

The Gunners have been pretty poor for much of the season, but a late victory against Crystal Palace gave them hope of finishing in seventh. Should they win and Spurs and Everton drop points, they will qualify for the Europa Conference League.

Mikel Arteta’s team play Brighton at home. The Seagulls have been near the bottom for most of the season, but ensured their survival a few weeks ago.

Since then, they have pulled off a couple of upsets, dismantling West Ham’s Champions League ambitions and coming from two behind to beat Man City.

It won’t be as easy as it seems for Arsenal, but with the quality in their side and the extra motivation, they should come out on top.

Prediction: Arsenal 2-1 Brighton and Hove Albion

Leeds United vs West Bromwich Albion

Expect another goal fest from Leeds

This is a bit of a formality, really. Leeds can technically still finish in seventh, but they’d need a goal difference swing of 15 between themselves and Spurs for it to happen, as well as defeats for Everton and Arsenal.

Nonetheless, it’s been an enjoyable season for the Yorkshire club, who have scored the sixth most goals in the league this term. They finish the year at Elland Road against a West Brom side who have been doomed for ages.

Final day, in front of the fans, chance to put on a show? Expect another goal fest from Marcelo Bielsa’s men.

Prediction: Leeds United 5-0 West Bromwich Albion

Predicted final table (top half only)

  1. Man City – 86pts, +47GD
  2. Man Utd – 74pts, +30GD
  3. Chelsea – 70pts, +24GD
  4. Liverpool – 69pts, +26GD
  5. Leicester – 69pts, +22GD
  6. West Ham – 63pts, +12GD
  7. Arsenal – 61pts, +15GD
  8. Tottenham – 59pts, +19GD
  9. Leeds – 59pts, +11GD
  10. Everton – 59pts, +3GD

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