When the protracted English Premier League season concludes today, one of three teams near the top of the table will be left bitterly disappointed.
In what has to be one of the most interesting chases for Champions League places in the English Premier League, two of three teams, Manchester United (63 points), Chelsea (63 points) and Leicester City (62 points) will seal their place, while the other will be left holding the bag.
Before the season was suspended due to the Covid-19 pandemic, Leicester City was seen as a shoe in for third spot in the league while Chelsea seemed set to claim fourth spot with Manchester United a distant fifth.
However, since the restart Manchester United have gone on an unbeaten run that has seen them wipe away the deficit. They moved into third place on goal difference on Wednesday, easing Chelsea down into fourth with Leicester slipping out of the top four into fifth place, for the first time since late September.
On Sunday, Manchester United will travel to Leicester knowing that a draw will be enough to secure a place in Europe’s elite club football competition.
While a draw may be enough for Leicester there are no guarantees as Chelsea, who play Europa Cup chasing Wolverhampton Warriors, can claim one of the other spots with a win.
In simple terms, a win for two of the three teams guarantee them safe passage to the Champions League and since all three can’t win, one will have to settle for the Europa Cup.
United will banking on their front three of Marcus Rashford, Anthony Martial and teenage sensation Mason Greenwood, who has been on fire since the restart, to get them over the line against a tough Leicester City team.
Bruno Fernandes has probably had the biggest impact on United since he signed for the club in January, his nine goals and seven assists earning him Player of the Month Awards for May and June. His partnership with Paul Pogba in midfield has had the pundits waxing lyrically about Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s team, although they have appeared a bit jaded in the last two or three games.
Leicester will be banking on their talisman Jamie Vardy to get them into to the Champions League for only the second time in their history. Vardy hasn’t been amongst the goals as much as they would like since the restart but his assists have gone up and just his presence has a big impact on the Foxes. He is also leading the race for the Golden Boot and that is reason enough for him to be really and truly up for the game.
The Foxes, by their own standards, have been a shadow of themselves since the restart and will need to leave it all on the field, to get by a United team that simply should not have been a part of this Champions League discussion.
Chelsea will also feel that they have let things slip as far as the Champions League is concerned and are not expected to have an easy time of it against Nuno Espirito Santo’s men.
Frank Lampard will demand a response from his men after losing 3-5 to champions Liverpool at Anfield on Wednesday. Christian Pulisic was a standout player against Liverpool and Lampard will be hoping for a repeat performance from the American in midfield.
N’Golo Kante, who has been missing through injury, could return to add some bite to the midfield for the Blues. Chelsea need only a draw from the game to guarantee at least fourth spot.
Raul Jimenez has been one of the main antagonists up front for Wolves this term and they will be looking to him to rattle the Chelsea cages as they look to secure a spot in the Europa League, a competition that they are still participating in this season.
All the fixtures will kick off at the same time on Sunday but there is no doubt that the teams will be tuned to the other games that may have an impact on their final placing, on what is guaranteed to be an explosive final day of the 2019-2020 season.