There are just six weeks left in the Premier League season. It’s going to be a frantic conclusion to the campaign at both ends of the table, with the battle for the title, top four and relegation set to go down to the wire.
We run through what’s left to play for, with ESPN FC Senior Writer Mark Ogden offering his predictions down the stretch. Editor’s Note: This will be updated weekly as the season nears its exciting conclusion.
RACE FOR THE TITLE
Liverpool lead the way but have played a game more than Manchester City. The home games against Tottenham and Chelsea will go a long way to deciding whether or not Jurgen Klopp’s men will be top of the pile on May 12.
Ogden: Liverpool play two fewer games than Manchester City in April and that could be a key factor in favour of Jurgen Klopp’s men. The potential return to fitness of long-term absentees Joe Gomez and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain are further ticks in the box for Liverpool, but where they finish in the Premier League is likely to depend on the home games against Tottenham and Chelsea. If Liverpool win both of those, they then only face mid-table teams or strugglers until the final day clash with Wolves at Anfield, so the route to glory is clear.
City are likely to be top by Wednesday, having played rock-bottom Fulham and then hosted struggling Cardiff in their game in hand. The title is City’s to lose, and the key would seem to be the back-to-back games at home to Spurs and away to Man United at the end of April. But will their attempt to win all four trophies (they face Spurs twice in the Champions League too and an FA Cup semifinal) take its toll?
Ogden: City will have to play 15 games between now and the end of the season if they are to achieve the Quadruple, but a heavy workload can be a positive rather than a negative if Pep Guardiola’s team can build a winning momentum. The trilogy against Tottenham will be make-or-break, however. Three draining games against a top-class opponent could propel City to glory or leave their hopes in tatters but they have goals all over the team, particularly with Sergio Aguero and Raheem Sterling, so there is always the sense that City will score at least once.
RACE FOR THE CHAMPIONS LEAGUE
The top four in the Champions League will qualify direct to the group stage, with 5th and 6th into the Europa League.
Spurs have to visit both title contenders but with five of their final eight matches at home at their brand new stadium, and three of those against relegation battlers, Mauricio Pochettino will hope the fixtures are kind enough.
Ogden: Spurs have waited nearly the entire season to move into their new stadium, but the moment has arrived and it should give Mauricio Pochettino’s team the impetus they need to secure a top three finish. Trips to Liverpool and City could trip them up but their remaining fixtures appear routine. Spurs will believe they can defeat City in the Champion League too, especially if they can capitalise on the home leg of their quarterfinal being played at the new stadium.
A tough Europa League quarterfinal tie against Napoli means Arsenal cannot take their eye off the ball in the Premier League. The Gunners do not face any of the top six, but five of their remaining fixtures are away. They have only the 10th-best away record in the division, winning only once (vs. Huddersfield) since Nov. 25, and trips include Everton, Watford, Wolves and Leicester.
Ogden: The recent home win against Manchester United has put Arsenal in control of their top four destiny and their remaining fixtures should boost confidence of securing Champions League qualification. With both United and Chelsea facing difficult run-ins, Arsenal have some margin for error due to the unlikely prospect of their rivals winning all their remaining games. The Europa League could be a distraction but right now, Unai Emery’s team are handling both competitions well.
United have five home games left, but back-to-back fixtures against City and Chelsea, after facing Barcelona in the Champions League, could be key. Playing two of the current bottom three in their final matches provides a favourable finale.
Ogden: United are no longer playing under a caretaker-manager, with Ole Gunnar Solskjaer now confirmed as permanent boss, but back-to-back defeats against Arsenal and Wolves have damaged momentum. It’s crucial that United bounce back against Watford and Wolves (in the Premier League) over the coming days. Did they peak too soon under Solskjaer before reverting to type in recent weeks? That’s the big question that needs to be answered. They face a difficult run of games and the odds look to be against a top four finish.
Chelsea could find the Europa League is their best hope of a place in the Champions League, as they face Slavia Prague in the quarterfinals. But a full haul of points from their next three games could set them up for the run-in, although trips to Liverpool and Man United will test a side that has shipped 23 goals away from home and actually lost more matches on the road than Arsenal.
Ogden: Chelsea need others to slip up if they are to finish in the top four because their recent form under Maurizio Sarri — 2019 has been little short of dismal — does not point to a flawless winning streak between now and the end of the season. In many ways, the Europa League offers the best route back into the Champions League but can Chelsea afford to gamble on winning the competition in a one-off game in Baku? Eden Hazard appears to be playing out his final days in a Chelsea shirt and the squad is in need of renewal, none of which bodes well for a top four finish.
The bottom three teams will be relegated, and it looks like one of these sides will join Fulham and Huddersfield in the Championship.
Palace are sixth in the current form table, and will hope to improve on their terrible home record when they host Huddersfield this weekend. With games against Spurs, Man City and Arsenal in April, Palace need a few more points on the board now.
Ogden: Palace should be worried, with only five points separating them from safety and the bottom three. Wilfried Zaha has been their talisman but too much pressure is placed on the winger to deliver for Roy Hodgson’s team. Michy Batshuayi’s arrival on loan has helped, but three games against the top six mean that Palace simply have to start winning against Huddersfield this weekend.
Brighton have nine games left to play, more than any other team in the league, but they still have to face four of the top six (three of them away from home). Upcoming home games against Southampton and Cardiff will be crucial.
Ogden: Brighton have endured an alarming slide into the danger zone in 2019, with their run to the FA Cup semifinals taking the focus away from results in the Premier League. The last time they reached the Cup Final, in 1983, Brighton were relegated. History could be about to repeat itself, but Chris Hughton’s team should be able to claim the two league wins that will be enough to keep them up.
Saints only have Liverpool to play of the top six sides and have a favourable final four matches compared to Brighton, Burnley and Cardiff.
Ogden: Southampton’s final two home games, against Bournemouth and Huddersfield, will be the key to their survival. Six points from those fixtures should be attainable for Ralph Hassenhuttl’s team and ensure another year in the Premier League. Southampton struggle for goals, however, and that will be an issue that needs to be addressed.
Burnley have fewer games to play than any of their rivals and their final four games feature three of the top six as well as a trip to Everton. The home game against Cardiff in two weeks looks crucial.
Ogden: Burnley finished seventh last season and qualified for the Europa League, but they are nothing if not realistic at Turf Moor and manager Sean Dyche always predicted a tough battle, insisting that last year’s heroics were unlikely to be repeated. Burnley know how to scrap it out for points, but they have a daunting run of fixtures and beating Cardiff is an absolute must. They might need another win to be sure of survival, though.
Cardiff might have a game in hand, but that is away to Man City next week… on the back of a home game against Chelsea. Factor in they also play Liverpool and Man United and the odds really are stacked against them.
Ogden: Cardiff manager Neil Warnock has won a record eight promotions in English football during his lengthy managerial career, but he has never been able to keep a team in the top flight. Cardiff are still in with a fighting chance, but the tragic death of record signing Emiliano Sala in January has hit the club hard and four games against the current top four mean the odds are stacked against them. They simply have to beat Burnley at Turf Moor and then do the same at Brighton and Fulham.
RELEGATION ALL BUT CERTAIN
Fulham could be relegated on Tuesday if they lose to both Man City and Watford and other results go against them.
Ogden: Optimism was high at Fulham following last season’s Play-Off Final win against Aston Villa to secure promotion, but too many poor summer signings derailed Slavisa Jokanovic’s reign in charge and the club then made a mistake in hiring Claudio Ranieri as his successor as manager. Scott Parker is now in caretaker charge and his role is likely to be centred on getting Fulham ready for a return to the Championship.
Huddersfield will be relegated as soon as Saturday if they lose at Crystal Palace coupled with victories for Burnley and Southampton.
Ogden: Huddersfield defied the odds by surviving in the Premier League last season, but the warning signs of a struggle ahead were already ringing during the second half of the last campaign. A lack of goals was always going to be their downfall and the departure of David Wagner as manager in January was a sign of the Terriers accepting defeat in their battle stay up. Wagner’s replacement, Jan Siewert, is already preparing for a promotion tilt in the Championship next season.