We are lucky to be witnessing one of the most exciting Premier League campaigns in years. Not only do we have a genuine title race on our hands, but all of the “Big Six” sides have a great chance of qualifying for the Champions League.
Of course, the problem with having six sides who all expect to qualify for Europe’s premier competition is that two of them are going to finish the season disappointed. With eight games to go, it’s not entirely clear who’s going to miss out, but we can get a good idea of the road ahead by analyzing the run-ins.
Here’s an in-depth look at the remaining fixtures of each Big Six side ranked by difficulty, starting with the easiest. And it’s good news for Gunners fans …
Remaining fixtures: Newcastle (Home), Everton (Away), Watford (A), Crystal Palace (H), Leicester (A), Brighton (H), Burnley (A), Wolves (A, to be confirmed)
It’s been a few years since Arsenal fans last celebrated St. Totteringham’s Day — the joyous day when Tottenham can no longer mathematically finish above their club in the league — but there’s a very good chance that the festivities will return at some point in this campaign.
The Gunners currently sit in fourth, one point behind their North London neighbors, but they almost certainly have the easiest final eight games of the Big Six. They will face only three top-10 sides (Watford, Leicester and Wolves), and although those are all away trips, they are not against fellow Big Sixers. All are eminently winnable.
Unai Emery will also host Newcastle, Crystal Palace and Brighton. Given Arsenal’s tremendous home form — they’ve won nine straight at the Emirates and haven’t lost there in the league since the opening day — they should be able to build on a points tally that is already 20 percent better than last season through (60 points compared to 48).
Given that Arsenal may not have a European campaign to worry about if they are unable to turn the tide in their Europa League fixture with Rennes, the next few weeks certainly look favorable.
5. Manchester City
Remaining fixtures: Fulham (A), Cardiff (H), Crystal Palace (A), Tottenham (H), Man Utd (A), Burnley (A), Leicester (H), Brighton (A)
Manchester City have all the momentum of a runaway train right now, but with a lot more control over their destiny.
Not only did they leapfrog Liverpool back into top spot two games ago, but they have won their last six Premier League matches. They have only dropped three points in 2019, a record that can’t be touched by any other Premier League side.
And the relentlessly dominating nature of their wins should concern their title rivals: Against Bournemouth, they didn’t allow a single shot on target, and Watford could only muster six passes in the opposition third in the first half of their encounter. (And let’s not talk about the Champions League, in case there are any sensitive Schalke fans reading.)
Pep Guardiola’s run-in makes for pleasant reading, too. Six of their eight opponents are in the bottom half, with three of them in the bottom four.
However, it seems unlikely that City will achieve maximum points all the way into May, as they have two major roadblocks: a visit from Tottenham and a trip down the street to Old Trafford.
Granted, City have won the last three encounters with Spurs, scoring eight goals in the process. But the biggest potential stumbling block is the trip to United on April 24. The Red Devils will be boosted in their own battle for fourth place with the knowledge that they won this fixture 3-2 last April — a game that delayed City’s title. It’s possible the match will have similar implications this time around.
A deep run in Europe may complicate matters, but City have the squad depth and momentum to make the most of a reasonably generous run-in.
Remaining fixtures: Fulham (A), Tottenham (H), Southampton (A), Chelsea (H), Cardiff (H), Huddersfield (H), Newcastle (A), Wolves (H)
With four draws in their last seven league outings, Liverpool have eviscerated what was once a significant lead at the top of the league. They have returned to their gung-ho ways in recent weeks with big wins over Watford and Burnley, but there still remain some fears that the attacking trio are not firing as they should be.
Reigning Player of the Year Mohamed Salah has just one goal in his last eight appearances, while Sadio Mane seems to be the only striker who has maintained his fearsome form from the last campaign.
However, there are plenty of positives from their run-in. Five of the eight games are at home, where they have only dropped four points all season. And their two biggest matches, against Tottenham and Chelsea, will come with the advantage of being played in front of the partisan Anfield crowd.
Additionally, they have already beaten seven of their eight remaining opponents this season, only dropping points during their draw at Stamford Bridge.
It’s likely that the Spurs and Chelsea games will make or break the season. When the pressure is truly on, we’ve seen the Reds fail to go the distance in recent seasons (See: 2018 Champions League final; 2016 Europa League Final; 2016 League Cup Final; 2013-14 title race). In that respect, the most difficult adversary Liverpool will face between now and May is themselves.
Remaining fixtures: Everton (A), Cardiff (A), West Ham (H), Liverpool (A), Burnley (H), Man Utd (A), Watford (H), Leicester (A), Brighton (H, TBC)
It might be argued that Chelsea have the most difficult run-in because they have to play one more game than the rest of the Big Six thanks to a make-up fixture forced by their participation in the League Cup final.
Squeezing in the extra midweek game alongside the business end of a Europa League campaign will put extra strain on Maurizio Sarri’s side. And given their unpredictable form and the players’ perceived dissatisfaction with the Italian’s style of play, there has been plenty of strain on this team already.
Chelsea must play five away games, including trips to Manchester United and Liverpool. The Blues drew with both sides at Stamford Bridge earlier this season, but must also travel to a resurgent Leicester City under Brendan Rodgers and a Cardiff side who are battling for survival.
At home, Chelsea faces a West Ham side they’ve only beaten once in their last five meetings, and will receive a visit from the team with the best away form outside the Big Six: Watford.
Chelsea are currently three points off the top four, with the game in hand. But at this stage of the season, points on the board are much more valuable than games in hand, and the Blues might just have the trickiest path to making up ground.
2. Manchester United
Remaining fixtures: Watford (H), Wolves (A), West Ham (H), Everton (A), Man City (H), Chelsea (H), Huddersfield (A), Cardiff (H)
In mid-December, United were languishing under Jose Mourinho, some 11 points off the top four. If you’d have told them they would challenge for a Champions League spot — and still be alive in the Champions League itself — at this stage, they might have thought you were crazy.
Ole Gunnar Solskjaer has brought an incredible change of fortunes for the Red Devils, but the road ahead is not a smooth one.
Difficult home matches against local rivals City and top-four rivals Chelsea will be preceded by a taxing trip to Everton, the Champions League quarterfinals and potentially an FA Cup semifinal. They may even have Champions League semifinals to contend with later on.
And to top it off, on the final day of the season they will face Solskjaer’s former team Cardiff, who are likely to be highly motivated and playing for their league survival.
It won’t be easy, but this most recent United incarnation does have a habit of surprising us.
1. Tottenham Hotspur
Remaining fixtures: Liverpool (A), Brighton (H), Huddersfield (H), Man City (A), West Ham (H), Bournemouth (A), Everton (H), Crystal Palace (H, TBC)
Sorry Tottenham fans, these next few months aren’t going to be easy.
While booking their place in the final eight of the Champions League, Spurs’ league form has fallen off a cliff. Mauricio Pochettino’s side have taken just a single point from their last four outings, leaving both Burnley and Southampton empty-handed.
Unfortunately, the road ahead doesn’t get much easier. Next up is a daunting trip to Anfield, while a trip to Man City will come a few days after their Champions League quarterfinal second leg. Those are statistically the two toughest stadiums in the league to visit. And a trip to Bournemouth could be a potential stumbling block, given the Cherries’ decent home form that brought them big wins over Chelsea and West Ham in January.
It’s also likely that Spurs’ remaining four home games will be played at their brand-new stadium. While the move is welcome overall, such disruption has historically caused issues for top-flight teams across Europe — and two of those home games will be potentially tricky encounters with London rivals Crystal Palace and West Ham.
Tottenham’s lead over Arsenal is slender and they are only three points above Manchester United in fifth. When Jose Mourinho left Old Trafford, Spurs’ lead over United was 13 points.
Given their current form — and reputation for being “Spursy” when it really counts—they are in danger of seeing their grasp on the top four slip.
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