The Premier League enters its final round with three sides — Manchester City, Liverpool and Arsenal vying for the two Champions League spots still up for grabs. Victories for Manchester City and Arsenal on Tuesday means the rat race for a top four finish is going down the wire. But there’s a chance that for the first time in the history of Premier League, a 39th game of the season could take place to decide which team finishes fourth on the table and makes it to the Champions League, albeit into the qualifiers. All this has become possible owing to the proximity of the goals for, goals against and goal difference records of Liverpool (75-42), Manchester City (75-39) and Arsenal (74-43).
Although the three clubs are separated by as many points on the table, a certain set of results would force the unprecedented one-match play-off that will be contested a neutral venue. Just to remind the readers, the head-to-head records won’t be considered if two or more teams are equal on points, goal difference and goals scored.
So here are the 3 possibilities which could force the 39th game of the season:
FOR MANCHESTER CITY vs LIVERPOOL
This would require a high-scoring draw for City at Watford, at least a 3-3 draw while Liverpool defeats already relegated Middlesbrough by matching the number of goals City scores, netting thrice while shipping none in this case. If City draw 4-4, Liverpool win by a 4-1 scoreline and so on, that would also force a play-off. In short, Liverpool would need to win by a three-goal margin. Arsenal would be out of the equation as a result irrespective of the margin by which they defeat Everton.
FOR ARSENAL vs LIVERPOOL
For Champions League playoff between Arsenal and Liverpool:
— Dale Johnson (@DaleJohnsonESPN) May 16, 2017
If Arsenal draw 1-1 with Everton and Liverpool lose 2-0 to Middlesbrough, the two clubs would finish tied fourth in the standings. Same would be the case if Arsenal draws 2-2 with the Toffees and a typically goal-shy Boro wins 3-1 and so on. However, these results would mean delight for City even if they lose to Watford as they would finish third and directly qualify for Champions League group stages next season. This scenario seems to be the most likely to happen of all the three.
FOR MANCHESTER CITY vs ARSENAL
Should City lose 4-0 to Watford and Arsenal earn three points with a 1-0 win over Everton, that would be enough to force the 39th match. The permutations remain same if City loses 5-1 and Arsene Wenger’s side win 2-1 and so on. A four-goal defeat margin for the Etihad outfit and a win by a goal difference for the Gunners would result in a play-off.
As far as Liverpool is concerned, their destiny would lie in their own hands only. If they fail to defeat Boro, then the Guardiola vs Wenger play-off would decide the third and fourth place. But if they win, the one-off match would be a Champions League spot decider with the winner going to finish fourth and the fifth place would go to losing side along with a Europa League spot.