The end is near, and the final curtain is finally due to come down on the longest English top-flight season in history. Exactly whose way the action will go, however, is still very much in question.
While we’ve paraphrased Frank Sinatra in that introduction, the Frank under immediate pressure is the Chelsea manager Frank Lampard, whose side could have clinched Champions League qualification with a point at Anfield only to concede five against the champions as their leaky defence was plundered time and time again.
Let’s look at the two matches which will decide the two teams that make Champions League qualification and the three games which will determine the two sides who will join Norwich City in being relegated from the English Premier League.
Champions League qualification
While Chelsea should be favourites, only needing a draw at home to Wolverhampton Wanderers, the ‘Old Gold’ also need to win to make the Europa League, and up against Tottenham in that challenge, how they fare at Crystal Palace will be crucial.
Last weekend, we saw Spurs race into a 3-0 lead against Leicester in no time at all, and we think they can do the same at Selhurst Park. If they do that (and win at a generous 4/7), then Wolves must win at Chelsea. The fact that Chelsea don’t need to win could be, just as it was at Anfield where a draw would have been enough but a 5-3 defeat was what they got, poison in their veins.
Chelsea are looking inept in defence and despite exciting signings like Timo Werner and Hakim Ziyech coming to Stamford Bridge this summer, it looks like the defence it what is crying out for reinvestment. Wolves, with a much more refreshed Adama Traore, Raul Jimenez and Diogo Jota, are a steal at 7/2 to win in West London and really put the cat among the pigeons.
At the King Power Stadium, Manchester United know a draw is all they need to make the Champions League again without attempting to win the Europa League in August to achieve the same goal.
Leicester, meanwhile, need to win, but without the talents of the injured Ben Chilwell, Ricardo Pereira and James Maddison, it is hard to see them having the same threat as earlier in the season when they were devastating.
The suspended Caglar Soyuncu at the back cruelly robs the home side of another pivotal player, and while only a draw will do for United, the 13/10 they are to win has potential. Leicester have great heart, however, and a draw at 13/5 could well happen, and happen late if word gets through to the East Midlands, it could be dramatic.
We can see it happening.
The relegation battle
With Norwich City already condemned to life in The Championship next season, two of Bournemouth, Aston Villa and Watford will join them.
Bournemouth have the hardest task, needing to beat Everton at Goodison Park and hope that both their relegation opponents crumble away from home themselves. While The Cherries are 2/1 to do so, with Everton in mixed form, we would actually take the Evens on offer for a home win, with Nathan Ake’s almost certain absence catching up on Bournemouth. Sadly, for us, they’re going down.
Aston Villa leapt above Watford last weekend on goal difference, but while Watford have a tough-looking tie at Arsenal to play out on the final day, The Hornets have stung The Gunners before and Arsenal have an F.A. Cup Final to stay fit for. In that sense, Watford could have the edge, but West Ham just got their safety guaranteed with a draw at Old Trafford and Aston Villa come into their game on a run of taking seven points from three games.
While it could go either way at both grounds, taking the value of betting on Watford and Villa in-play is our recommendation. It could come down to goal difference and Villa might just sneak it. It’s going to be very, very close.
With the Champions Liverpool unlikely to add some gloss to their Champions parade at Newcastle, The Magpies could fly at 8/1. Manchester City could rack up a cricket score at home to Norwich, with the City-2 price of 4/7 good value. Burnley (11/8) will beat Brighton (11/5), so could be a saver for any other bets you have going into the end of the season.
Who’ll win next year’s Premier League? We’ll help you figure that out over the coming weeks with some exclusive looks at transfer targets, outright and future markets on offer.