The title may have been long settled before the Christmas tinsel was cleared away, but going into the final day of this most unusual Premier League season there is still much to be decided before 2019/20 can be put to bed.
Not the least of the outstanding business is the identity of the final two sides to be relegated, though there’s also the matter of the Champions League and the Europa League plus any number of individual and personal stories set to play out to their conclusion.
We’ve taken a look at what there is still is to be straightened out in the top flight on Sunday.
With Norwich City already gone, doomed by a 4-0 defeat against West Ham that only confirmed what had long looked inevitable for Daniel Farke’s team, there are two remaining gaping holes leading down towards the Championship with three clubs that could yet fill them.
The really serious business will be between Aston Villa and Watford, with those two locked together on 34 points and only Villa’s superior goal difference keeping them above the dotted line and the Hornets.
Villa go to West Ham, who have secured their own safety might just have one eye on the very short close season they’re about to embark upon, whilst Watford visits Arsenal, who will themselves likely have other business at the front of their minds with the FA Cup final against Chelsea to come in August.
Bournemouth could still have a say too, and if the two teams above them both lose and the Cherries can get a win away at Everton, it’s Eddie Howe’s team that will beat the drop.
Villa boss Dean Smith was in confident mood when he spoke to the press on Friday:
In summary, well, it’s difficult, to sum up really because of the knife-edge goal difference. Sufficient is it to say that all three teams need to win and pray for two favorable results elsewhere, though it’s not out of the question that relegation this season could be decided on goals scored.
There’s a fabulous meeting in-store at the King Power Stadium where Leicester City face Manchester United in a winner-takes-all Champions League play-off. It would have seemed incredible back in January if you had suggested this was even a possibility, but such has been the Foxes’ collapse during the second half of the season, plus United’s resurgence from mid-table to third.
Victory for either side will wrap up a top-four finish, whereas a draw will do for United but leave Leicester sweating on the outcome of Chelsea’s game at home to Wolves. The Foxes’ superior goal difference means a point will carry them above the Blues should Frank Lampard’s team lose at Stamford Bridge, dumping Chelsea into the Europa League. United will miss out if they lose to Leicester and Chelsea beat Wolves, but a draw will guarantee their place in next season’s Champions League.
Certainly United boss Ole Gunnar Solskjaer is feeling confident ahead of the game.
Wolves and Tottenham are all but guaranteed to finish in sixth and seventh, though which way around is still up for grabs. The sixth-place will bring with it a Europa League place with Carabao Cup winners Manchester City already into the Champions League, but whether seventh also means Europe depends on whether Arsenal beat Chelsea in the Cup final. A win for Chelsea means the final Europa League place will go to the team in seventh, which will be Spurs regardless of their result against Crystal Palace if Wolves beat Chelsea.
There’s still the matter of the Golden Boot to be settled, though it’s not as tight as it has been in recent seasons. Jamie Vardy leads the way with 23 whilst Danny Ings, perhaps the surprise marksman this season is two behind on 21. Southampton plays Sheffield United in something of a dead rubber so there should be a chance for Ings to stake his claim.
Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang is in third with 20 for the season, though whether Mikel Arteta will use him ahead of the cup final given that there’s little at stake for the Gunners remains to be seen.
A less-heralded gong (which is to say there is no shiny shoe trophy awarded) but probably just as important is the top assist-maker, which Kevin de Bruyne is set to scoop. He’s got 19 so far, so unless Trent Alexander-Arnold sets up (at least) six goals during Liverpool’s game against Newcastle, the Belgian will take the prize.
City boss Pep Guardiola was perhaps underplaying things just a little last week when he said of De Bruyne: