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Friday, May 8, 2015

Scramble for Europe, Survival as the Premier League Approaches Climax

Chelsea already answered the big question on who will win the 2014-15 Premier League title. Jose Mourinho’s side were crowned champions for the fourth time last weekend after PFA Player of the Year Eden Hazard headed into the back of the net his saved penalty which was enough to beat Crystal Palace 1-0.

And so it came to pass that Mourinho was right when last season he said his ‘little horse’ that needed milk and had to learn how to jump will be ready to race this season. His Blue horse didn’t just race; they won the race with three jumps to make (read games to play).

However, as the Blues celebrate their triumph at the season-long Grand National, there are 19 horses behind them who still have to make jumps, the finish line blurry for some of them.

There’s the big deal of European qualification spots, the elephantine scrap against relegation and the prudent ‘we’ll finish as high as we can’ approach.

Champions League Brawl

Is there a better competition that any club worth its name in Europe wants to qualify for other the UEFA Champions League?

No. Not in England, Spain, Germany, Russia or Ukraine.

Champions Chelsea have qualified and so have Manchester City and Arsenal who are tied on 70 points, the Citizens having played a game more.

That leaves one spot to fight for. A few weeks ago, Manchester United looked like they could even challenge for the title. However three straight losses in their last three matches have left them clutching at a straw. Louis Van Gaal’s men lost at Chelsea, Everton and last weekend against visiting West Brom which has allowed rivals Liverpool to tiptoe back into contention.

The Red Devils travel to Selhurst Park on Saturday to play Crystal Palace who can be a match for anyone when on form while Liverpool even have a trickier tie away at champions Chelsea on Sunday. Should United win and the Reds lose, Champions League football will be returning to Old Trafford and departing Anfield for at least one more season.

Europa League

It may be one of the least preferred competitions but for clubs like Swansea, Tottenham, Southampton, Everton and West Ham, the Europa League offers their players a chance to rub shoulders with their peers from rival European leagues. Liverpool and Tottenham currently occupy the 5th and 6th place spots that guarantee entry into the Champions League’s littler brother competition. Southampton are a point behind Spurs while West Ham and Everton are also in the running albeit through the fair play table after England were awarded one more Europa League spot for finishing second in Uefa’s rankings. It promises to be yet another battle to keep an eye on.

Relegation Dogfight

Besides the race for the title and Champions League football, the fight against relegation is always one to look out for, especially towards the tail end of the season. With just three matches remaining, seven clubs could still be relegated from the topflight if results don’t go their way.

Bottom club Burnley look like a foregone conclusion as far as their Premier League life is concerned while Queens Park Rangers, just a point above them, look certain to join them. One of them will drop down to the Championship this weekend if they lose. That will leave one last team to go down.

Sunderland, Hull City and Leicester are dangling dangerously and so are Newcastle whose eight-straight losses have gotten them right back in the mix. Aston Villa, in 14th, haven’t gotten the chequered flag just yet and are in danger though a point West Ham on Saturday will secure them another season in the flight.

It promises to be some nerve-racking last few games in arguably the world’s best league.

And That's thesteifmastertake!!