The race for the Premier League title may be almost over but the battle for the top four most certainly isn’t, with Arsenal and Liverpool looking the most likely takers for the final Champions League spot. Liverpool lead the charge mathematically and need just two wins from their final two games to secure the position, but Arsenal’s late surge in form has the Reds looking over their shoulder.
As things stand, the Premier League table looks incredibly intriguing heading into the final games of the season and it’s Liverpool that can decide their own fate with just two wins from two required to enter the Champions League next season, something the fans believe is key to any future success they will have. If that was to happen, Jurgen Klopp would most definitely receive more funds to sign new players and the scope of players at his disposal would increase widely, with the attraction of European football being key in today’s market.
Liverpool face tricky ties against West Ham at the Olympic Stadium and then Middlesborough at Anfield, with many seeing the West Ham game as a “must win” if they are to achieve their goal of finishing above Arsenal. Realistically speaking, West Ham aren’t an easy side to be beating – they can play some very exciting football at home and away so the Reds will have to be at their best to even consider coming away with the three points. It’s also worth noting that Liverpool are without their top scorer and ‘Player of the Season’, Sadio Mane, who’s out for the remainder of the season with a knee injury.
Regardless of whether Liverpool pick up a win against West Ham or not, they’ll have to switch their focus quickly to the final game of the season against Middlesborough, which may not be as easy as some may think… After suffering relegation at the hands of Chelsea last week, Middlesborough could go down the same path that Sunderland went down and play with little to no pressure and excel massively. Sunderland managed to beat Hull City 2-0 recently and looked nothing like the side that sit rock bottom of the Premier League table. Interestingly, Liverpool haven’t looked too sharp at home either, with no win from their last three home games. Ultimately, I expect Liverpool to beat Boro’ and pick up at least a point against the Hammers – but will Arsenal win all three of their remaining games?
With the ball very much in Liverpool’s court, Arsenal seem to be taking advantage of this, thus playing with less pressure as of late and turning in two excellent performances against both Manchester United and Southampton respectively. It’s not uncommon for an Arsene Wenger side to turn on the style towards the end of a campaign and really ramp up the pressure when it comes to securing the top four finish. The experience and know-how is certainly on their side heading into their final games of the season, but interestingly Arsenal are tasked with three games, unlike Liverpool’s two.
Firstly, they are faced with the prospect of a tricky trip to Stoke, before concluding their season with two home ties against both Sunderland and Everton. Sunderland could turn up at the Emirates and play out of their skin once again, but it could be a different story against Everton. Professionalism is key in Sports, that’s undeniable, but how will Everton, their squad and their fans, react to the fact that if they were to take points away from the Gunners, Liverpool would more than likely end the season with the promise of Champions League football?
Going back to the Stoke game however, there are most definitely parallels between Liverpool’s trip to West Ham and Arsenal’s trip to Stoke, so this Saturday could be key in determining who’s finishing in fourth spot.