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For Three Premier League Clubs, One Set of Finales Means Everything

Chelsea, Liverpool and Leicester City will vie for two places in next season's Champions League on the final day of the Premier League season.

There will be no last-day drama at the very top and bottom of the Premier League. That much has been sorted for some time, with Man City's title and the final relegation place clinched on consecutive days last week. But for three clubs in particular (with all due respect to those vying for Europa League and Europa Conference League places), everything remains on the line in Sunday's set of season finales.

Chelsea, Leicester City and Liverpool are vying for two places in the top four and entry in next season's Champions League, while one risks missing out altogether—both on the competition and the revenue stream that comes along with being a part of it. The margin for error is thin. Like, need-your-goalkeeper-to-score-in-stoppage-time thin. Like, missed-wide-open-chance-for-the-tie thin.

Chelsea, despite being ninth in the league upon the midseason firing of Frank Lampard, is the best situated of the bunch after Tuesday's 2–1 victory over Leicester in their FA Cup final rematch. Ayoze Pérez's last-gasp miss ensured Chelsea walked away with all three points and a one-point lead (67-66-66) on both Liverpool and Leicester heading into Sunday. Chelsea will play at Aston Villa knowing that a win will take care of business no matter what the other two sides do. A draw or loss, though, and Chelsea could fall into fifth. It still has the one out in the form of the Champions League final—win that, and an automatic berth in next season's competition will follow—but Thomas Tuchel & Co. surely don't want things to get to that point.

Chelsea, Liverpool and Leicester City are playing for two spots in the UEFA Champions League

Liverpool knows a thing or two about things getting to an unenviable point. After a 7–0 win over Crystal Palace on Dec. 19 that served as fool's gold, Liverpool went on to win just three of its next 14 games over roughly three months, conceding more than just its crown as reigning champion. To the credit of Jürgen Klopp's heavily injured side, Liverpool has gutted it out ever since, running off a 7-0-2 stretch to get back in the top four for the first time since February. Its 3–0 win over Burnley brought the club one goal clear of Chelsea on goal differential and three clear of Leicester, should table positioning come down to the tiebreaker. In a symbol of things coming full circle, Liverpool plays Crystal Palace again, at home, to close the season with the chance to affirm its place among the European elite. 

For a second straight year, Leicester is on the verge of a late-season collapse that threatens to remove the club from that elite group. Last season, a 2-4-3 stretch after the pandemic-induced shutdown saw the Foxes tumble out of the top four. This season, despite its first FA Cup title, a 3-4-1 slump in league play has seen the same thing happen to Brendan Rodgers's side, which faces a downtrodden Tottenham that's sweating over the potential departure of Harry Kane to close the season. Even a win might not be good enough, though, not if Chelsea and Liverpool also secure three points. There'll be some scoreboard watching, praying and a lot of second-guessing the moments that put Leicester on the wrong side of the fine margin as another season comes to a close.

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