The very top of the Premier League was sorted a month ago–and, truly, long before the pandemic hit–and the very bottom decided in the last couple of weeks. Just about everything in between remains up for grabs, though, leading into one tense final day of an atypical season.
Two Champions League berths, at least one Europa League place and two relegation spots will be decided in a roughly two-hour window on Sunday, when the 10 simultaneous season finales (11 a.m. ET) take place across the league. If it's anything like the second-tier Championship's final day on Wednesday, when the fates of multiple clubs changed in realtime in a dizzying spell, then supporters and viewers are in for a nerve-wracking treat.
For one of Manchester United, Chelsea and Leicester City, there will be the ultimate disappointment of missing out on Europe's top stage. For Wolves and Tottenham, the Champions League is out of reach, but the Europa League is not. For two of Aston Villa, Watford and Bournemouth, relegation from the Premier League and missing out on its TV revenue at a time when the financial standing of most clubs is threatened beckons.
Here's how it could all play out:
THE RACE FOR THE TOP FOUR
Three teams are vying for two spots after Chelsea and Manchester United both missed opportunities to effectively zap the drama on Wednesday. Chelsea would've clinched a Champions League berth with at least a draw vs. Liverpool, but it capitulated in the first half, and not even Christian Pulisic's second-half heroics could claw the Blues all the way back.
Manchester United, meanwhile, could've pulled three points clear of Leicester with a greater goal differential if it could've just beaten West Ham. Instead, it settled for a draw, which allowed David Moyes's Hammers to secure safety and for the United-Leicester finale to feature the highest of stakes remaining.
In order for each club to finish in the top four, the following must happen:
Ole Gunnar Solskjaer's side hasn't lost in its last 13 league matches, but it has let points slip away in two of its last three, conceding a last-gasp equalizer to Southampton before wobbling to a draw vs. West Ham. Those dropped points loom large. What could have been done and dusted has been left for the last minute.
The Red Devils enter the finale in third place by virtue of a significantly better goal differential than Chelsea, and it's a point clear of Leicester. As a result, it would take either a win or draw against the Foxes or a Chelsea loss to Wolves to seal their return to the Champions League.
Like United, Chelsea has had some stumbles this month as well, losing to West Ham, and Sheffield United prior to Wednesday's failure at Anfield. The common thread has been being picked apart on the counter and on set pieces, and facing a dangerous Wolves side that has something for which to play means getting that final result won't be easy.
For Frank Lampard's charges, a win or draw vs. Wolves would get the job done. Chelsea can still lose, but it would then turn into rabid Man United fans, needing Leicester to lose as well in order to finish fourth.
Leicester has limped to the finish line, going 2-3-3 in the league since the restart and turning what looked like a sure top-four finish into a genuine struggle. The legwork Brendan Rodgers' men did in the previous 29 games means that it's still all there for the taking. A win over Man United or a draw plus a Chelsea loss to Wolves would send Leicester back to the Champions League.
ONTO THE EUROPA LEAGUE
Barring the overturn of a +15 edge in goal differential over Wolves, Leicester will at the very least be going to the Europa League knockout stage. Its realistic floor is a fifth-place finish. Wolves and Tottenham are vying for sixth and a place in the Europa qualifying rounds, while both could wind up there if Chelsea wins the FA Cup (and the Europa League qualifying round place that comes along with it). If Arsenal wins the FA Cup, then it's sixth or bust for clubs with European ambitions, even if they are reduced to second-tier ones at this juncture.
All Wolves need to do is at the very least match what Tottenham does at Crystal Palace. They sit a point clear of Spurs (though one behind on goal differential). A loss opens up the door for Jose Mourinho's side, though.
Should Tottenham better Wolves' result vs. Chelsea, it'd leap into sixth, leaving Wolves then hoping that Chelsea wins the all-London FA Cup final.
THE FIGHT AGAINST RELEGATION
Aston Villa enters the finale improbably in 17th and out of the bottom three, though that doesn't mean it's as simple as win-and-be-safe. Villa's goal differential is one greater than 18th-place Watford, with both level on points. If both win, but Watford's margin of victory is at least two goals greater (so, say, Aston Villa wins 1-0, Watford wins 3-0), then the Hornets would send Villa down.
In the simplest scenarios: Aston Villa is safe by bettering or matching Watford's result or having both clubs draw. If Villa slips or doesn't win by enough, then the door is open for Watford, whose 4-0 capitulation vs. Man City this past week gifted Villa its lifeline, to return to safety.
Bournemouth, which trails both Villa and Watford by three points, knows it needs to win just to have a shot. It would also need both of the teams it's trailing to lose, which would allow it to overcome both on goal differential and leap frog its way to an unlikely place in next season's Premier League.
Here's where it could get complicated: What if all three lose? If that's the case, then Bournemouth, obviously, is out. If Villa loses by two or more goals than Watford (so, say, Aston Villa loses 3-0, Watford loses 1-0), then Watford fails its way into success.
Leeds United, West Brom and a four-team playoff winner to be named are on the way up. Norwich City is already confirmed to be going down. Deciphering who joins the Canaries on the ill-timed drop remains one of the most intriguing elements left to be sorted in England's top flight.