Following Manchester City’s ban from UEFA competitions next season, finishing in fifth place in the Premier League is now likely to mean Champions League qualification.
At present six points separate six teams battling for fourth and fifth places – Chelsea, Sheffield United, Spurs, Wolves, Everton and United. Chelsea are in fourth with 41 points and the Reds currently lie in 9th with 35.
But where will United finish? With thirteen games left to play, what does the Premier league run-in look like and who will come out on top in that Champions League scramble?
We have run a simulation based on matches played and teams that each side has left to play. The simulation assumes that each of the six teams will lose any game against the top three – Liverpool, Man City or Leicester, that they will draw against each other and that they will beat any team outside of the top nine (which has proven a tall order for the Red Devils this season, but we can only hope for the best). We also assume goal difference will be in favour of the same teams that it is now.
Based on that formula, this is how those six teams will rank at 5pm on May 17th:
4. Chelsea – 64 points
5. Wolves – 64 points
6. Spurs – 63 points
7. Sheffield United – 62 points
8. Man United – 60 points
9. Everton – 56 points.
Everton and Chelsea actually have the hardest run ins, with each playing seven of the top nine sides. This will see Everton finish below the Red Devils, but their current points advantage and game in hand over some would see Chelsea still topping the chasing pack.
Wolves have the easiest finish, avoiding the top three altogether and meeting four out of the five chasing pack. This sees them finishing level on points with Chelsea.
The formula leaves United four points off those elite Champions League places.
Clearly, despite that extra place coming up for grabs, the Red Devils will have to outperform three of these five opponents, each by an average of three and a half points, to return to the competition next season.
First and foremost, it must be said that it is now more than ever absolutely critical that Ole Gunnar Solskjaer and his men learn how to beat sides below them in the league. They simply cannot afford to drop any more points against lesser opposition.
Ousting Wolves from a top five slot is out of United’s hands as they are not due to play Nuno Espirito Santo’s side again. But Solskjaer’s men can narrow the gap on Chelsea considerably by taking all three points at Stamford Bridge on Monday. Where under normal circumstances a point would be seen as a good result in West London, now the Reds have to go for the win in order to start to close the gap.
There will no doubt be other opportunities to catch up the front runners in this six-way race, but nothing can be taken for granted. United’s games against the Blues and those against Spurs, Everton and Sheffield United are now all six pointers if Old Trafford is to see Champions League football again next season.
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