The battle for the final two Champions League qualification spots goes down to the wire on Sunday with Chelsea, Liverpool and Leicester City all vying for a place in Europe’s elite competition.
Chelsea are third on 67 points and will book their place with a victory at Aston Villa on Sunday, before they take on Manchester City in the Champions League final.
Liverpool and Leicester are both a point adrift of Chelsea, with the 2019 Champions League winners having the edge.
An unbeaten run of nine games, including wins in their last four outings, has propelled Jurgen Klopp’s side above Leicester on goal difference.
The plus-four goal difference advantage means that if Liverpool win against Crystal Palace on Sunday, Leicester would need to beat Tottenham Hotspur by an unlikely margin to make it into the Champions League for only the second time in their history.
Realistically, the Foxes, who beat Chelsea in the FA Cup final last Saturday, need to win and hope one of their rivals slip up.
“All we can do is get three points and see where it takes us. The maturity in the team and how they’ve fought has allowed us to get into this position,” Leicester manager Brendan Rodgers told reporters following the win over Chelsea.
“For us, it’s about ourselves, we could never control what Liverpool or Chelsea has done. If we arrive in the top four, it will be a monumental effort.”
Rodgers, a former Liverpool manager, will be hoping another ex-Anfield boss can do him a favour.
Roy Hodgson will be in charge of Palace for the last time on Sunday after announcing his departure from the club at the age of 73.
Hodgson was in charge at Anfield during a brief and unsuccessful spell in 2010-11.
Recent form suggests his side are unlikely to be party-poopers however – Palace were beaten 7-0 at home by Liverpool in December and lost 4-0 at Anfield last season.
Chelsea manager Thomas Tuchel meanwhile wants his side to secure Champions League qualification against Aston Villa to avoid added pressure going into the European final on May 29.
If Chelsea slip up against Villa and finish fifth in the table, they will drop down to the Europa League unless they beat City in the final to qualify for Europe’s top tier competition.
“We will play 100 per cent, no matter what, to win,” Tuchel told a news conference. “The side effect could be a crucial one but we don’t want to play this final to qualify for the Champions League.
“We put in so much hard work, quality into the last months. We want to finish the game on Sunday … But I don’t think that when we arrive for the Champions League final that it would be in our heads to make it into the Champions League next season.”
“Having a busy schedule made it harder. We had so many games and a tight schedule,” Tuchel added. “It was a complicated situation to reach the FA Cup final, go back to top-four race, then a semi-final in the Champions League.”
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