With the season entering its final couple of months, which teams have the best chance of securing Champions League football in 2017-18?
If you’re already fed up of the lack of club football during the international break, worry not; April will offer a jam-packed fixture list to make up for it.
The matches will only get bigger and bigger, of course, as the Premier League enters its final straight and the races for the title, top four and to avoid relegation are decided.
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While Chelsea have emerged as heavy favourites to be crowned champions, they are one of six clubs competing for just four spots in next season’s Champions League.
To get a better idea of who might emerge from that shake-up with a place in Europe’s top competition secured, here are the schedules Arsenal, Chelsea, Liverpool, Manchester City, Manchester United and Tottenham are facing between now and the end of the campaign.
Arsenal are in a bit of a mess, and the defeat to West Brom was particularly damaging because they could quite easily lose again in their next match against Manchester City.
It’s tough to see them winning that game, anyway, and after a reasonably friendly run following their next match they end the campaign with a difficult series of fixtures against Leicester, Tottenham, Man United, Stoke and Everton. There is also a yet-to-be-rearranged date at Southampton to cram in.
Even the 20 points we’ve projected for them – which is still only enough for sixth – would require either five wins and five draws or six wins and two draws, and it is difficult to convincingly argue where that sixth win is going to come from in their current state.
If we give them victories at home to West Ham, Sunderland, Leicester and Everton that’s four, and they should also beat Middlesbrough away. But then they’re left with three top-six rivals and three less-than-straightforward away matches at Crystal Palace, Stoke and Southampton.
Current points: 50 (sixth)
Projected points: 70 (sixth)
Chelsea will win the league but whether they can break the English top flight’s points record, which they set themselves in 2004-05 under Jose Mourinho, is another matter.
We see them posting a record of seven wins, two draws and one defeat between now and the end of the campaign, leaving them three points short of Mourinho’s 95. Their total would be comfortably enough, nevertheless, to wrap up the title with a few games to spare.
There is nothing that is going to derail the Blues in their remaining fixtures but they still have to host Man City and visit Man United and Everton, and Antonio Conte’s side will need to win two of those games and be perfect in the other seven to make Premier League history. That might be asking too much even of them.
Current points: 69 (first)
Projected points: 92 (first)
Liverpool’s remaining fixtures are the most difficult to predict. On the one hand, victory over rivals Everton after the international break would seem to put the Reds in an incredibly strong position, with West Brom – currently eighth – the next best team they will have left to face.
The problem, of course, is that the Reds have been very good against the top teams in the league this season and inconsistent against those lower down the table – especially away from home.
So they could play to their full potential, win seven or eight of nine and breeze into next season’s Champions League.
We’re yet to see that kind of consistency from them, however, and so while our projection still sees them sneak into the top four it makes the race for that final spot a lot closer, with goal difference possibly coming into play.
Current points: 56 (fourth)
Projected points: 71 (fourth)
City look to be figuring things out under Pep Guardiola and though their Champions League exit to Monaco was disappointing, they are unbeaten in domestic competitions since their 4-0 humbling at Everton back in January.
Leroy Sane and Raheem Sterling are driving them up front and the back four has stabilised enough to give City a real chance of taking second off of Tottenham if they can come through their next two matches, at Arsenal and Chelsea, with two or three points.
From then on they have perhaps the friendliest run-in of all six teams, though like their rivals United they have had issues taking their chances and punishing teams on home turf.
Current points: 57 (third)
Projected points: 79 (second)
United’s biggest problem is going to be fixture congestion as they continue to balance their league campaign with the Europa League.
Their advantage, however, is that they have probably the least-idealistic manager in the top six, which is to say Jose Mourinho will have no hesitation shutting up shop away at Arsenal and Spurs and playing for a point.
If they can scrap for draws in the tougher matches, they have seven other games against mid-table opposition or lower that give them a real chance of retaking a place in the Champions League. The sheer grind of their existing backlog combined with the extra fixtures to come in Europe, however, may see them come up short.
Current points: 52 (fifth)
Projected points: 71 (fifth)
At first glance, Spurs’ fixture list doesn’t look too bad; they have Arsenal and Man United still to play but both at home, where they have been extremely strong.
It’s away, however, that they may slip up. Burnley have been excellent at home, Leicester look a different team under Craig Shakespeare and Swansea, Hull and Palace are all fighting for their lives and getting results under new managers on a semi-regular basis.
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Mauricio Pochettino’s men have enough breathing room, at least, that while they may face a battle for second with Man City, they should have few issues holding on to a top-four spot.
Current points: 59 (second)
Projected points: 77 (third)