Down to the wire: Is this the tightest Premier League season ever?
A season to remember
This season just continues to get better, doesn't it? With the Premier League going right down to the wire, it's extremely difficult to call which sides will come out victorious in their pursuit of success, and which sides will ultimately slump to an agonisingly painful end.
With just a handful of fixtures still left to play in England's top flight, and only the finest of margins currently separating certain teams from their destiny, the next three weeks are going to be extremely entertaining to watch unfold.
We've taken a look at each of the situations surrounding teams fighting it out for different objectives in the Premier League - who do you think will win the league, cement a top four finish, obtain European football or be relegated to the Championship this season? Be sure to let us know your thoughts on @FootyAccums!
City or Liverpool?
This season's Premier League campaign has been one of the most entertaining in recent history, with two top quality sides both refusing to give up on their quest for the title. Manchester City and Liverpool have both been formidable this time around, constantly blowing teams out the water with their exciting style of attack-minded football. The pair are currently separated by just two points as things stand, with City having the luxury of a game in hand over Jurgen Klopp's side.
Should Pep's Blues win that game in hand however - the hugely anticipated Manchester derby against United on Wednesday evening - it will put them firmly in the ascendency heading into the final two weeks of the campaign. Lose, and it's Liverpool's for the taking, and they almost certainly will not pass up the opportunity to clinch their first Premier League title in 30 years.
City also go up against Burnley, Leicester and Brighton after facing fierce rivals United on Wednesday, and while those fixtures look bread and butter on paper, as we've seen before this season anything can happen in this unforgiving division. Claude Puel's Leicester beat the Cityzens 2-1 in the reverse fixture of this tie on Boxing Day thanks to goals from Marc Albrighton and Ricardo Pereira - can they spoil the party once more?
Liverpool on the other hand face rock bottom Huddersfield Town on Friday evening in what should be a routine victory on home soil for the Reds, before travelling to former manager Rafa Benitez's in form Newcastle - who are fresh off the back of two impressive wins over Leicester and Southampton. Wolves then visit Anfield on the season's final day in what looks to be the Reds' most challenging remaining league clash; Nuno Espirito Santo's side have been notably impressive against the divisions bigger sides this term and won't think twice about causing another upset when it really matters.
One thing that Liverpool have to contend with is a two-legged venture against Barcelona in the Champions League, as they look to reach the final of the competition for the second time in as many seasons this year. Though this is another great opportunity for silverware, it does mean an increased schedule for the Merseyside club and with the Premier League undoubtedly the priority for Klopp's men this time out, could work against them as City have already been dumped out of the tournament by Tottenham.
Champions League chasers
With Manchester City and Liverpool pulling clear at the top so early on, the fight to secure Champions League football next season is almost equally as entertaining as the title race. Tottenham, Arsenal, Chelsea and Manchester United are all battling it out for the two remaining spaces in the UCL next term, with just three points separating seventh-placed United from third-placed Tottenham at this moment in time.
This weekend, all four of those sides blew the perfect opportunity to gain an advantage on the others, as each of them failed to register a win. Fourth-placed Chelsea will perhaps be kicking themselves the most however, as they were held at home to Sean Dyche's lowly Burnley on Monday evening and desperately needed a win having played a game more than the chasing pack.
Maurizio Sarri will know that last night's draw could well cost them this season, though when you look back at their performances throughout the second half of this fascinating campaign, you could argue that Europa League football is the very most they deserve. They do find themselves in with a great chance of winning that this season however, with a semi-final against Frankfurt the only thing standing between them and a spot in May's final.
Should the Blues win that pivotal clash against the Germans, and then beat either Valencia or Arsenal in the final, they'll secure a place in the next season's Champions League, so it may be worth Sarri putting all of his eggs in that basket because the league looks to be passing them by at the moment.
The same can be said for Unai Emery's Arsenal, who on Sunday slumped to a 3-2 defeat at home to Crystal Palace, ending an astonishing sixteen-game unbeaten run at the Emirates. The Gunners currently sit fifth in the Premier League table - a point behind Chelsea - but have played a game less than the Blues.
With Leicester, Wolves and Brighton still to play however, you can't help but feel Arsenal will drop points from now until the end of the campaign. Leicester are gunning for a seventh-place finish and find themselves in form, Wolves have been the league's 'top six' bogey team this time around. Brighton have already taken points off them and are currently fighting for their lives at the bottom of the table, so it's not exactly cut and dry for the north Londoners; maybe focussing on the Europa League would be a sensible idea.
Third-placed Tottenham have it all to do, with a Champions League semi-final against Ajax partnering their quest for a top four finish this term. Spurs spent much of this season as firm title challengers, but now face dropping out of the Champions League spaces all together should they endure a poor end to their campaign.
Mauricio Pochettino's men face Chris Hughton's struggling Brighton side this evening before hosting West Ham on Saturday - two games that you'd feel confident in them winning. However, the welcome distraction of their Champions League semi-final next week could well hinder their performance in the Premier League due to potential squad rotation implemented by Pochettino.
Everton will most definitely be Spurs' toughest league test on the season's final day, but with two strong performances against Brighton and West Ham all but cementing their spot in the top four ahead of that clash on 12 May, it looks increasingly likely that they'll be competing in the UCL once more next term.
After an extremely poor performance under previous boss Jose Mourinho at the start of the season, things started to look up for Manchester United under the guidance of interim manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer when he took charge of the club in December. The former Red Devils front man enjoyed a dream start to his career in the Old Trafford hot seat, losing just one of his opening seventeen in all competitions. However, since being appointed permanent manager last month, the Norwegian has won just two of his six games. The Reds were convincingly dumped out of the Champions League by Barcelona last week and humiliated by Everton away from home on Sunday, which has led to many fans doubting whether or not Solskjaer is the man to take them forward on a full-time basis.
United's main test comes on Wednesday evening when they host rivals Manchester City, before a crunch fixture against top four rivals Chelsea next weekend. United then travel to already relegated Huddersfield Town before hosting Cardiff City on the last day of the season, who could also find themselves relegated by that point, so you would expect them to pick up at least six points from those two games. The Chelsea match is vital however, as they desperately need to close that three-point gap to ensure Champions League football returns next season - will they have what it takes to see the job through?
Race for Europa
Though it's much less talked about than Champions League qualification or the battle down the bottom, the race for a space in the Europa League next term is currently being contested by four sides, with just a single point separating seventh from tenth as things stand.
Due to Manchester City winning the EFL Cup, but cementing a place in the Champions League next season, their place in the Europa League will be awarded to the team who finish sixth in the division. Should Watford win the FA Cup, they will gain entry into the Europa League next term, however should City win that as well, their position will be awarded to whoever finishes seventh in the table, just like what happened to Burnley last season.
Everton are currently in pole position to clinch seventh after a rampant display against Manchester United on Sunday. The Toffees were emphatic at Goodison Park, with Richarlison setting the pace early on before a long range beauty from Gylfi Sigurdsson doubled the hosts lead.
Lucas Digne and Theo Walcott then rounded off a perfect afternoon for Marco Silva's men, who now sit above eighth-placed Watford on goal difference. With Crystal Palace, Burnley and Tottenham still left to play, you'd feel confident in Everton obtaining at least six points from those three games based on current form, and with the table so tight at the moment, they cannot afford any slip-ups.
Watford host Southampton tonight knowing that a win would take them above Everton and after the Saints' performance against Newcastle on Saturday evening - where Ralph Hasenhuttl's were undone by a Ayoze Perez hat-trick at St. James' Park - it's hard to look past another win for the Hornets. Javi Gracia's side have been the Premier League's surprise package this time out, with players like Gerard Deulofeu really showing his class in recent weeks.
The Hertfordshire club find themselves in an FA Cup final this term, and should they win that then they'll make it into the Europa League, however, with their opponents being Manchester City, their biggest chance of securing European football next season undoubtedly still lies in their league form.
Leicester are always there or thereabouts at the end of the season, and this time around things aren't any different for the Foxes. Brendan Rodgers' side sit just a point below both Watford and Everton, but could easily finish above both of them with a strong end to their campaign.
The East Midlanders have the toughest run-in approaching however, with Arsenal, Manchester City and Chelsea all to play in the coming three weeks, so it's going to take something extremely special for them to clinch seventh.
Wolves have grabbed the headlines this season due to their fluid style of 'sexy' football, implemented by the exciting Nuno Espirito Santo, who last season guided the club to the Championship title. The West Midlanders have an abundance of quality within their squad this time out, with players like Ruben Neves, Diego Jota, João Moutinho and Raul Jimenez all impressing at Molineux in the club's first season back in the top flight since 2011-12.
Wanderers also find themselves on 48 points at the moment, so again could quite easily move above the rest of the Europa League contenders with a solid end to their season. However, with both Arsenal and Liverpool still to play, know they've got their work cut out, making their remaining two matches against Watford and Fulham all the more important.
Down and out
With both Huddersfield and Fulham enduring incredibly poor campaigns this time out, two of the three relegation spaces have now been taken, with one still up for grabs. But who will be the third and final team demoted to the Championship next month?
Cardiff are currently favourites for the drop - the Bluebirds sit 18th, three points behind Brighton who travel to Tottenham this evening desperately looking to bridge the gap down at the bottom. Should Chris Hughton's men get anything from tonight's encounter in north London, it almost certainly confirms Cardiff's relegation.
If Brighton lose, though, it will make this Saturday's clash against already relegated Fulham extremely interesting. The Cottagers are now playing with freedom however, beating both Everton and Bournemouth in their last two outings, and if they make that three in three this weekend, it's game over for Neil Warnock's outfit.
Brighton have slipped into the relegation mix after a dismal run of form in 2019. The Seagulls have lost to the likes of Fulham, Southampton, Burnley, Bournemouth and most recently Cardiff this year, which simply isn't good enough when you're fighting for your life at the wrong end of the table.
Tonight's fixture against Spurs is crucial, and considering Mauricio Pochettino's side will have one eye on their Champions League semi-final clash against Ajax next week, it could be a great opportunity to upset the applecart as the Argentinian will most certainly rest some of his key men. They then welcome in-form Newcastle to the Amex on Saturday in what will be their biggest clash of the season - lose that and they're bang in trouble. Win, and it blows things wide open heading into the final two games against Arsenal and Manchester City.
Southampton look clear now, but only just. However, a defeat to Watford tonight partnered by a surprising victory from Brighton would bring them right back into relegation contention. Saints were disappointing against Newcastle on Saturday evening, losing 3-1 to the Magpies just a week after putting in a fantastic display against Wolves at St Mary's. One thing that does work in their favour is the fact they play Huddersfield on the season's final day at home, which should be a guaranteed win.
Whatever happens in three weeks time, this season has been an unforgettable journey that will stick in the memory for years to come.
As things stand
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