Though the Premier League title has been won and celebrated by Manchester City, while niegbour, United’s second position has been confirmed, yet, there is still a lot to play for as the trio of Chelsea, Liverpool and Leicester would have to wait till the last day of the league to confirm their place in next season’s Champion League
The 2020-21 Premier League season comes to an end on Sunday, with the battle for Champions League football taking centre stage.
Chelsea and Liverpool have matters in their own hands, and victories over Aston Villa and Crystal Palace respectively should be enough for them to wrap up a top-four spot.
Leicester City are still in the running themselves, though, and a win over Tottenham Hotspur should be enough for them to capitalise on any slip-ups elsewhere.
Meanwhile, Chelsea manager, Thomas Tuchel wants his side to secure Champions League qualification in their final Premier League game against Aston Villa to avoid added pressure going into the European final on May 29.
Third-placed Chelsea are a point above Liverpool and Leicester City going into Sunday’s final games and a win at Villa Park will guarantee Chelsea a top-four finish before the Champions League final against Manchester City in Porto.
However, a fifth-placed finish will see Chelsea drop down to the Europa League unless they beat City in the final to qualify for Europe’s top tier competition.
“We will play 100 per cent, no matter what, to win,” Tuchel told a news conference yesterday. “The side effect could be a crucial one but we don’t want to play this final to qualify for the Champions League.
“We put in so much hard work, quality into the last months. We want to finish the game on Sunday … But I don’t think that when we arrive for the Champions League final that it would be in our heads to make it into the Champions League next season.”
Tuchel, who replaced Frank Lampard midway through the season, said the top four was their main target and a hectic schedule only made it harder for them to achieve that goal.
“Having a busy schedule made it harder. We had so many games and a tight schedule,” Tuchel added. “It was a complicated situation to reach the FA Cup final, go back to top-four race, then a semi-final in the Champions League.
“There are so many competitions and so many levels in these competitions. So it demanded a lot of different levels of concentration for us. It’s what we worked for and it’s still in our hands.”
Tuchel said N’Golo Kante and Kai Havertz could feature against Villa subject to a late fitness test while centre back Andreas Christensen, who missed the last three games with a hamstring injury, is back in the squad.
Indeed, Liverpool’s Manager Jurgen Klopp is trying to stay calm as his side is on the verge of pulling off a huge achievement by finishing in the top four. Heading into the final game of the season on Sunday, at home against Crystal Palace, the 2019-20 Premier League champions know if they win it is very, very likely they will be in the Champions League next season.
Finishing in the top four after all of their injuries, all of their struggles, would be one of his best achievements as Liverpool boss.
Speaking to reporters after the 3-0 win at Burnley which set up what he calls a final day ‘final’ against Palace after winning the ‘semifinal’ against Burnley, Klopp did his best to stay calm.
But when asked by ProSoccerTalk how pleased he was to be in this situation heading into the final day of the season, Klopp was clearly delighted his team have pulled things around.
“I couldn’t be more pleased. I never expected this. I don’t take things like this for granted,” Klopp smiled. “This season for us is an incredibly tough, tough season. I think really weeks ago, I don’t know exactly when but I heard Valentine’s Day, February 14, was the
last time we were in the top four. Yeah, because we didn’t win a lot of games until then. But now in the last 8-10 games, we are back on track.
“If we win on Sunday, then probably, it depends on the result of Leicester or Chelsea, then we are probably qualified for the Champions League and yeah, it is insane that we have come this close. But we are not through. So, when you win the semifinal you go to the final. That is where we are and we will give our absolute everything to win that as well.”
Liverpool have won seven of their last nine games and are unbeaten in that run, as they have surged from eighth place in the table to fourth.
If they win against Palace and Leicester don’t win against Tottenham with a swing of more than four goals in their favor, then Liverpool know they will be in the Champions League next season.
Klopp has referenced previous situations he has been in on the final day of the season, be it title pushed with Dortmund and Liverpool, top four battles or even relegation scraps with Mainz, and how he always seems to keep things interesting for the finale
A lot of those players have been in these kind of situations before, maybe not Nat Phillips and Rhys Williams, but that counts for a lot.
What has Klopp learned from those experiences that can help Liverpool handle the pressure against Palace, in front of 10,000 of their own fans at Anfield, on Sunday?
“Just keep going. Keep believing. Keep improving. Don’t put two games into one and think about this and that. Concentrate and stay focused on the next one. Don’t think about the game after that. All of these kind of things. You just have to keep going,” Klopp
said. “That is what we do. It is incredibly tough for the boys and what they have to do at the moment. And you need to be lucky in moments as well, that is clear. For tonight it was good enough and we have to make sure we are good enough as well on Sunday.”