Premier League top-four race: Champions League qualification heats up as Chelsea, Manchester United win

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    The battle for fourth-place in the Premier League may just be a two-horse race between Chelsea and Manchester United. Both teams won on Saturday with the Blues holding on to fourth place with a two-point lead. Chelsea bounced back from that upset defeat to West Ham by beating Watford 3-0. Meanwhile, United exploded in attack by beating Bournemouth 5-2 with Mason Greenwood scoring twice. United is two points back of Chelsea with five games to go, though both could qualify for the Champions League in their current positions if Manchester City loses its ban appeal.

    Here’s a look at the table and what to know about the race for the top four.

    Race for Europe

    Through 31 matches. Places 1-4 qualify for UCL, while 5-6 go to the Europa League. 

    1. Liverpool, 86 points
    2. Manchester City, 66 points
    3. Leicester City, 58 points
    4. Chelsea, 57 points
    5. Manchester United, 55 points
    6. Wolverhampton, 52 points
    7. Arsenal, 49 points

    Who would be in now?

    As it stands, Liverpool, Man City, Leicester and Chelsea are on pace to finish in the top four. Wolverhampton and Manchester United currently occupy the Europa League spots and are in UCL contention, while Arsenal is probably the team still in contention with the least amount of chances to qualify for UCL. For the Gunners, it seems as if they could snag a Europa League spot at most.

    Could City really not make UCL?

    It’s possible. City is likely locked into second place, but we could see a scenario where fifth place in the Premier League qualifies for UCL instead of Pep Guardiola’s side. In February, City was banned for two seasons from the Champions League and fined €30 million for breaking Financial Fair Play rules, UEFA announced. The ban starts next season with the club having be found to have misled the European governing body over its Etihad sponsorship, opening the door for other Premier League clubs to take their spot in the competition. City is currently appealing the decision. 

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    What happens if City is banned, and when will we know?

    So, if City ends up being banned, fifth place is expected to qualify for the Champions League. Of course, teams aren’t going to want to leave it to the decision of the court. Being in the top four for clubs not named Man City will assure them a spot in the competition. If City’s appeal isn’t upheld, then a team that wasn’t expecting to qualify for UCL will get in. A decision is expected during the first half of July by the Court of Arbitration for Sport. With the league season set to end on July 26, we may have a frantic, suddenly critical race for fifth place for the last couple matchdays of the season.

    As it stands, Leicester City and Chelsea are far from guaranteed top four spots, and this is likely to go down to the last couple matchdays of the season. Buckle up.

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