Chelsea’s unlikely draw at Barcelona and their advancement to the Champions League Final means a third place finish in the English Premier League could be essential for Arsenal if they’re to make the Champions League next season. There’s now a 50 per cent chance that Chelsea will lift the trophy on May 19 in Munich’s Allianz Arena. This means English teams won’t know who’s in and who’s out of next season’s tournament until a week after the domestic season ends on May 13.
However, it’s likely that Newcastle or Arsenal are going to finish in fourth, with the other taking third spot. The fourth-place club may publicly stand behind Chelsea carrying the flag for the nation, but you can bet there’s going to be a lot of cheering going on for Bayern Munich behind closed doors once the final kicks off.
This is because just four English teams are allowed in the Champions League and, if Chelsea wins the cup, they’re automatically in it again next season, meaning the fourth placed Premier League team loses out and will end up in the Europa League.
I remember the notion of Chelsea winning the Champions League or even making it to the final being ridiculed when it was mentioned several weeks ago, but if you don’t have an open mind there’s not much point being a sports fan. I’m sure a lot of people cleaned up at the bookies yesterday betting on the Blues making it through to the final. It wasn’t really that far-fetched considering Chelsea could have easily knocked Barcelona out back in 2009.
Watching the game yesterday, I felt it was a negative display of football by Chelsea and quite an embarrassing performance. There was nothing positive at all about the game other than the two excellent goals, by Ramires and Torres. The game appeared to be a bit of a farce and patrons in the Canadian pub where we watched it couldn’t understand how one team could completely dominate the other with little or no resistance.
It was a terrible advertisement for football and the 82 to 18 per cent possession for Barcelona made Chelsea look nothing more than a joke. But having said that, we didn’t realize until a few hours after the game that John Terry had been sent off in the 37th minute. By some strange twist of fate, the satellite feed dropped out at the precise moment Terry was red-carded. With the audio in the pub being a barrage of David Bowie and Lemonheads songs we saw the whole game assuming it was 11 vs 11.
Having found out about Terry’s red card, the pattern of the game made a bit more sense and I must apologize to Chelsea somewhat for comments made during the match. Anyway, there’s only one statistic that means anything in a football game and that’s the final score. With Chelsea beating and drawing Barcelona and with luck obviously on their side, it’d be foolish to dismiss them from bringing the European Cup back to England at this point.
Arsenal and Newcastle will be fiercely battling it out now with third place suddenly being such as coveted spot. With the Gunners 65 points to Newcastle’s 62, the London club has the edge, but the Magpies have a crucial game in hand. Arsenal is away to Stoke on Sat. Apr. 28, while Newcastle visits Wigan. The edge probably goes to the Gunners here since Stoke isn’t going anywhere and seems to have packed it in for the season. Wigan of course are fighting for their EPL lives and need every point they can get to fend off relegation.
Newcastle than has to head down to London next Wed., May 2 to take on Chelsea for their game in hand, and even though Chelsea isn’t likely to move up in the table, they’re one of the hottest teams in the nation right now and are going to be tough to beat. Arsenal is at home to Norwich on May 5, another team that doesn’t really have much to play for at this stage of the campaign.
Newcastle is at home to Manchester City the next day and the title race could still be on at that point or City could be more or less out of it if they lose at home to Man United next Mon., Apr. 30. The season wraps up on Sun. May 13 with Newcastle up on Merseyside to face Everton and Arsenal away to West Brom, with both of these teams securely in place for returns to the Premier League again next season.
Spurs and Chelsea have an extreme outside shot of catching up to the Gunners for third place, but it’s still possible at this point that either of them could take Newcastle’s place in fourth. Arsenal shouldn’t do any worse than fourth when the season wraps up. But the question won’t be answered until a week later if fourth is good enough to make the Champions League or not.