Finale Sunday is always wild. Sometimes it’s last-minute league-title drama (who can forget Sergio Aguero’s goal deep into stoppage time on 13 May 2012 that won the league for City?). Sometimes it’s the feverish melee for final-day European tournament qualification. Sometimes it’s the whacky lineups (and surprising results!) from teams with nothing left to play for. And sometimes it’s all of those things!
This season’s EPL title has already been decided, but there most definitely will be drama around European tournament qualification on Sunday. Here’s how that breaks down.
The EPL has seven basic UEFA positions:
- Top four to UCL
- 5th plus FA Cup winner to Europa league
- EFL Cup (Carabao Cup) winner to Europa Conference League.
See the linked article for all of the overlaps and exceptions.
Champions League Race
The two Mancunian clubs have now sealed first and second place, punching their tickets to next season’s Champions League tournament. Chelsea, Liverpool, and Leicester are contesting third and fourth places for the right to join Man City and Man United in the UCL (plus Chelsea can become a fifth EPL team by winning this season’s UCL from fifth in the table). Here’s how those clubs are currently positioned:
Europa League Race
FA Cup winning Leicester is already qualified but is also sure to finish in the top five, so sixth place will go to Europa League this season. Sixth will be one of West Ham, Tottenham, or Everton.
Here’s what the race for sixth looks like:
If Leicester holds onto a top-four UCL spot, then whomever lands in fifth will go also. Fifth place will be filled by whichever one of Chelsea, Liverpool, and Leicester fails to make the top four. The exception to the exception is if Chelsea finishes fifth but then wins the UCL final. In that case, Chelsea goes to UCL instead, and the EPL would send only the sixth-place team to Europa League.
Europa Conference League Race
The brand-new Europa Conference League place technically is supposed to be awarded to the Carabao Cup winner. But that was Man City, so qualification passes to the highest-ranked Premier League team not otherwise qualified for Europe. This season that falls to seventh place, bringing Arsenal and Leeds into the mix with the teams jostling for Europa League qualification.
Europa Conference League
The final push for European qualification means that the following are Sunday’s key matches. If you won’t be available to see the confirmed lineups ahead of the transfer deadline, then consider selecting reliable starters from the highlighted teams, since those clubs are likely to field full-strength (and therefore relatively predictable) S-11s.
- ARS v BHA
- AVL v CHE
- LEI v TOT
- LIV v CPL
- MCI v EVE
- WHU v SOU
In addition, Man United plays in the Europa League final on Wednesday. The Red Devils cannot usurp league-winners City, and they cannot be overtaken by anyone below them, so we can expect Ole Gunnar Solskjaer to field a weakened side on Sunday. That could present us with some cut-rate options from his side, while also potentially increasing the appeal of fantasy assets from Wolves.
Personally, I’ll be poised at my computer an hour before kick-off on Sunday, ready to plunder the confirmed lineups for sure starters. I strongly recommend you do the same. Following is a list of names you should cross-reference against those lineups. Names that appear in both places will make strong candidates for your Fantrax sides.
Martin Dubravka ($5.27, FUL v NEW): He’s inexpensive and plays Fulham. Or maybe he doesn’t; he picked up a hamstring injury against the Blades on Tuesday. But if he fails to recover that’s OK too — his deputy will be even cheaper.
Will Norris/Bailey Peacock-Farrell ($1.00, SHU v BUR): Nick Pope has missed the last two games with a shoulder injury. If he fails to feature again on Sunday, then either Norris or Bailey-Peacock facing Sheffield United will be a fabulous value for your Fantrax side. If Pope does recover in time to play, then he’s too expensive to buy for this fixture, IMO.
Kiko Casilla ($1.00, LEE v WBA): He stood in for Illan Meslier on Tuesday, keeping a clean sheet and making three saves on his way to 21.5 points. He may well start again on Sunday, and against the Baggies he’s worth a look if he does.
Dean Henderson ($5.22, WOL v MUN): Wolves don’t score a ton, so if Hendo starts (and if you trust the ten guys that OGS decides to put in front of him) he could pay dividends.
Ahmed El Mohamady ($3.38, AVL v CHE): Inexpensive and could rack up some nice points for defensive stats against a Chelsea side that will be coming at the Villans hard, but he was demoted to the bench last time out.
Mathew Lowton ($11.89, SHU v BUR): He’s averaging almost 10 ppg over his last three matches and faces the rancid Blades on Sunday.
Marcos Alonso ($4.91, AVL vs CHE): Started the FA Cup final against Leicester and then was rested for last Tuesday’s rematch in the league. If he’s reinstalled to the S11 he could really prosper in this match that’s likely to be very open.
Ben Godfrey ($12.39, MCI vs EVE): He has only fallen short of double-digits twice in his last eight matches.
Liam Cooper ($12.18, LEE v WBA): Returned to the lineup against Southampton and promptly put up 16 points. There could be more when Leeds host the Baggies on Sunday.
Timothy Castagne (($8.63, LEI v TOT): Sergio Reguilon was a mess on Wednesday, and Castagne will be looking to victimize him further this weekend. His teammate Luke Thomas ($2.98) could also be a handy enabler.
Nathaniel Phillips ($6.29, LIV v CRY): The 24 year-old registered a goal, a clean sheet, and 25.5 points in ‘Pool’s win over Burnley on Wednesday. But he’s been crushing it for a while now, having averaged almost 11 ppg in the six matches prior to that. He looks like a tremendous value for the must-win home tie with Palace.
Alex Telles ($3.07, WOL v MUN): When he starts you can usually count on Telles for returns that are double or triple his price.
Matt Ritchie ($5.20, FUL v NEW): The trip to Craven Cottage should offer Ritchie the opportunity for returns at both ends of the pitch.
Phil Jagielka ($1.00, SHU v BUR): Sunday will likely bring Jagielka’s storied career to a close, and the Blades may pay him tribute by gifting him a start. Could be a useful enabler if you need to free up cash to spend elsewhere.
Serge Aurier ($8.46, LEI v TOT): Aurier made the bench on Wednesday after a groin injury, but Ryan Mason sent in Matt Doherty when Japhet Tanganga was stretchered off. Aurier should now be 100% fit for Sunday’s critical match with Leicester. My only concern is that he could be a disciplinary risk in a match that will be as hotly-contested as this one.
Nicolas Pepe ($9.08, ARS v BHA): Pepe is Arsenal’s danger man lately, with three goals and 41.5 points in his last two starts. The Gunners will go pedal to the metal in this one, and Pepe is is likely to be a key ingredient of their attacking recipe.
Mason Mount ($16.49, AVL vs CHE): A little pricey, but this is a crucial match for Chelsea and they will want all three points. They’ll go at the Villans hard, and Mount will be integral to their attack.
Raphinha ($15.35, LEE v WBA): A home tie with the Baggies feels like a situation where a player like Raphinha could run rampant.
Phil Foden ($11.25, MCI v EVE): He’s just so damn good. This is a must-win game for Everton, which means they’ll surely leave their defense exposed. If Foden starts he’ll almost surely be in my team.
Joseph Willock ($6.63, FUL v NEW): If this guy starts he’s a must: he has scored in each of his last six starts.
Matheus Pereira ($16.73, LEE v WBA): Expensive but actually not that risky. He has outscored his current price in six of his last eight matches. Make sure to confirm that he starts though; he picked up a knock last time out.
Michail Antonio ($9.84, WHU v SOU): Three goals in his last four games, and the Hammers will be turning on the afterburners for this one.
Gareth Bale ($8.77, LEI v TOT): Got a rest last time out and will now be ready to come out with guns blazing in this critical match against the Foxes.
Chris Wood ($11.08, SHU v BUR): He has had a tremendously productive run since returning from an injury absence on March 6, notching eight goals over that span. He’ll be looking for more when the Clarets travel to Bramall Lane this weekend.
Timo Werner ($12.39, AVL v CHE): Chelsea needs three points from this game, but Dean Smith said the Villans “will go all out to win” in front of their home crowd, who will be allowed into the stadium to watch the game. The combination of those two things means his teammates may find plenty of opportunities to play Werner in behind Villa’s line.
Dominic Calvert-Lewin ($15.35, MCI v EVE): With a week to rest players between the Everton match and the UCL final, Pep may roll out a strong side to sharpen their shears against the Toffees on Sunday. But if Pep fields a back line filled with second-stringers, there may be joy in store for DCL. Everton will be pushing hard for a win, and their away form is much better than their home form.
Patrick Bamford ($16.06, LEE v WBA): Two goals in his last three games, and faces West Brom on Sunday.
Kelechi Iheanacho ($8.32, LEI v TOT): Benched on Tuesday despite his searing form, he came off the bench and scored anyway. He will certainly start on Sunday in this match that is must-win for both sides.
Ferran Torres ($6.60, MCI v EVE): His sensational hattrick performance against Newcastle was followed by a disappointing sacrificial 14th-minute substitution against Brighton after Cancelo was shown red. If he starts he’ll be in my squad on Sunday.
Roberto Firmino ($12.16, LIV v CRY), Mo Salah ($18.35, LIV v CRY): Both are in excellent form, and ‘Pool must win this game (and goal difference could decide fourth place), so both are poised for more returns against Palace on Sunday.
Danny Ings ($10.73, WHU v SOU): He has had his minutes managed the last two games, but with Che Adams a confirmed absentee for Sunday, Ingsy is likely to get a full shift. He’ll be hungry to add to his goal total against the Hammers.
So who’s on your watch-list? How radically might you change your lineup for the Finale? What transfers have you already made? Please share with us in the comments below, and then join us in the Pre-Deadline Chat for confirmed lineups in the countdown hour on Sunday!