Liverpool’s first ever Premier League trophy, won at a canter as the rest of the world came to a standstill, ended any hopes of the last day of the league becoming a frantic climb for the top spot. But such is the financial pull of the English way of football that this weekend three teams go into the gauntlet, with two coming out of it with a spot among Europe’s elite and a roundabout of £50 million.
With 37 games in the Premier League completed, Liverpool and Manchester City stand first and second respectively on the table and have guaranteed a Champions League spot for themselves next season. And then comes a three-way race between Manchester United, Chelsea and Leicester City that has careened into the final day of the season with the Foxes hosting the Red Devils at King Power Stadium.
Manchester Utd currently stand third on the table with 63 points and have a +28 goal differential. A frantic pace kept by Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s young team after Christmas and a vital signing in Bruno Fernandes – coupled with a disastrous return to football by Leicester in the post-Covid 19 session of Premier League football, has seen United within touching distance of reaching the Champions League. A win or a draw tomorrow not only guarantees United’s coffers to go up £50 million in prize money and broadcast revenue but also ensures that their Adidas sponsorship deal doesn’t get affected. Signed on a 10-year deal for £75 million a year, there is a clause in the Adidas contract that states that if United fail to qualify for the Champions League, then they incur a £22.5 million deduction – a costly proposition even for a club like United that has a £90 million cash reserve according to their quarterly accounts in May.
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Manchester United face a Leicester side that was challenging for the title at Christmas and are now arguably the worst placed among the three clubs in the mix for Champions League qualification. One point behind United on 62 and on the same goal difference as the 20-time champions, Leicester have their work cut out. A disastrous run of form has seen them win only two of their eight Premier League games on return and their best hope on Sunday seems to be not them, but the tired legs of their opposition.
Leicester go up against a United team that has been run to the ground and a defeat to Chelsea in the FA Cup combined with a narrow 1-1 draw to West Ham United on Wednesday for United only furthers the chances that the Foxes have at home.
Prime position for Blues
Chelsea’s first full season under Frank Lampard has seen them on the cusp of a Champions League spot and an opportunity to finish with an FA Cup. They are also in the mix with the Champions League but face a Bayern Munich team that has had a longer period to rest after completing their Bundesliga triumph promptly after the restart in Germany.
The Blues face a Wolves team that are on their own journey to get to the Europa League. Chelsea need a solitary point from this fixture or require United to beat Leicester.
The talk might be revolving around Manchester United, Leicester and Chelsea fighting it out for a UCL spot but they might very well be in danger of missing out on said spot to… Wolves. Still a part of the Europa League, a win in the second-tier continental competition would guarantee them a Champions League spot. Chelsea are in a similar position as they are in contention to win the Champions League and thus guarantee a spot in the competition next year.
If Chelsea and Wolves both win the Champions League and Europa League respectively, and neither finish in the top four, then both of them would be a part of next season’s UCL and the team that finished fourth in the league would have to contend with a Europa League spot instead.
What these three teams need to do:
Chelsea: Need a win or a draw against Wolves or need Man Utd to beat Leicester
Manchester United: Need to win or draw against Leicester. Or need Chelsea to lose their match against Wolves.
Leicester City: Need to beat Man Utd or need to draw and then hope that Chelsea lose against Wolves.
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