The race for the Champions League places looks like it could go right to the wire, and while Arsenal and Manchester City look nailed on for the top two spots in the Premier League, the other two are up for grabs.
Four teams look set to compete for third and fourth, which are currently occupied by Manchester United and Tottenham Hotspur, although Newcastle United are hot on the heels of Spurs and Liverpool are looking to sneak in as well.
Only seven points separate the Reds and fourth despite their up-and-down season, and with them having two games in hand, there is an outside chance Jurgen Klopp’s men could do it.
If they win those games, only one point separates them and Tottenham – although Newcastle also have two games in hand over the north London side and are currently just two points behind them.
Big games coming up
There are also important games left to play this season, with several games between the top six left.
The Premier League returns after the international break on April 1st, and Liverpool face current champions Manchester City away from home.
The following day, Manchester United travel to Newcastle, and a victory for Eddie Howe’s team will put them level on points with the Red Devils.
Liverpool also host league leaders Arsenal, Newcastle play Spurs, and United head to White Hart Lane.
Each of these matches could have a massive say on the race and United have tough opponents outside the top six, having to also play big-spenders Chelsea and Brentford who beat them 4-0 back in August.
And with Spurs having a tumultuous season under Antonio Conte, that could allow Liverpool to slip into the top four and United could drop out.
United could qualify for the Champions League outside of the Premier League
But the latter could still qualify for the Champions League via European competitions.
While many associate Champions League qualification with where a team finishes in the league, United could qualify via an alternative method if Liverpool were to sneak in – the Europa League.
The winner of the competition automatically qualifies for the Champions League the following season and United have looked like the team to beat so far, dispatching La Liga leaders Barcelona before comfortably getting past Real Betis.
Another Spanish side awaits with Sevilla in the quarters, and the Red Devils will face the winner of Juventus and Sporting Lisbon in the semi-finals should they progress.
So, hypothetically, if Arsenal and City finish first and second, followed by one of Newcastle or Tottenham and then Liverpool, they, along with United, would they be the English teams in next year’s Champions League?
Chelsea could knock Liverpool out of next year’s Champions League
Well, possibly not – because Chelsea could also have a big say in who qualifies.
The Blues are currently tenth in the league, and only have the Champions League left to play for seeing as they are 11 points behind fourth spot.
But should Chelsea lift the Champions League for a third time, they would knock whoever finishes fourth in the league out of the qualification spots.
It all comes down to UEFA’s qualification rules, as a maximum of five sides from each nation are allowed to compete in a European competition.
The winners of the Champions League automatically qualify for next year’s competition, so if Chelsea were to win this year’s tournament and United were to win the Europa League as well, then they would qualify.
That would mean only the top three teams in the Premier League could also qualify, which would lead to whoever finishes fourth this season – one of Liverpool, Tottenham or Newcastle in this situation – being knocked out of the qualification places.
Stranger things have happened
Rival fans will be praying that does not occur, but to be honest it should be Chelsea fans who are praying for a miracle.
The Blues have hardly looked a strong outfit this season, and even if they were to beat Real Madrid in the next round, they will then face one of Manchester City or Bayern Munich.
In the unlikely event they beat one of the tournament favourites and then win the final, Manchester United would also need to finish outside the top four and win the Europa League.
United’s domestic form would then need to significantly drop off, and Liverpool would have to put a strong run together to finish in fourth – ifs, buts and maybes galore.
There are so many stipulations required for any of this come true, but Liverpool fans were down and out after the first leg against Barcelona in 2019, and Chelsea were hardly looking formidable before Thomas Tuchel’s takeover – after which they won their second Champions League trophy.
Yes, a lot needs to happen, but we could be in for the most entertaining Champions League race yet.