The race for third and fourth place was hardly the finale that the Premier League and its television rights holders were hoping for. Especially when, back in August, England’s top division embarked on its 25th renewal since its rebranding.
With Chelsea claiming the title with two games to spare, Sunderland throwing in the towel before April was out, and Middlesbrough and Hull City following the Black Cats through the relegation trap door soon after, the only thing up for grabs is the battle for the last two Champions League qualification places.
Manchester City need just one point to ensure a seat at the top table of European football next campaign, while Liverpool know a win would also see them take their place amongst the continent’s elite.
Should Jurgen Klopp’s side fail to beat Middlesbrough at home, Arsenal can extend their incredible record of finishing in the top four to 21 consecutive seasons, at the expense of the Merseysiders, if they defeat Everton at Emirates Stadium.
Similarly, if Liverpool and Arsenal both win and Manchester City lose with a six-goal swing in the Gunners favour, then Pep Guardiola’s side would miss out.
We might have a situation where any two of those three teams could finish on the same amount of points with the same goal difference and goals scored, which will mean a play-off for fourth place.
Each permutation includes a result that few would predict though (including a 4-0 Watford win over City), which means we’ll just have to wait a little longer for a 39th game in the Premier League.
No change at the top with Arsenal set to miss out
Live broadcasts in the United Kingdom will centre on the action at Anfield and Vicarage Road on Sunday, with Liverpool hosting Middlsebrough and Manchester City travelling to face Watford.
Both teams hoping to rubber stamp their place in the Champions League next season are expected to win, with a double on the pair returning a paltry profit of £5.52 for a tenner gambled.
For Manchester City and Liverpool, it’s more about making sure their respective brands remain global and the prestige that comes with playing in club football’s premier competition.
I don’t think either will miss out. Boro’s resistance to relegation was brief, with their capitulation at Stamford Bridge against a motivated Chelsea side. They knew the defeat would condemn them to a swift return to the Championship, which was particularly depressing for fans of the Teesside club.
Sure, they’ve drawn at both the Emirates and Etihad this term, but despite Liverpool’s maddening Anfield inconsistencies – they haven’t won at home since April 1st – they should improve an already good record of winning eight of their 10 Premier League final day games in front of their own supporters.
City have won their last three games and look as good as they did in August. At the start of the season – when bookmakers were offering up odds-on quotes about Pep Guardiola’s team claiming the title – they’d triumphed in each of their first ten fixtures in all competitions. They’ve only won one of their last six away from home, but just need a point on Sunday. Their unbeaten streak of seven league games against the Hornets will sweeten the prospect of a win.
Competitiveness called into questions as Premier League wraps up
Seventeen teams ostensibly have nothing to play for on the final day of this season’s Premier League. Does that mean they won’t try?
Ask any footballer, past or present, and they’ll never admit to being on the beach once their seasonal fate is sealed. Ask any supporter and they’ll probably say something quite different.
Owners and chairman certainly care, especially those of clubs placed between eighth and 17th. Eight points separate 10 teams, with Crystal Palace, Stoke City and Burnley the clubs whose realistic finishing position has the biggest spread – all three could finish as high as 11th or as low as 17th.
The difference in prize money is not to be sniffed at £11.4million. Surely that’s enough for some managers to be told by their board that anything less than full concentration, energy and effort will be frowned upon.
All three teams are quoted at odds against to win their respective last day fixtures, while in the case of Sam Allardyce’s side, who play away at Manchester United, there is the rather odd fact that the Eagles are favourites to win at Old Trafford.
This, of course, is because Jose Mourinho’s team play the Europa League final the following Wednesday and, with United’s season arguably hinging on that game against Ajax, there is no way the Portuguese will play a full-strength side against Palace.
Mourinho told the press that he hopes Allardyce will go “soft on us” and that “he leaves [Christian] Benteke at home”. Big Sam? Go soft? Never, Jose, not when there’s a potential eight figure sum involved.
Premier League price boosts
Chelsea v Sunderland
Arsenal v Everton
Watford v Manchester City
For more Premier League odds, take a look at Grosvenor Sport’s football betting.