There have been plenty of dramatic final days in the Premier League down the years but, unfortunately, the conclusion of the 2017/18 season on Sunday is unlikely to be remembered as one of them.
Following Huddersfield’s unexpected point at Chelsea on Wednesday, it is now virtually certain that Swansea will be the third and final team to drop out of the top flight, joining Stoke City and West Bromwich Albion in the Championship next season.
What had looked like being a nervy final day for a few sides should now pass without too much incident.
The Swans’ seven-year stay in the Premier League is on the verge of coming to an end with their 1-0 loss against Southampton, coupled with the Terriers’ point at Chelsea, being the final nails in the coffin. Even the most optimistic Swans fans will not be expecting a huge swing of 10 goals in their favour on Sunday – despite the fact Saints take on champions Manchester City and Carlos Carvalhal’s men are at home to already-relegated Stoke (Swansea 10/11, Stoke 3/1, draw 11/4).
So it’s elsewhere we must look for drama. Of sorts. The only real issue to be resolved on Sunday is who claims fourth place between Liverpool and Chelsea. The Reds are huge favourites as they realistically need just a point at home to Brighton to be sure of fourth (as they are two points ahead with a goal difference of 15 better), while Chelsea must pray for a minor miracle.
Antonio Conte needs the Seagulls, who are safe in 14th place, to become the first team to beat Liverpool at Anfield in over a year (Brighton 14/1, Liverpool 4/21, draw 25/4) while the Blues must pick up all three points against Newcastle (Chelsea 5/9, Newcastle 11/2, draw 16/5).
Trying to make a case for it to happen is difficult but, here goes…
Liverpool clearly have the Champions League final on their minds and have stumbled their way to the final weekend of the season in the Premier League, drawing with West Brom and Stoke and losing to Chelsea last week.
Suddenly, the free-flowing attacking football that has defined Jurgen Klopp’s side this season has come to an end and the goals have dried up too. PFA Player of the Year Mohamed Salah has looked distinctly average in his last three games and hasn’t scored in the league since April 21. A whole three weeks.
Chelsea, in contrast, have expertly reeled the Reds’ lead in and, following wins over Burnley, Southampton and Swansea, are within striking distance of fourth, primed ready to put an ‘already on the beach’ Newcastle to the sword at St James’ Park.
See? Wasn’t too difficult was it?
In all seriousness, Chelsea’s faint hope of getting fourth seemed to die on Wednesday when they failed to beat Huddersfield and Liverpool are likely to be celebrating consecutive top-four finishes for the first time since 2009, before they can then focus on their big night in Kiev in a fortnight.
Other minor issues to be resolved on Sunday include champions Manchester City aiming to become the first side in top-flight history to end the season with 100 points – and in the process laying claim to being one of the best sides ever seen over the course of a totally dominant campaign.
They should also break the away wins record set by Chelsea in 2004/05 with victory over Southampton taking them onto an incredible 16 on the road for the season.
So Pep Guardiola’s men will be rightly lauded, Swansea will be miserable, Liverpool and Southampton relieved and Chelsea frustrated. Unless, of course, Saints are hammered 5-0 (33/1) and Carvalhal somehow masterminds a 5-0 victory of his own (63/1) against Stoke. Because then, a humdrum final day will be transformed into one that will go down in folklore.
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