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The Premier League’s Key Remaining Races and Table Scenarios

Plenty in the Premier League is settled already, but there are still some season-defining games—ones that will have an impact on next season, too—in the home stretch.
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As is usually the case this time of year, the Premier League’s clubs are already casting an eye on next season. There are the announcements of preseason, summer trips abroad. There are the splash signings (hello, Erling Haaland!) and the forthcoming manager changes (welcome, Erik ten Hag). But there’s also still business to be handled that will determine just what shape—and in what competitions—teams are going to be competing come 2022–23.

With just days in the season remaining, much remains unsettled. The league title, following Liverpool’s come-from-behind victory on Tuesday, will go down to the final day of the season. The last spot in the Champions League will go down to the wire as well. And the ignominy that comes with relegation also hangs in the balance for a trio of clubs that desperately would prefer to remain in the top flight rather than take the tumble and have to spend next season clawing their way back.

So while there is a focus already on what could happen next season, the business end of the current one must still be handled with care. Here’s what remains on the line as the Premier League sprints toward the finish line (updated as of May 17).

TITLE RACE

Man City and Liverpool are going shot-for-shot yet again, and it looks like Pep Guardiola’s side is going to persevere—though the door remains open for a last-day stunner. After a 5–1 thrashing of Wolves on Wednesday, City had to claw back to a 2–2 draw vs. West Ham on Sunday. It leads Liverpool by a single point and has a +6 edge in goal differential entering the final day. City initially responded well to its Champions League semifinal debacle in Madrid, bouncing back with a pair of five-goal efforts to right the ship. Now, it can put the finishing touches on another back-to-back run in England and a fourth title in five seasons.

As long as City wins its finale at home, it will retain the title. But a draw or loss would mean that Liverpool can win the title—and keep its quadruple quest alive—by beating Wolves at Anfield.

Jürgen Klopp’s Reds have put forth a valiant effort, bouncing back from a double-digit table deficit to even provisionally leap into first, but it will need the help of a club legend. City’s final opponent is Steven Gerrard-managed Aston Villa, with the former Liverpool captain in position to do his former team a favor, if the cards all fall a certain way.

Regardless of the Premier League title outcome, Liverpool could still wind up with a cup treble, already having won the League Cup and FA Cup with the Champions League final still to come.

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TOP FOUR

Last Thursday’s Tottenham-Arsenal match made for one of the more important North London derbies in recent memory, with top-four implications at stake for both clubs. Arsenal carried a four-point lead into the match, with both clubs having two further games still to play. A Gunners road win would have finished the race on the spot: Arsenal would have ended its five-year Champions League hiatus by going up seven points with only a maximum of six up for grabs, while Tottenham would have been left settling for Thursdays in the Europa League. But Tottenham’s comprehensive 3–0 win kept the head-to-head battle going for at least another week—and Arsenal’s slip-up vs. Newcastle Monday puts Spurs in the driver’s seat entering Sunday’s season finales.

Arsenal’s 2–0 defeat at St James’ Park means it’s Tottenham that has the edge, leading Arsenal by two points with each having a game left to play. Both are facing bottom-of-the-table teams, with Arsenal hosting Everton and Tottenham playing at Norwich City. Simply put: Arsenal’s only way back to the Champions League stage is by winning and hoping Tottenham loses. Spurs’ +15 edge in goal differential won’t realistically be overcome in the event of a points tie.

Both clubs’ other London foe, Chelsea, is officially confirmed as a Champions League team after Arsenal’s loss Monday. The Blues can do no worse than finishing fourth.

RELEGATION

Watford and Norwich City have already been relegated (Fulham and Bournemouth are coming back up), with one place in the second-tier Championship still remaining to unceremoniously be claimed. It’s down to Everton, Burnley and Leeds, with the Toffees and Clarets having the luxury of owning a game in hand on Jesse Marsch’s slumping side. Three straight defeats took the bloom off the rose for the American manager, whose club needs to change its own fortunes while also hoping for good fortune elsewhere in order to stay in the top flight.

After the weekend, 16th-place Everton (lost to Brentford after conceding two goals in two minutes) is on 36 points and 17th-place Leeds (after a last-gasp draw vs. Brighton) is on 35. Burnley, in 18th and in the drop zone after defeat to Tottenham, is on 34—but it has an unassailable goal-differential edge over Leeds should it come to that.

Leeds plays Brentford—a difficult middle-table side albeit one with nothing left to play for—while Everton hosts Crystal Palace and goes to Arsenal and Burnley must go to Aston Villa before finishing at home vs. Newcastle to close the season. The permutations are aplenty, but Frank Lampard’s Everton sits in the driver’s seat—barely, and for now—in the quest to stay up. The consequences for failing to do so would be considerably dire, especially for the Merseyside club.

For all three, the goal of finishing 17th was probably not the aspiration last August, but now, it’s all that matters.

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