Premier League finale: title, Europe, relegation all in play

·4 min read

For the first time in Premier League history, the title, qualification for both the Champions League and the lower-ranked European competitions, and a relegation spot will all be decided on the final day of the season.

Here’s a look at what’s at stake going into Sunday:

TITLE RACE

It’s simple: Manchester City will retain the title — its sixth in 11 years — by beating Aston Villa at home. City leads second-place Liverpool by one point and just has to match the result of Jurgen Klopp’s team, which is also at home to Wolverhampton. Villa is lower in the standings (14th compared to eighth) but in better form than Wolves, who are winless in their last six matches and were thrashed 5-1 by City last week. Then there is the Steven Gerrard factor. Gerrard, the Villa manager, is a Liverpool great and boyhood fan who never won the league title in his 17 years at Anfield. Could Gerrard — whose Villa team includes former Liverpool players Philippe Coutinho and Danny Ings — do his old club a favor? City has history on its side: no team leading the standings before the final round of the season has ever failed to go on to clinch the title. If Liverpool wins the league, it would complete the domestic treble and set up the chance to clinch an unprecedented quadruple in the Champions League final against Real Madrid on May 28.

CHAMPIONS LEAGUE QUALIFICATION

The fourth and final qualification spot for next season's Champions League will go to either Tottenham or Arsenal, fierce rivals from north London. Tottenham is the big favorite as it occupies fourth place — two points ahead of Arsenal — and has one of the easiest fixtures possible, an away game at last-place Norwich, which has already been relegated. Arsenal is at home to Everton, which secured its top-flight status on Thursday with a game to spare. If Tottenham and Arsenal finish tied on points, Tottenham is highly likely to be fourth because it has a superior goal difference of 15 to Arsenal. Tottenham was most recently in the Champions League in the 2019-20 season, while Arsenal hasn't been in the competition for the past five seasons.

OTHER EUROPEAN COMPETITIONS

Manchester United and West Ham are assured of being in either the Europa League or the Europa Conference League. Sunday will decide into which competition each team goes. The Europa League is the bigger of the two — it comes with the extra prize of the winner qualifying for the lucrative Champions League — and sixth-place United occupies the final qualifying spot heading into an away match against Crystal Palace. West Ham is two points back in seventh place, which clinches a Conference League berth, and finishes the season at Brighton.

RELEGATION

Burnley and Leeds are tied on points in their bid to avoid joining already-relegated Norwich and Watford in returning to the Championship. Crucially, Burnley has a superior goal difference of 20 compared to Leeds so realistically knows that a win at home to Newcastle will ensure survival, which looked unlikely before long-serving manager Sean Dyche was fired last month and replaced by under-23 coach Mike Jackson. Leeds, which dropped in the relegation zone after Burnley's draw at Aston Villa on Thursday, has also changed its manager this season by bringing in Jesse Marsch for Marcelo Bielsa. The American coach takes Leeds to Brentford on the final day. Brentford has won five of its last seven games and is chasing a top-10 finish. Leeds is in its second season back in the Premier League, having previously not been in the top flight since 2004. Burnley was last in the second division in 2015-16.

TOP SCORER

Liverpool forward Mohamed Salah is leading the way on 22 goals but isn't certain to play against Wolverhampton after sustaining a muscle injury in the FA Cup final last weekend. Klopp said he will not take any risks on Salah's fitness, with the Champions League final still to come. Tottenham forward Son Heung-min looks to be the only player realistically capable of overhauling Salah and heads into the game against Norwich one goal behind. Salah won the Golden Boot award in the 2017-18 season and finished joint first in the charts the following season. Manchester United striker Cristiano Ronaldo is on 18 goals for the season, four behind Salah, and then comes Tottenham striker Harry Kane on 16.

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Steve Douglas, The Associated Press

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