The Premier League is at its climax. The battle for the Premier League crown is at its tipping point, with Manchester City and Liverpool trading blow for blow. The struggle for survival in the League is reaching a desperate point for teams such as Cardiff, Brighton, and Southampton. The relegation zone is eager to claim its last victim, with Huddersfield Town and Fulham already being condemned to the Championship. Between this, a more underground yet massively substantial fight is going on in the League. The 7th place spot.
The “Best of the Rest.” Assuming Watford do not win the FA Cup Final over Manchester City, the team who finishes 7th will be able to enter the second qualifying round of the Europa League. While teams who have finished 7th have not done well recently in those rounds, mainly Burnley this past summer and West Ham in 2016, it is still a coveted position and a gateway to primetime European competition. As it stands, 4 teams are neck and neck in this race, with Leicester City, Wolverhampton Wanderers, Everton, and Watford all in direct competition.
Leicester and Wolverhampton each have 47 points but Leicester have the superior goal difference of +1. Everton and Watford each have 46 points but Everton have the superior goal difference of +2. Both Wolverhampton and Watford, however, have an extra game to play, as Leicester and Everton have played 34 games as opposed to the 33 played by Wolves and Watford. As you can see, any of these teams to come out on top. Now, let us take a more in-depth look at the main competitors and their odds of finishing in 7th.
Note: This article was written on April 19th, so a few matches have occurred and the points stated may have changed.
At the moment, Leicester City are in the driver’s seat for 7th. They are, for now, in that position but they do have a fairly tough schedule in the coming weeks. They face West Ham United on April 20th, Arsenal on April 29th, title contenders Manchester City on May 4th, and Chelsea on May 12th. Two of those teams, Chelsea and Arsenal, are competing for a Champions League spot alongside Tottenham Hotspur. They will be no easy task for Leicester. If any club is fit to upset the elite, however, it is Leicester City. Back in December, they beat both Chelsea and Manchester City 1-0 and 2-1 respectively. They are also under a great run of form, winning 4 of their past 5 matches with relative ease, with their biggest victory being a 4-1 win over already relegated Huddersfield. Granted, all 4 of these wins were against opponents below 10th so these could be taken with a grain of salt. They did, however, instill confidence in their main talisman Jamie Vardy, who has scored 15 goals this season, 5 of which were scored during this winning streak. A confident Jamie Vardy has proven time and time again he can be one of the best strikers in the Premier League. He alongside other key players such as James Maddison and Youri Tielemans will need to be on top of their game to stand a chance of taking down 3 of the Premier League elites. There may be risk betting on Leicester topping these massive challenges but a savvy and slightly lucky bettor could reap massive benefits. Just ask those who bet on Leicester City to win the Premier League in the 2015-2016 season.
Note: With Leicester City’s draw versus West Ham on April 20th, they earn a point (48) but fall to 8th due to Watford’s win over Huddersfield.
Before Leicester went on their excellent run of form, it looked like Wolves had 7th all wrapped up. Recently, they have struggled after having some captivating performances in the FA Cup, having lost to Southampton and Watford after beating Manchester United twice. It could be easily said those defeats were because of fatigue from playing those extra fixtures, but their next match is a dream matchup to restore confidence. A match versus relegation threatened Brighton on April 20th. After Brighton, they face Arsenal April 24th, Watford April 27th, Fulham May 4th, and Liverpool May 12th. Although not as difficult a schedule as Leicester’s, Wolves have a couple of tricky fixtures, namely being Arsenal and title contenders Liverpool. They would need their top playmaker, João Moutinho (8 assists) and goal scorer Raúl Jiménez (12 goals) to produce in order stand a chance. A bettor would be wise to monitor how well Wolves do against the weaker foes in their schedule before betting them taking down a league title contender.
Note: With Wolves’s draw versus Brighton on April 20th, they earn a point (48) but fall to 9th due to Watford’s win over Huddersfield.
Assuming they do not win the FA Cup, they would have to take the secondary route to the Europa League. Thankfully, they have a fairly comfortable schedule ahead of them. They have already relegated Huddersfield on April 20th, relegation threatened Southampton on April 23rd, direct competitor Wolves on April 27th, Champions League hopeful Chelsea on May 4th, and mid-table West Ham on May 12th. They have shown well both in the FA Cup and in the League in recent matches, especially when they displaced Wolves 3-2 in the Cup. Troy Deeney and Gerard Deulofeu have led a very healthy attacking force. Deulofeu, the former Barcalona starlet, has been an x-factor on the wing and looks ready to continue his fine form. They look like strong favorites to make the Europa League one way or the other.
Note: With Watford’s win over Huddersfield, they gain a vital 3 points (49) and move into 7th.
When it comes to points and matches played, Everton have arguably the hardest hill to climb in order to reach 7th. Every match and every point is vital. Everton have some all but guaranteed wins versus lower mid-table opponents Crystal Palace (April 27th) and Burnley (May 3rd) but they also have 2 bouts with Premier League elites in Manchester United (April 21st) and Tottenham Hotspur (May 12th). The Toffees have shown well versus the elite, however, displacing Chelsea 2-0 and Arsenal 1-0 a few weeks prior. Richarlison and Gylfi Sigurdsson will have to up their goal tallies of 12 to offset the offensive they would face versus United and Spurs, with players like Tottenham’s Heung-Min Son showing well both in the Champions League and Premier League. At the moment, they look the least likely but if they upset Manchester United April 21st, they may stand a chance and could offer a nice reward for bettors willing to take a chance on them. They have the quality to stage some encapsulating matches.
Note: With the results on April 20th, Everton fall to 10th