Thursday 23 November 2017

Here's how Liverpool, Man City and Arsenal could end up in an end-of-season Champions League playoff

LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND - JANUARY 13: Jurgen Klopp, manager of Liverpool and Arsene Wenger Manager of Arsenal look on during the Barclays Premier League match between Liverpool and Arsenal at Anfield on January 13, 2016 in Liverpool, England. (Photo by Alex Livesey/Getty Images)
LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND - JANUARY 13: Jurgen Klopp, manager of Liverpool and Arsene Wenger Manager of Arsenal look on during the Barclays Premier League match between Liverpool and Arsenal at Anfield on January 13, 2016 in Liverpool, England. (Photo by Alex Livesey/Getty Images)

Mark Critchley

This year’s Premier League top-four race is set to go right down to the wire.

Arsenal’s 2-0 win against Sunderland on Tuesday night ensured of that, with three points keeping the north London club’s faint hopes of Champions League qualification alive.

Liverpool remain favourites to take the final berth, while third-placed Manchester City only need to avoid defeat to ensure a finish above fifth.

There is, however, an outside chance that two of these three teams could compete in an unprecedented end-of-season playoff.

A quick refresher: the fourth-place team wins a spot in the Champions League playoffs while the third-place team is guaranteed a spot in the group stage.

As you can see from the table above, the three clubs are currently separated by three points, a five-goal swing in goal difference and just one goal scored.

If two of them are level on all of those tiebreakers come tea-time on Sunday, Premier League history will be made.

So, what playoffs are possible and what results are needed for them to happen?

Possible playoffs

Liverpool vs Arsenal

Fourth-place playoff

Arsenal 2 Everton 2

Liverpool 1 Middlesbrough 3

An unprecedented playoff for the final Champions League qualification spot could be played between Arsenal and Liverpool.

In order for this to happen, Arsène Wenger’s side would have to draw with poor travellers Everton at the Emirates and Jürgen Klopp’s men lose by two goals to an impotent, already-relegated Middlesbrough.

In this scenario, City would finish third no matter what, even in the unlikely event that they suffer defeat on the road to Watford.

Manchester City vs Arsenal

Third/fourth-place playoff

Arsenal 2 Everton 0

Watford 4 Manchester City 1

City look all but assured of claiming a top four place after their dominant win over West Bromwich Albion on Tuesday night, but there remains a remote possibility that they could finish completely level with Arsenal.

For that to happen, they would have to lose their final game of the season away to Watford by a hefty scoreline while Arsenal would have to narrowly beat Everton. A 4-1 defeat for Guardiola’s side coupled with a 2-0 win for the Gunners would put both teams at parity and force a playoff.

The question is, what would they playoff for? That depends on Liverpool’s result. In this scenario, a Liverpool win would mean City and Arsenal playing off for fourth place. However, anything other than a victory for Klopp’s men would mean City and Arsenal contesting third.

Manchester City vs Liverpool

Third-place playoff

Liverpool 3 Middlesbrough 0

Watford 3 Manchester City 3

The most-likely of any potential playoff scenarios still requires a rather unlikely set of results,

If City were held to a high-scoring 4-4 draw at Vicarage Road and Liverpool won 4-0 over lowly Middlesbrough, then a playoff for third would be triggered.

Guardiola’s side would have to contest third place with Liverpool in a one-off game if they scored a hatful but were held at Vicarage Road while Klopp’s men won comfortably against Middlesbrough.

A 3-3 scoreline in Hertfordshire and a 3-0 home win at Anfield would do it.

(© Independent News Service)

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