x Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 22 January 2018

Chelsea, Arsenal and Tottenham Hotspur ready for final day drama

Tottenham have to win to have any chance of the top four, victory guarantees Arsenal their top four finish, and three points for Chelsea gives them third.

Arsenal's Theo Walcott duels for the ball with Tottenham Hotspur's Kyle Walker. The two teams are fighting for a Uefa Champions League spot.
Arsenal's Theo Walcott duels for the ball with Tottenham Hotspur's Kyle Walker. The two teams are fighting for a Uefa Champions League spot.

With the Premier League title race and relegation battle having already been concluded, the only source of real suspense on the final day of the season will be the tussle for Uefa Champions League qualification.

Tottenham Hotspur hope to beat Arsenal to the fourth and final qualifying place, but to do that they must win at home to Sunderland and hope their north London rivals drop points at Newcastle United.

There is also a possibility that Chelsea and Arsenal will end the season level on points, goal difference and goals scored, which would necessitate an inaugural play-off match to decide which club finishes third and qualifies automatically for the Champions League.

For that to happen, Chelsea would need to draw 0-0 at home to Everton and Arsenal would need to win 2-1 at St James' Park, but Chelsea's interim manager Rafael Benitez says he does not envisage such a scenario happening as he is confident his side will do what they need to do in his final game in charge.

"If we have to do it, the rules are the rules. I don't think it's ideal, but in trying to avoid this situation, we will score goals and we will try to win."

The third-place playoff would be played May 26 at Villa Park in Birmingham. Chelsea are scheduled to play friendlies in the United States against Manchester City in St Louis on May 23 and at Yankee Stadium in New York two days later.

"We have to approach the day thinking about winning," Benitez said.

"We have to consider all the scenarios. The first one is we want to win, so I don't expect any draw - I expect we can win. The second one is if Arsenal win."

Benitez will not instruct anyone to monitor Arsenal's match at St James' Park.

"We have to concentrate on what we can do, to try to win our game," he said.

If Chelsea finish fourth, they would have to negotiate the third qualifying round to reach the Champions League, but he would still expect them to advance to the group stages.

"It's much better to finish third, [more] simple," Benitez said.

"But a top side like Chelsea to be in the top four, it is nearly guaranteed."

Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger will also tell his team to focus on their game at St James' Park and not events elsewhere.

Arsenal are on a nine-match unbeaten league run and Wenger expects his side to hold their nerve.

"We know how to behave to win the games, so it's [about getting] that certainty from our long run and bringing that into our next game. It's as simple as that," the Arsenal manager said.

"It is a football match and recently we have shown that we can win these games. We will just continue to do what we did until now."

If their two rivals win and Tottenham triumph over Sunderland, it will mean that Andre Villas-Boas's end the season with 72 points, the club's highest ever Premier League tally.

"In the past it would have been enough to make it," said Villas-Boas.

"It would have been enough apart from the 2007/08 season when the fourth-placed team [Liverpool] finished with 76 points.

"I think what it represents, if we don't achieve it, is one more sign that you have to push up to get closer to that group. "Our step at the moment is to be into the Champions League, probably not title contenders but we hope to be competitive next season if we manage to do things properly in the summer."

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