The Premier League is preparing for when the campaign can resume after being suspended due to the coronavirus outbreak around the country. While June 6 now seems a possible option, clubs and their players are working hard to stay prepared for the rigorous battle ahead.
Of course, the title race is basically over with Liverpool in need of two more wins to “officially” be deemed as champions. What isn’t decided, however, is who gets into the UEFA Champions League next season from England’s top league. Manchester City’s European ban has certainly made things interesting.
With a possible chance that the FFP-violating side won’t be able to play in Europe next season, the fifth position in the league could automatically turn into Champions League spot. There remains a competitive gap right from fourth-place Chelsea right till 7th place Sheffield United, Manchester United, Wolves as well as the North-London sides Arsenal & Tottenham Hotspur have possible chances of qualifying. Let’s look at who could get that prestigious final spot.
Percentages are from 538’s probability chart on UCL qualification.
Manchester United (75%)
The Red Devils were arguably the most in-form Premier League team before the break having enjoyed 11-match unbeaten streak. United just have a single ‘big game’ remaining in the league, against Jose Mourinho’s Spurs. Sheffield at home could be another daunting challenge, but ideally, their remaining games are all against weaker opposition.
That being said, United have struggled to put away the “minnows” in the league this season. They’ve dropped too many points to struggling sides, costing them in the top-four race.
However, Bruno Fernandes’ introduction has sparked that something special needed to humble weaker opposition. With Paul Pogba & Marcus Rashford also possibly returning after the break, United have enough firepower to break through opponents & qualify for the Champions League.
Wolverhampton Wanderers (23%)
Wolves have remarkably kept themselves in the running for another European finish, but it could be an upgrade from a Europa League spot into the big leagues. They possess enough talent to push through a serious challenge in the final stretch, but don’t have the depth to get the job done.
With Europa League there is play for as well, Wolves could end up shutting down in the last few weeks. They’ve drawn too many games this season and aren’t defensive as strong anymore. But if Raul Jimenez, Diogo Jota & Adama Traore can create something deadly in the final stretch, Wolves could end up sneaking into a CL spot.
Sheffield United (11%)
Sheffield have proven to be the ultimate underdogs of the Premier League this season, pulling off remarkable results throughout the campaign. It remains to be seen how this unexpected break affects their momentum, but the Blades have enough tenacity to tough out results.
They have some tough fixtures ahead, including top-four contenders Leicester City, Chelsea as well as direct competitors United & Wolves. However, Sheffield’s impressive ability to churn out points in big games and never-say-die spirit could help finish their special campaign on a high note with a top European spot.
Tottenham (11%) and Arsenal (5%)
It would be quite premature to completely rule out the possibility of Arsenal & Spurs getting into the Champions League next season. They’re just a few points off the fifth place (Arsenal have a game in hand) and their biggest asset is the lack of European football.
Indeed, both have been knocked out of Europe , while United, Wolves needing battle it out in Europa, they get some extra rest to maintain peak performance levels. Harry Kane & Son Heung-Min could both be back for Spurs once the campaign restarts, giving them a big boost.
Arsenal remains undefeated in 2020 in the league and have started making grounds under Mikel Arteta, so these two North-London giants will give a formidable last-minute push for that coveted Champions League spot.
So who gets that final CL spot?
At this point, United look the favourites. They’re literally in the spot, have easy games ahead & will soon have their fully strengthened side for the first time since September. Ole Gunnar Solskjaer is ensuring his side maintains peak fitness amid the lockdown period and they could come out roaring when everything restarts.
However, Wolves & Sheffield are both massive underdogs who can pull off the spectacular here. If Arsenal &Spurs get their voodoo back, they’ll also lodge a serious end-of-season push.
Then again, Chelsea’s own spot is not ensured right now. By all means, they could be pushed out of the top-five if they lose their momentum. It’ll all come down to which team is the fittest and has the mental fortitude to see through the frenzy ahead.
Every team will have rustiness in their game, so whoever can shove off their cobwebs to go roaring ahead could be at an advantage. The entire Premier League campaign has seen these European hopefuls keep on slipping & sloping into a top-five race. Whoever maintains the best run of consistency will gain a shot at the Champions League next season.