Nearly a full calendar year after it began, the prolonged 2019-20 Premier League season comes to an end Sunday. Though the title has long been decided, there’s still plenty at stake as all 20 clubs take the pitch one last time. Below, we examine what’s left to play for heading into the final matchday.
Champions League qualification
The most intriguing battle yet to be decided features three sides battling for two places in Europe’s most coveted – and lucrative – club competition.
Liverpool and Manchester City already locked up Champions League qualification for next season, while Manchester United, Chelsea, and Leicester City seek to join them.
In a delicious twist of fate, the Red Devils travel to the King Power Stadium on Sunday, knowing a single point against Leicester will be enough to clinch a place in the top four. The Foxes, who looked a surefire bet to reach the Champions League earlier in the season, have faltered in 2020 and go into the decisive clash significantly undermanned; key contributors James Maddison, Ricardo Pereira, and Ben Chilwell are injured, while Caglar Soyuncu will miss the match through suspension.
Chelsea, meanwhile, need a single point in their concurrent match against Wolverhampton Wanderers to ensure another season in the Champions League. Should the Blues lose, a draw would be enough for both United and Leicester, as the latter boast a significantly better goal difference than their west London counterparts.
Europa League places
The three-way bout outlined above will also have direct implications on the Europa League race; whichever club misses out on the Champions League and finishes fifth will have to settle for a spot in the group stage of Europe’s sister competition.
Wolves and Tottenham, meanwhile, are in contention for sixth place, which is rewarded with a berth into the second qualifying round of the Europa League. Nuno Espirito Santo’s men, who host Chelsea, need to match whatever result Spurs attain in their meeting with Crystal Palace to claim the spot. Should they lose, Jose Mourinho’s side could leapfrog them.
There is still a path for both Wolves and Spurs to qualify, however.
The winners of the FA Cup are automatically granted a place in the Europa League. This season’s final will feature Chelsea and Arsenal. If Chelsea, who are already guaranteed to finish in the top six, win on Aug. 1 at Wembley, then that European place will transfer to the seventh-place league finishers.
An Arsenal win, though, would see the seventh-place finisher miss out on Europe; the Gunners are languishing in 10th place in the table after a hectic campaign and can only qualify for the Europa League via the FA Cup route.
The relegation battle
With Norwich City already condemned to the second tier, three clubs are left battling to avoid dropping down alongside the Canaries: Aston Villa, Watford, and Bournemouth. Only one can retain its Premier League status.
Villa, incredibly, climbed out of the bottom three for the first time since February with a 1-0 win over Arsenal on Tuesday. They jumped above Watford, whose 4-0 hammering at the hands of Manchester City thrust them into the drop zone on goal difference.
Here’s what the schedule looks like for the three teams trying to avoid the drop on the final day of the season:
- West Ham United vs. Aston Villa
- Arsenal vs. Watford
- Everton vs. Bournemouth
Aston Villa will ensure survival if they match Watford’s result. The only caveat: if they both lose and Bournemouth win, then Jack Grealish and Co. will be relegated along with the Hornets.
Watford, who have fired three managers amid a tumultuous season, have a slightly more permutable path to safety. If Villa win, Watford need to better that result by two or more goals to stay alive on goal difference. If the Villains fail to win, however, then simply earning more points – be it with a draw or victory of their own – would be enough for the Hornets.
The situation is far clearer – and, frankly, more bleak – for Bournemouth. The Cherries, who have been in the Premier League since 2015 after rising up from League Two, must win at Goodison Park and hope both of their relegation rivals lose. Any other combination and Eddie Howe’s tenure in the top flight of English football, which looked at one time like it could lead to a marquee job in the country, will be over (for now, anyway).
Golden Boot race
While they don’t carry quite the same weight as the races above, there are also some individual accolades to be decided on Sunday. The scrap for the Golden Boot headlines that list.
Jamie Vardy tops the scoring chart with 23 goals, two clear of Danny Ings. The Southampton striker, finally healthy after enduring multiple knee injuries earlier in his career, has flourished since the restart, scoring six times in eight matches to put his compatriot under pressure.
It’s been 20 years since two English players finished atop the league scoring table; Sunderland’s Kevin Phillips (30 goals) and Newcastle’s Alan Shearer (23) were the last pair to accomplish the feat in the 1999-2000 season.
Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang and Mohamed Salah, sitting on 20 and 19 goals, respectively, would need spectacular final games to pip the aforementioned duo to the scoring title.