Liverpool, Chelsea, and Leicester will compete for a place in the Premier League’s top four as the English top flight season comes to a close on Sunday.
Going into the final round of games, there is only one point separating third-placed Chelsea, fourth-placed Liverpool, and fifth-placed Leicester.
The stakes are at an all-time high, with the top four guaranteed a lucrative Champions League spot next season.
Manchester City and Manchester United are already assured of finishing in the top four, leaving two spots open.
Chelsea will leapfrog Liverpool and Leicester into third position with a victory at Aston Villa.
Liverpool’s deposed champions will salvage a difficult, injury-plagued season with a fourth-place finish against Crystal Palace.
To do so, Jurgen Klopp’s team must match Tottenham’s FA Cup victory at the King Power Stadium, which places them ahead of Leicester on goal difference.
Liverpool has a goal difference of +24, while Leicester has a goal difference of +20, so a victory over Palace should be sufficient unless Brendan Rodgers’ side goes on a scoring spree.
Liverpool are expected to complete the job after winning seven of their previous nine games, and Klopp thinks the tense finale would not pose any problems.
“I can’t remember a season when it didn’t come down to the wire because it was essentially a final or we needed to battle until the final match day to qualify for the Champions League,” Klopp said.
“This was also the case at Dortmund, and at Mainz, it was a case of surviving the league or being promoted.
“I’m used to being anxious before the last match day.”
Following a season in which almost all matches were played behind closed doors due to the coronavirus, approximately 10,000 Liverpool fans will be inside Anfield.
‘Fear and danger’
These fans have missed a roller-coaster season in which Liverpool dropped eight points behind fourth place in mid-March before rallying with a 23-point run in their final 27 games.
“How precisely did we act? We established consistency, restored or reclaimed faith, scored at the right times, and conceded less goals, all of which aided us,” Klopp explained.
Chelsea clinched a top-four finish with a 2-1 win over Leicester on Tuesday.
If Thomas Tuchel’s team beats Manchester City in the tournament’s final on May 29, they will qualify for the Champions League as well.
Tuchel, who has rejuvenated Chelsea since taking over from the sacked Frank Lampard in January, is unconcerned about the likely criticism that will follow if the Blues finish outside the top four.
“To be frank, finishing in the top four was the ultimate target this season,” Tuchel said.
“However, I am aware of what you are referring to, and I am not going to conceal it. I am aware of the consequences of a loss, but you are not required to be a genius.
“Of course, any football match can be lost, but there is a world of difference between fear and danger.”
Leicester City could miss out on the Premier League for the second year in a row after missing out last season due to Manchester United’s last-day defeat.
Though Leicester won the FA Cup for the first time in their history when they beat Chelsea in the final on May 15, their three-day defeat at Stamford Bridge could prove decisive.
Rodgers said, “We’ll discuss the different scenarios that will arise during the game,” knowing they will need to win by a wide margin against Tottenham.
“What matters most is to win the game and earn three points. There are very few games in the Premier League in which you can score five or six goals, so win the game.”
West Ham need a point against Southampton at home on Sunday in order to maintain their sixth-place status and qualify for the Europa League.
Spurs will still leapfrog them on goal difference if they beat Leicester and the Hammers lose.
Fixtures (all 1500GMT)
Arsenal v Brighton, Aston Villa v Chelsea, Fulham v Newcastle, Leeds v West Brom, Leicester v Tottenham, Liverpool v Crystal Palace, Man City v Everton, Sheffield United v Burnley, West Ham v Southampton, Wolves v Man Utd.