After three rounds of match action in the Premier League since the restart, the contenders for Champions League qualification are jostling for position. Here, we look at the teams vying for the top four, their restart fortunes and their remaining fixtures.
When Premier League football restarted in the middle of last month, there were 10 points separating Leicester City in third and Wolverhampton Wanderers in sixth. However, that gap has been whittled down to just three points over the past few weeks, leaving the top-four picture intriguingly poised with six games remaining.
After back-to-back victories over Aston Villa and Manchester City, Frank Lampard’s Chelsea suffered defeat on match week 32, allowing Wolves and Manchester United to close the gap to two points. The Blues have, however, moved to within one point of the Foxes following their shaky return to action. At the top, Liverpool have been confirmed as Premier League champions for the first time, with Manchester City now trailing the Reds by 20 points following their victory over Jurgen Klopp’s side at the Etihad on Thursday evening.
As the top six have squeezed together slightly, the other contenders have fallen away somewhat. Sheffield United, Arsenal and Tottenham are now seven, eight and nine points off the top four respectively, with just 18 points up for grabs in the remainder of the 2019/20 campaign.
There is also the added uncertaintly over City’s contested ban from European competition for two seasons due to alleged breaches of Financial Fair Play regulations. A decision from the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) on City’s appeal is expected in the week commencing 13 July, which could mean finishing fifth in the league this season is enough. For now, the contenders must assume that only a top-four finish guarantees Champions League football next season. Plenty still to play for, then, and the stakes couldn’t be higher!
Encounters between teams in the top half of the table will likely play a significant part in deciding the final standings. Frank Lampard’s side now have four such meetings in their final seven games, including trips to Anfield, Selhurst Park and Bramall Lane, as well as a home match against Wolves.
The latter is scheduled for what could be a decisive final day of the season, on which Man United go to Leicester. Manchester United have the fewest of these clashes (one), while Leicester, Wolves, Sheffield United and Arsenal have the most with four.