Premier League: Manchester City, Liverpool and Arsenal face potential playoff for Champions League

While Chelsea have wrapped up the Premier League title, three clubs occupying third to fifth place — Liverpool, Manchester City and Arsenal — are separated by three points as the battle for a top-four finish and Champions League spot remains alive.

There is a possibility that we see a 39th match in the Premier League this season. Reuters

There is a possibility that we see a 39th match in the Premier League this season. Reuters

There is a possibility that two teams end up finishing joint third or fourth with identical records, and in such a scenario there would be a playoff match to decide the table.

Following Manchester City's comfortable 3-1 win over West Brom on Wednesday, the Pep Guardiola-led side sit third with 75 points. Liverpool, too are just a win away from securing a top-four spot but with Arsenal also beating Sunderland 2-0, the race for fourth spot looks like an interesting one.

The top three teams qualify directly for the Champions League group stage, with the fourth-placed side entering at the preceding playoff round. The fifth-placed side is guaranteed a place in the Europa League.

As it stands  Goals for  Goals against  Goal difference Points Remaining fixture
Manchester City  75  39  36  75 Watford (Away)
Liverpool  75  42  33  73 Middlesbrough (Home)
Arsenal  74  43  31  72 Everton (Home)

 

Premier League rules state: "If at the end of the season either the league champions or the clubs to be relegated or the question of qualification for other competitions cannot be determined because two or more clubs are equal on points, goal difference and goals scored, the clubs concerned shall play off one or more deciding league matches on neutral grounds, the format, venue and timing of which shall be determined by the board."

There are three possibilities which could force a playoff after the final game of the 2016-17 season. Here's a look at the potential results required for a 39th match.

Manchester City vs Liverpool

Only a high-scoring draw for City and a thumping win for Liverpool can make this happen.

For instance, a 3-3 draw for City and a 3-0 win for Liverpool would produce this scenario, with both teams tied for third place that automatically allows them to enter Champions League group stage.

 Goals for  Goals against  Goal difference  Points
 Liverpool  78  42  36  76
 Manchester City  78  42  36  76

The sides would also be locked together with identical records if City drew 4-4 and Liverpool thrash Middlesborough 4-1.

However, Arsenal cannot affect this scenario. Even if they win, they could finish no higher than fifth.

Manchester City vs Arsenal

For this to happen, a heavy defeat for City will allow Arsenal to level on points with City.

If City were to lose 4-0 at the hands of Watford and Arsenal to beat Everton with a narrow 1-0 margin, the sides would finish like this:

 Goals for  Goals against  Goal difference  Points
 Arsenal  75  43  32  75
 Manchester City  75  43  32  75

One can expect these two clubs to see in a similar position if City lost 5-1 and Arsenal won 2-1.

There is a possibility that it could produce a third/fourth place playoff if Liverpool fail to beat Middlesbrough — or a fourth/fifth place playoff if the Reds win at Anfield.

Arsenal v Liverpool

The final plot would leave Liverpool and Arsenal fighting for fourth place, and is the most likely possibility of all the scenarios.

For instance, if Arsenal draw 1-1 with Everton and Liverpool lose 2-0 to Middlesbrough, the Premier League table would look like this:

 Goals for  Goals against  Goal difference  Points
 Arsenal  75  44  31  73
 Liverpool  75  44  31  73


Other combinations of results which would leave the sides level on points would be a 2-2 Arsenal draw coupled with a 3-1 Liverpool defeat, or a 3-3 Arsenal draw and a win 4-2 win for Middlesborough.

In this case, Manchester City would finish third, whatever their result at the Vicarage Road, and clinch that cherished Champions League group stage place.

The title may be all wrapped up, but as the above scenarios show, there is still a lot to watch out for in Gameweek 38 of the Premier League.


Updated Date: May 17, 2017 18:47 PM

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