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EDITORIAL

Premier League

It’s two from three for Champions League places as the Premier League reaches its conclusion on Sunday.

Champions Manchester City has already secured a spot in the 2021-22 group stage alongside Manchester United, who can finish no lower than second.

But just one point separates third-placed Chelsea and fifth-placed Leicester, who are below Liverpool on goal difference.

So what are the permutations? Which teams can still end up in the Europa League? And who will be playing in the Europa Conference League, Uefa’s new third-ranked competition?

The top four in the Premier League qualify for the Champions League group stage and the winners of the Champions League and Europa League – should they finish outside the first four places.

A maximum of five English teams can play in the Champions League.

With Champions League finalists City and Europa League finalists United already secure, only Chelsea beating City in the Champions League final and finishing fifth would see England’s five-team quota fulfilled.

However, Chelsea will be guaranteed third place and a Champions League spot if they beat Aston Villa at Villa Park on Sunday

Liverpool and Leicester go into the final day level on 66 points and are separated by goal difference, with the Reds having the edge.

If Liverpool beat Crystal Palace 1-0 at Anfield, Leicester would have to beat Tottenham by a five-goal margin.

With 10 games remaining, Liverpool was eighth, 10 points behind Leicester.

“In the last eight or 10 games, I don’t know how many, we are back on track,” said Reds boss Jurgen Klopp after Wednesday’s 3-0 win at Burnley.

“If we win on Sunday, then we are probably qualified for the Champions League. It’s insane that we came this close, but we are not through yet.

“When you win the semi-final, you go to a final, and that’s where we are. So we will give our absolute everything.”

Who is assured?
Manchester City: Champions League group stage
Manchester United: Champions League group stage
Chelsea: Europa League group stage, but may still qualify for Champions League group stage
Leicester City; Europa League group stage, but may still qualify for Champions League group stage
Liverpool: Europa League group stage, but may still qualify for Champions League group stage

Who’s in the Europa League mix?
Only 32 teams are in the Europa League group stage from now on, down from 48 in previous years.

The fifth-placed Premier League team will qualify – as will the sixth-placed team, as FA Cup winners Leicester can finish no lower than fifth.

Going into the final day of the season, Leicester is fifth with West Ham, who are four points behind, sixth. Tottenham and Everton are also in contention.

We have equaled a club record for points in the Premier League. One more point would beat that and get us into Europe as well,” said West Ham boss David Moyes, who took charge of the Hammers for a second time in December 2019 with the club one point above the relegation zone.

Why seventh place gets into Europe
The Europa Conference League is effectively a step down from the Europa League.

The team that finishes seventh in the Premier League will qualify for the play-off round, which takes place over two legs on 19 and 26 August.

One of West Ham, Tottenham, Everton, or Arsenal, who are at home to Brighton on the final day, are in contention.

Leeds, in 10th, can still mathematically finish in a European spot, but it would require a set of highly improbable results – including a massive swing in terms of goal difference – to make it.

Kane or Salah, to win Golden Boot?

England captain Harry Kane will hope to wrap up a hat-trick of Golden Boot awards in what could be his final game for Tottenham.

Kane is level with Liverpool forward Mohamed Salah on 22 goals – four ahead of nearest rival Bruno Fernandes of Manchester United.

Kane’s previous wins came in 2015-16 and 2016-17, but Salah too has won it twice – outright in 2017-18 and shared with team-mate Sadio Mane and Arsenal’s Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang the following season.

Both Kane and Salah have scored three times in their past five appearances.

Day of farewells

On a day of farewells, Roy Hodgson will manage Crystal Palace for the final time. The 73-year-old has taken charge of more Premier League games for the Eagles than any other manager (148, including Sunday).

Sunday will be Hodgson’s 364th Premier League game as a manager, overtaking Jose Mourinho to move eighth in the all-time list.

Elsewhere, Sam Allardyce is leaving his role as West Brom’s manager following relegation, while Arsenal’s David Luiz is among many players looking for new clubs in the summer

Other things to look out for…

There will be fans at all 10 fixtures, including 10,000 at Etihad Stadium, where champions Manchester City will celebrate winning the Premier League in front of their supporters.

Guardiola, who has masterminded three title triumphs in four seasons, said it would be a special day.

“This business without the people is not the same. I cannot wait to celebrate with our fans,” he added.

Kane could finish the season with the Golden Boot and most assists.

As well as scoring 22 times, the Spurs forward has assisted 13 goals – one more than Fernandes and two more than Manchester City’s Kevin de Bruyne.

If Manchester United avoid defeat at Wolves, they will become just the fourth side to remain unbeaten away from home across an entire English top-flight campaign, after Preston (1888-89) and Arsenal (2001-02 and 2003-04).

If he scores against Fulham, Joe Willock will become the first player to find the net in seven straight Premier League appearances for Newcastle since Alan Shearer between September and November 1996.

In other major European leagues:

LALIGA

The Spanish title race appeared to take a dramatic twist on Sunday as Real Madrid leapfrogged Atletico Madrid at the summit for around 20 minutes. However, Atleti scored two late goals to beat Osasuna, meaning they are two points ahead of their city rivals heading into the final game round.

Atleti, who have led the way at the top for 29 matchdays, now need to match Madrid’s result against Villarreal when they travel to relegation-threatened Real Valladolid on the final day of the season. However, it is worth noting that Los Blancos have the superior head-to-head record, so a draw would not be enough for Atleti if Madrid wins.

Meanwhile, Barcelona is officially out of the title race, but they are assured of a top-four finish along with Sevilla. Real Sociedad and Real Betis occupy the Europa League spots, while Villarreal is in a Europa Conference League berth, though just one point separates the three teams, so that could all yet change.

Villarreal could still qualify for the Champions League by winning the Europa League final against Manchester United to complicate matters.

At the bottom end of the division, Eibar is already relegated, and they will be joined by two of Valladolid, Elche, or Huesca. Valladolid must beat Atletico in their final game to have a chance of staying up, while the onus is on Elche to better Huesca’s result as they are level on points but have an inferior head-to-head record.

LIGUE 1

The Ligue 1 title battle is also going right down to the wire in a three-way dogfight. After a thrilling race that has lasted the course of the season, underdogs Lille lead heavyweights Paris Saint-Germain by one point with one matchday left.

Monaco has won seven of their previous eight games and is three points off leaders Lille, though they require both Les Dogues and PSG to slip up on the final day, as well as to beat Lens. However, should it come down to goal difference, PSG holds a significant lead over their two title rivals.

Incredibly, PSG is still not yet technically assured of a Champions League place as Lyon in fourth are only three points worse off. However, it would take a defeat for the reigning champions and victory for Lyon, plus a goal swing of 16, for them to miss out.

Monaco’s opponent’s Lens, incidentally, also have plenty to play for at the weekend as they are sixth – enough for Europa Conference League qualification – but can still be caught by Rennes in seventh. At the same time, they could yet overtake Marseille in fifth if results go their way.

At the opposite end of the table, there may only be one spot left to be settled in the bottom three – Dijon and Nimes are both already down – but six teams are still very much in danger of the drop. Nantes occupy the relegation play-off spot, with Lorient, Brest, and Strasbourg just a point better off, and Bordeaux and Reims only two points clear.

SERIE A

With Inter being crowned Scudetto winners for the first time in 11 years at the start of the month, the biggest storyline in Serie A regards Juventus’ top-four fate. The dethroned champions, who had finished top nine years running before this season, are currently down in fifth.

Juve are one point behind Napoli and Milan in the two spots directly above them, while Atalanta is three points better off in second and has the better head-to-head record against the Bianconeri.

Therefore, Andrea Pirlo’s side requires favors on the final day in what is poised to be a nail-biting finale in terms of those Champions League places. Lazio will finish sixth, so they are assured of Europa League football next time, while Roma holds a two-point advantage over Sassuolo in the Europa Conference League position.

Parma, Crotone and Benevento have been relegated

BUNDESLIGA

RB Leipzig provided Bayern Munich with some fierce competition for a while, but the Bavarian giants’ quality eventually told, and they are Bundesliga champions for a ninth year running.

It’s not only the title race that’s done and dusted in Germany, in fact, as RB Leipzig is confident of second place, and both Borussia Dortmund and Wolfsburg will join them in the Champions League next season.

Meanwhile, Eintracht Frankfurt and Bayer Leverkusen will finish in fifth and sixth, respectively, regardless of events later this week.

However, Union Berlin has work to do if they finish seventh for a place in the Europa Conference League play-offs as Borussia Monchengladbach are a point further back, while Stuttgart and Freiburg are two behind with a game to go.

Seven-time German champions Schalke will be competing in the second tier of German football next season, but Cologne and Werder Bremen are hanging on in there, sitting two and one points behind Arminia Bielefeld in 15th place.