Skip to content

What’s left in England’s race to finish in the top four?

May 11, 2013, 10:28 AM EDT

Tottenham Hotspur's Gareth Bale reacts during their Premier League soccer match against Manchester United at White Hart Lane in London Reuters

Technically, Chelsea didn’t sew up a top four finish with today’s win at Villa Park. But if it wasn’t for the most outlying scenarios demanding attention for the sake of accuracy, the possibilities of Chelsea finishing fifth wouldn’t even deserve our attention. Up six points on fifth with a huge goal difference edge, Rafa Benítez would give his first team an early vacation and the Blues would still be playing in Champions League next fall.

But for the sake of discussion (and to see what’s left to decide fourth place), let’s take a look at what remains for England’s third-through-fifth place teams – the three clubs competing for the league’s two final UEFA Champions League.

Current Standings

  • 3. Chelsea – 37 games played, 72 points, +35 goal difference.
  • 4. Arsenal – 36 games played, 67 points, +31 goal difference.
  • 5. Tottenham Hotspur – 36 games played, 66 points, +18 goal difference.

(Manchester United and Manchester City have already secured Champions League spots.)

What’s Left

Chelsea

It almost doesn’t matter. There’s no way Tottenham Hotspur are outscoring their opponents by the 17 goals they’d need to have a chance to take advantage of a Chelsea slip. And if they do, they’ll surely start with a barrage tomorrow at Stoke City, one which will give the Blues a chance to pause and reconsider. ‘Maybe we should take our finale against Everton seriously?’

It’s not going to happen. No way is it even on André Villas-Boas’s radar. The last Champions League spot is all about Spurs and Arsenal.

That will give Chelsea a chance to concentrate on silverware. Wednesday in Amsterdam, the Blues meet Benfica in the Europa League final, a chance to a fourth different European trophy to their selves. It ma not be the honor Blues fans would have wanted (one that required Champions League failure to qualify for it), but years from now, supporters may look back fondly if the honor helps round out the club’s European resume.

Should they do that, expect a second choice team to take the pitch against Everton. The regulars and veterans? They’ll be given a chance to enjoy their title. They may be dealing with some lingering dehydration come kickoff in West London.

Arsenal

The Gunners need win in their last two games to see their way back into Champions League – a competition they’ve been in each of the last 14 years. The only thing standing between them and a 15th straight appearance are a wins against Wigan and Newcastle (or a slip by Spurs).

It’s a fortunate run-in. True, both the Latics and Magpie will be fueled by relegation concerns, but ultimately, you’d rather play bad teams than good. And right now, neither Wigan nor Newcastle are good.

Arsenal host Wigan on Tuesday, three days after the Latics try for their first major trophy in the FA Cup final. Expect Roberto Martínez to start a full team on short rest. Given Wigan’s style and Arsenal’s talents, the Gunners should be able to pass the Latics into submission. Even if things go awry, Arsène Wenger’s men should be able to wait out a late win.

Their final game is at St. James Park, visiting a Newcastle team that’s been one of the league’s worst since spring. The Magpies have only won once since March 10, a 1-0 home win over equally inept Fulham. Amid speculation of a divided locker room and galling performances like the recent 6-0 home loss to Liverpool, Newcastle carry many of the pox of a relegation disaster. Fortunately for them, Wigan may have run out of time.

Tottenham Hotspur

Like Arsenal’s, Spurs’ run-in is relatively easy – a visit to Stoke followed by a finale against Sunderland at White Hart Lane. Their destiny may be out of their control, but with two fixtures against struggling sides, Tottenham can force Arsenal to get full points to take fourth place.

If Arsenal doesn’t get two wins, Spurs can snag a top four spot with two wins. And if the Gunners win out? Spurs are done.

But let’s stop and consider the Spurs season if they do claim two wins. That would put them on 72 points one season after 69 secured a fourth place finish. Last season, 72 points would have claimed third place and pushed Arsenal into Champions League. This year, after losing Luka Modric in August, André Villa-Boas could better Harry Redknapp’s mark.

There’s still a chance 72 will be enough to get Spurs into Champions League. Though Arsenal has been in Champions League every year since 2001, it’s been a long time since they’ve been pushed for a spot, and since the Invincibles started leaving North London, Arsenal hasn’t been above an unexpected stumble.

The odds aren’t short, but for Spurs,  it’s not mission impossible. Unfortunately, their Champions League future remains in their rivals’ hands.

Latest Posts
  1. Atlanta’s new MLS franchise has already sold 14,000 season tickets

    Aug 20, 2014, 12:25 PM EDT

    Don Garber AP

    Set to arrive in MLS in 2017, the league’s newest franchise has already sold a staggering number of season tickets.

  2. No Turkish delight for Arsenal: Ramsey sent off, Arteta injured, Wenger fumes

    Aug 20, 2014, 11:49 AM EDT

    Arsene Wenger, Slaven Bilic AP

    Wenger: “It’s very difficult to understand but, in the second half, the performance of the referee was very bad.”

  3. Thomas Muller reveals he rejected “astronomical” offer from Manchester United

    Aug 20, 2014, 11:01 AM EDT

    FBL-EUR-C1-MAN CITY-BAYERN MUNICH Getty Images

    Muller: “The amount that foreign clubs were offering me was astronomical. But Bayern are my club.”

  4. Swansea City sign Argentine defender Federico Fernandez

    Aug 20, 2014, 10:31 AM EDT

    Argentina v Bosnia-Herzegovina: Group F - 2014 FIFA World Cup Brazil Getty Images

    Fernandez arrives from Napoli as Swans sign Argentine center back.

  5. Newly appointed Italian soccer president probed by UEFA amid racism claims

    Aug 20, 2014, 9:50 AM EDT

    Italy Federation Racism AP

    Following his alleged racist comments, leader of Italian soccer facing lengthy ban.

  6. Wednesday’s Transfer Rumor Roundup: Carvalho to Chelsea, Zaha to Palace

    Aug 20, 2014, 9:10 AM EDT

    Sporting Lisboa's William Carvalho celebrates his goal against Porto during their Portuguese premier league soccer match in Porto Reuters

    Arsenal to miss out on Carvalho, Nastasic, as rumors continue to swirl. Check out the latest gossip, here.

  7. No signings in 2015: Barcelona’s transfer ban upheld, FIFA rejects appeal

    Aug 20, 2014, 8:28 AM EDT

    Manchester City v Barcelona - UEFA Champions League Round of 16 Getty Images

    Barcelona banned by FIFA from signing any new players from September 2014 to January 2016.

  8. Report: Tottenham set to raid Manchester United, line up Fellaini, Hernandez deals

    Aug 20, 2014, 7:30 AM EDT

    Manchester United v Los Angeles Galaxy Getty Images

    Spurs set to hand Red Devils duo escape route from Old Trafford?

  9. CONCACAF Champions League Roundup: Champions fall in Panama; Sporting slips at Estelí

    Aug 20, 2014, 1:47 AM EDT

    concacaf champions league logo

    Portland victorious in CCL debut,while Club América affirmed their place as one of the competition’s favorites.

  10. Where in the world is Juan Agudelo? “Munich” may soon be the answer

    Aug 19, 2014, 9:53 PM EDT

    Agudelo Getty Images

    21-year-old striker may turn to the 2.Bundesliga to get his young career back on track.

  11. Moor’s season-ending injury sends Rapids’ defense into upheaval

    Aug 19, 2014, 8:33 PM EDT

    Colorado Rapids v Philadelphia Union Getty Images

    Injury couldn’t have come at a worse time for slumping Colorado.

  12. Spanish Super Cup: Late goal allows Atlético to claim first leg draw at Real Madrid

    Aug 19, 2014, 7:22 PM EDT

    gareth_bale AP

    James Rodríguez’s opener is pulled back in the 81st minute, sending the rivals to the Calderón even.

  13. UEFA Champions League Roundup: Arsenal held; Athletic takes 1-1 draw out of Naples

    Aug 19, 2014, 5:40 PM EDT

    arsenal_besiktas AP

    Steaua Bucharest, Bayer Leverkusen, and Red Bull Salzburg earned first leg wins.

  14. PST Major League Soccer Player of the Week: Fabián Castillo

    Aug 19, 2014, 4:40 PM EDT

    Colorado Rapids v FC Dallas Getty Images

    Tesho Akindele won the league’s honor, leaving is with one question: How? Teammate Fabián Castillo was clearly FC Dallas’s (and the league’s) best player.

  15. Fantasyland: Week One heroes, leaders, busts, three names to monitor

    Aug 19, 2014, 4:30 PM EDT

    Sunderland v Udinese - Pre Season Friendly Getty Images

    A pair of Liverpool midfielders let down their owners, while Hull was the key to big, big scores.

  16. VIDEO: Ba hits the bar from midfield off opening kickoff vs Arsenal

    Aug 19, 2014, 3:30 PM EDT

    Ba 1

    Demba Ba had the gumption to try and score one of the earliest goals of all-time in Besiktas’ UCL match against Arsenal on Tuesday

  17. Man says Liverpool tattoo helped him through 19 hours vs sea, sharks

    Aug 19, 2014, 2:45 PM EDT

    Channel 7 via The Mirror Channel 7 via The Mirror

    Swimming with sharks, and knowing his fishing companions faced death, Kim Thomsen leaned on the fact that he wasn’t swimming alone.

  18. Tuesday transfer rumor roundup: Falcao to Liverpool, Welbeck to Hull?

    Aug 19, 2014, 2:25 PM EDT

    Vincent-Aboubakar Getty Images

    Bayern president Franz Beckenbauer claims Marco Reus is headed to Manchester United… next summer.

  19. Sporting CP confirms swap of Rojo to Manchester United for Nani, money

    Aug 19, 2014, 2:07 PM EDT

    APTOPIX Brazil Soccer WCup Germany Argentina AP

    Hours after apologizing for trying to force a move to Manchester United, Argentina defender Marcos Rojo is commenting on said move.

  20. Tim Leiweke denies reports that he’s stepping down in Toronto

    Aug 19, 2014, 1:53 PM EDT

    MLS Toronto FC Gilberto Soccer AP

    The MLSE boss has been good for Toronto FC, bringing in Jermain Defoe and Michael Bradley, and is denying a report that he’s leaving town.

Featured video

Top five PL goals, Week 1