If you take a quick glance at the Premier League table ahead of today’s games in the Premier League you could be forgiven for being optimistic as a Chelsea fan.
We’re currently level on points with Spurs but we have a game in hand whilst we’ve played the same number of games as Arsenal we are two points clear of them. The thing is Arsenal are playing Norwich in about an hours’ time at the time of writing and whilst the Canaries have been impressive this season I would still be surprised if the Gunners failed to win. That will take them into third and above both us and Spurs. Arsenal have played the other two sides twice already so the only time one side can take points off another will be when we face off against Tottenham. Problem is we don’t know when that is going to happen.
Our match has been rearranged because of our FA Cup progress and its timing could become crucial. Hypothetically say we get through to both the FA Cup and Europa League finals. That will mean we have matches on 11th May and 15th May. The final Premier League match of the season is on 19th May whilst FA Cup progress will mean our match with Villa on the 11th will have to be rescheduled as well. As far as I am aware (I stress this is guesswork) Premier League matches cannot be played after the 19th because of TV deals and the fact that everyone must end on that Sunday at 4pm. There is a chance Tottenham may be squeezed in midweek between United on the 5th and the Villa match/FA Cup final on the 11th. By then we could have played a further four Premier League games and the match could actually be irrelevant.
If you examine the remaining fixtures of all three sides it isn’t hard to see that we have the hardest remaining set of fixtures. We have tricky trips to Fulham, Liverpool and Manchester United. We also play Aston Villa at Villa Park in what could well end up being a game that determines their survival. In contrast you would argue that aside from us Spurs’ only difficult match will be when they play City at home. They do play Stoke away but in recent months teams seem to have worked out how to play Stoke. It is worth noting that Stoke haven’t won since beating Liverpool on Boxing Day. As for Arsenal they too play United but at home and they also have a trip to Craven Cottage. Depending on results their match against QPR at Loftus Road could be hugely important but in all honesty I expect QPR to be relegated by then and it will become a far easier match for Arsenal subsequently. The team that both us and Arsenal face and who could therefore have a big say in who plays Champions League football next season is Everton. The Toffees impressed me as they took a point away with them from White Hart Lane and they do have a very good squad. They’re also notoriously tricky to defeat, they’ve only lost five matches this season only the two Manchester sides have lost more. We’ve had trickier final day matches but if we need to beat Everton to secure 3rd or 4th on the final day I’m not sure how confident I would be. We should take heart from the fact that we are the only side to defeat them at Goodison this season but nevertheless it will be a tricky match.
That potential banana skin, combined with our matches in the Europa League mean I would like to get 3rd wrapped up as soon as possible. This is where our match against Spurs comes into play. We have a game in hand over them which will be played this Wednesday against Fulham and should we win that we’ll go three points clear. If we can then beat them we will go a further six points clear which will put us in a commanding position with regards to the race for 3rd. I’d expect Arsenal to put pressure on us today but if we can take wins against Fulham, Spurs, Swansea, Villa and Everton I would say that would be enough. Liverpool’s a tricky one to call because they always seem to raise their game against us. Thankfully United will have hopefully wrapped up the title by the time they play us although I’m not certain how much of a respite they’ll give us. I’d be surprised if we didn’t qualify for the Champions League next season but it is going to be a close run thing.