May 18, 2013, 10:22 AM EDT
Come Sunday there’ll be 10 games, one start time, but very little meaning in the English Premier League’s last match day. The relegation battles are over, with Queens Park Rangers, Reading, and FC Cup winners Wigan Athletic set to go down. The title’s decided, and between Swansea City and the Latics, so are two of the Europa League spots.
All that’s left, in addition to some meaningful goodbyes, is the fight for the top four, with England’s final Europa League spot the consolation prize:
THREE MATCHES THAT MATTER
1. Newcastle vs. Arsenal
The Magpies, terrible over the last couple of months, won last weekend at Championship-bound QPR. Their safety means only pride’s on the line for Newcastle on Sunday.
Arsenal, on the other hand, secure a Champions League spot (and potentially, third place) with a win at St. James Park. After Tuesday’s 4-1 win over Wigan, the Gunners seem ready to push rival Tottenham to Europa League, even if the first hour against the Latics didn’t exactly scream ‘killer instinct.’
2. Tottenham Hotpur vs. Sunderland
Arsenal’s result could be rendered irrelevant by what happens at White Hate Lane. If Spurs fail to win, the Gunners will finish in the top four. If, however, Arsenal trips up at Newcastle, Spurs return to Champions League with a win over the Black Cats.
It’s two North London Champions League aspirants against the league’s North East rivals – a pair of floudering clubs who were given a relegation reprieve by Wigan’s fall. On paper, Arsenal and Spurs should win. But if there is a stumble, it will probably occur up north, giving André Villas-Boas’s side a route into Champions League.
3. Chelsea vs. Everton
Only a Blues loss and huge win by Spurs (like, 15-plus goal-win) will cost Chelsea their top four spot. The more intriguing scenarios are the ones where the Blues fall to fourth.
The obvious one: if they lose and Arsenal wins, Chelsea finish behind the Gunners.
The less obvious one, one discussed earlier on the blog: The potential tie for third. If Chelsea and Everton end scoreless while Arsenal defeats Newcastle 2-1, the Blues and Gunners will finish with the same point total (73), goal difference (+35) and goals scored (73).
That would lead to a one-game playoff. The winner gets a direct route into Champions League (and third place). The loser has goes through a play-in round.
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