With teams having either 9, 10 or 11 games remaining in the season, SoccerSurgery picks down the chances of the “Big 6” sides to claim the coveted Champions League places.
Buried deep in the mind of these clubs must be the distinct possibility that Leicester City and Manchester United win the Champions League and Europa League respectively, as unlikely as the first leg of this scenario playing out. As you may know if this occurred only 3 places would be awarded based on current rules whereby a maximum of 5 clubs can be accepted from any one league.
So in the current order of the table:
SoccerSurgery Odds: 1/1
Fixture Run In Difficulty: Medium
Forget the Top four. Most have already started etching their name in the trophy. This looks well wrapped up given the current 10 point lead and the closest chaser table wise being potentially the weakest of its main rivals from a squad viewpoint. It would take an epic collapse of the magnitude of the most recent Superbowl to see Chelsea lose this title.
Of their 10 remaining games the only tests of note are United (A), Everton(A) and the biggest one – Man City (H) on April 5th, 2016.
SoccerSurgery Odds: 3/1
Fixture Run In Difficulty: Soft as Jam
The Kane layoff due to an ankle injury is massive. 19 goals from 22 games is the definition of production. That said Alli has carried his team in spells already this season with 14 goals which puts him 6th on the season. For his part Eriksen leads all players in chances created(80) on the season. The story here is the attack should be in good shape still.
With a game in hand and 3 points gap on 4th place Liverpool everything seems to be in their favour. Yes even the fixtures. The only remaining tests are at home – Arsenal and Manchester United. Otherwise probable fruitful trips to Hull, Crystal Palace and Swansea await.
SoccerSurgery Odds: 6/1
Fixture Run In Difficulty: Medium
Guardiola has settled on his formation and starting eleven which improves City’s prospects. Also helpful to the cause was the early exit from the Champions league. City has the most potent attack of all comers but the issue has been the defense which has leaked 30 goals compared to the 21 goals conceded by Spurs and Chelsea. We have to grade on a curve here though and acknowledge that defensive record is still better at this point than Arsenal(34) or Liverpool(36). With Gabriel Jesus already down the other key factor is the health of Aguero. Can he stay upright for 11 games? The answer to that question determines City‘s chances but we’re betting the answer is yes; especially with no midweek football to stress those hamstrings.
In terms of fixtures the real tests arrive next with away visits to Arsenal and Chelsea before the run in softens considerably. Thereafter the major test arrives with the visit of their hated Manchester rivals on April 27th. Otherwise they shall eat cake – Hull (H), Middlesbrough (A), Palace (H), Watford (A). Yummy.
SoccerSurgery Odds: 8/1
Fixture Run In Difficulty: Baby soft
We highlighted Liverpool as the rival with the worse defensive record previously. Flipping this upside down will be integral to getting home to at least 4th place but worryingly the attack has looked pedestrian recently with Coutinho clearly going through one of his doubtful spells. Can he recapture his early season form?
The fixtures could also perhaps be a cause for concern with absolutely no games remaining against the “big 6” sides the remainder of the way. Why is that a concern? It has been well documented by now Liverpool‘s struggles against the minnow teams. That aside one has to believe that Klopp would not allow his charges to miss this opportunity with no European commitments and being well rested through the season compared to their counterparts.
SoccerSurgery Odds: 9/1
Fixture Run In Difficulty: Rock Hard
The most recent complication for United has certainly been absences. Mourinho’s men have been in incredible form since October and then it all hit the fan. Carrick’s 80 year old body broke down around the turn of the year. Then Ibrahimovic was banned for 3 games for a stray elbow followed by a Mkhitaryan hamstring injury. The last blow was Phil Jones’ broken toe suffered on international duty this week.
Mourinho to his credit has not bemoaned these injury set backs perhaps because his bitching quota was reached on the fixture pile up. United still remain in 3 competitions – Premier League, FA Cup and Europa League. To be fair Mourinho has a point that his team is at a disadvantage. United have a possible additional 9 games more than their rivals until the end of the season. For perspective there are only 9 weeks left in the season. What this means is that Mourinho will have tough decisions to make on which games to rest his stars and his side will have greater exposure to injuries and fatigue.
SoccerSurgery Odds: 10/1
Fixture Run In Difficulty: Hard
The trailer in the pack currently with 2 games in hand on 4th placed Liverpool. The biggest detractor to the club’s chances is form having lost 3 of their last 4 games, though all away. Turning around the situation will be made harder by the fan protests and Wenger feeding the uncertainty for the club by dangling the decision on his future and that of his star players. That said anything is possible with Alexis Sanchez.
Of their 11 remaining games stern home tests await with Manchester City Leicester, Man United and Everton. They must win ALL of these games in order to secure top 4 in our view and especially the “6 pointer” games against the Manchester teams. If there was ever a time to shake the big game flop label the Gunners have earned over the past few seasons then now is definitely the time.
So who will be left out in the cold at the end of the season? Our smart money is that the Specialist in Failure and the Special One will be left to console each other. 🙁