Premier League season reaches final weeks with Man City leading Arsenal in title race
The title race between Manchester City and Arsenal is headed to the wire. The fight for Champions League qualification has tightened up. It’s surely down to two from a group of four teams for relegation.
There’s so much still to play for in the Premier League with only two weeks remaining.
Here’s a look at the state of play at the top and the bottom:
As many expected, defending champion Manchester City has produced its trademark end-of-season burst to move into first place ahead of long-time leader Arsenal, which stuttered just when a first title since 2004 was looming into view.
City — enjoying a 10-match winning run in the league — leads by one point with four games left, one more than Arsenal.
It’s far from over, however. City has the tougher run-in, with games to come at an Everton team fighting relegation, at home against Chelsea, and then at Brighton and Brentford — two of the more surprising teams this season with good home records. City also has the second leg of the Champions League semifinals against Real Madrid to plan around next week.
Arsenal is at home against Brighton, at Nottingham Forest and closes with a home match against Wolverhampton.
If Arsenal wins its final three games, City will need three victories in its final four games to guarantee retaining the title.
It has looked for some time that Newcastle and Manchester United would secure the two automatic Champions League qualifying places behind City and Arsenal, but Liverpool’s six-match winning run has made things interesting.
Liverpool has climbed to fifth and is one point behind fourth-place United and three behind third-place Newcastle, having played one more game than both of them.
Liverpool likely needs to win its remaining three games — at Leicester, at home against Aston Villa and at last-place Southampton — and hope either Newcastle or United slip up.
Newcastle finishes the season with games against Leeds, Brighton, Leicester and Chelsea, and probably requires two wins to get into the Champions League for the first time since 2002-03.
United appears more likely to be reeled in by Liverpool, having won only one of its last four league games. United has a kind final stretch on paper, though, with three of its four matches at home (Wolverhampton, Chelsea and Fulham) along with Bournemouth away.
The teams finishing in fifth and sixth place will qualify for the Europa League, and they are currently Liverpool and Tottenham. Brighton is their main challenger, with Aston Villa having an outside chance, too.
With Liverpool almost assured of fifth place or higher, it should end up being a three-team shootout.
Tottenham is two points ahead of Brighton, which has five games still to play — because of various postponements during the season. Tottenham has three. Brighton has a very difficult closing stretch of games, including trips to Arsenal and Newcastle and the visit of City.
Tottenham still has Aston Villa, Brentford and Leeds to play. Villa, which is three points behind Tottenham ahead of the teams’ meeting on Saturday, then plays Liverpool and Brighton.
The team that finishes in seventh place will secure a spot in next season’s Europa Conference League.
Last-place Southampton is eight points from safety with three games to go and is surely going down, ending its 11-year stay in the Premier League. Relegation will be confirmed as early as Saturday if the team doesn’t beat Fulham.
Two more teams will also be demoted and three points separate Nottingham Forest in 16th and Leeds in 19th, with Everton and Leicester in between. Wins might be hard to come by for all four teams in their final three matches
Leeds and Leicester occupy the two relegation berths, and might have the most difficult schedule.
Leicester, in particular, has it tough with a home game against Liverpool on Monday followed by a trip to Newcastle. The easiest game will likely be West Ham at home on the final weekend, by which time Leicester might yet be relegated.
Leeds, now under survival specialist Sam Allardyce, hosts Newcastle and Tottenham on either side of a match at West Ham.
Everton, which has been in the top division since 1954, climbed out of the bottom three with a surprising 5-1 win at Brighton on Monday and has games remaining against Man City, Wolves and Bournemouth.
Forest might just need one more point to be safe but even that won’t be easy with matches ahead at Chelsea, at home against Arsenal and at Crystal Palace.
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