Has there ever been another season like this one? I stand to be corrected, but I cannot remember another season where the Premier League headed into the final round of fixtures with the title, two Champions League spots, 2 Europa League spots and one relegation place all still being fought over.
Some of the permutations are fairly simple. Others seem to conjure up so many different possibilities that it is hard to fathom, and thinking about it makes your head hurt and ears bleed.
The following is my attempt to make sense of all the different possibilities that we still find ourselves facing with only one set of fixtures to go.
This one is simple. With both Manchester clubs level on 86 points, but with Manchester City having a goal difference eight better than United, all Manchester City need to do is match United's result in their last game. Whatever result Manchester United achieve away to Sunderland then City just need to get the same result at home to Queen's Park Rangers.
In order for Manchester United to win the title then they have to hope that City draw or lose to QPR, and that they themselves do better. If both teams win then United would need to make up nine goals on City and that is not going to happen.
Champions League Qualification
This is where the fun starts!
Manchester City and Manchester United have both already qualified for the group stages of the 2012/13 Champions league by already having a top two position in the Premier League guaranteed.
The team that finishes in third place in the Premier League will also qualify for the group stages of the Champions League. At this stage, Arsenal, Tottenham Hotspur and Newcastle United all still have a chance of finishing third.
Arsenal have the clearest route to third place. If they win away to West Bromwich Albion on Sunday then they will finish on 70 points and take third place. Winning their last game keeps finishing third entirely in Arsenal's own hands.
Should Arsenal draw against WBA then they have to hope that Spurs fail to win at home to Fulham. Although Newcastle could mathematically catch Arsenal if Arsenal drew, the far superior goal difference that Arsenal have means that a draw would see them guaranteed to finish above Newcastle.
If Arsenal were to lose away to WBA then they would need to hope that neither Tottenham or Newcastle win their final game in order to hold onto third spot. In addition, if Arsenal lost by more than one goal then they would also need Tottenham not to draw against Fulham as this would see Spurs overtake the Gunners on goal difference.
Tottenham Hotspur cannot finish third if Arsenal win against WBA. If Arsenal fail to win then a win for Spurs at home to Fulham will guarantee them third place.
If Tottenham draw at home to Fulham then they have to rely on Arsenal losing by two goals or more against WBA and Newcastle failing to win away to Everton.
Tottenham cannot finish third if they lose at home to Fulham.
Newcastle United must win away to Everton to stand any chance of finishing third. A draw or defeat would leave Newcastle able to finish no higher than fifth. Even if Newcastle win then they must rely on Arsenal losing and Tottenham failing to win.
The fourth Champions League qualifier will not be decided on the final day of the season.
If Chelsea win the Champions League final against Bayern Munich they will take the fourth Champions League spot and enter the Champions League at the group stage as title holders.
This will have no affect on the top three as they will all still enter at the group stage. However, it will mean that the fourth place team will qualify for the Europa League instead of the Champions League as no country may have more than four entrants to the competition.
However, if Chelsea lose the Champions League final then the fourth placed team in the Premier League will qualify for the play-off round of the Champions League.
Arsenal are guaranteed a top four place if they win or draw against WBA.
If Arsenal lose then they will still finish in the top four if either of the following happen:
- (1): Tottenham lose against Fulham or Tottenham draw and Arsenal only lose by one goal.
- (2): Newcastle fail to beat Everton.
Tottenham are guaranteed to finish in the top four if they win at home to Fulham.
If Tottenham draw against Fulham then they will still finish in the top four provided Newcastle fail to beat Everton.
If Tottenham lose against Fulham then they will still finish in the top four provided Newcastle fail to beat Everton.
Newcastle United must beat Everton at Goodison Park in order to finish in the top four and hope that Arsenal lose and Tottenham fail to win.
Newcastle cannot finish in the top four if they draw or lose against Everton.
Liverpool have qualified for the Europa League as League Cup winners and will enter the competition in the 3rd preliminary round.
If Chelsea do not win the Champions League then they will qualify for the Europa League as F.A. Cup winners and will enter the competition at the group stage.
The fifth placed team in the league will qualify for the Europa League and enter the competition in the play-off round.
If Chelsea win the Champions League then the fourth placed team will qualify for the Europa League and enter the competition in the group stage.
The team who finish fifth will also qualify and will enter the competition at the play-off round.
Nobody else other than Arsenal, Spurs, Newcastle, Chelsea or Liverpool have any possibilty of qualifying for the Europa League, with Liverpool being the only team sure that the Europa League is the competition they will be competing in.
Although not mathematically safe, Aston Villa's goal difference means that they will not now be relegated.
Wigan Athletic are safe following their win away at Blackburn on Monday night.
Blackburn Rovers were relegated following their defeat at home to Wigan on Monday night, joining Wolverhampton Wanderers who were already down.
Bolton Wanderers must win at Stoke City and hope that Queens Park Rangers fail to pick up any points. Technically, Bolton can still overtake QPR if QPR draw, but they would need a swing in goal difference of nine goals to achieve that.
Queen's Park Rangers will be safe if they beat Manchester City at the Etihad Stadium.
They will still be safe if they draw provided Bolton fail to make up nine goals in beating Stoke. If Bolton fail to win they will be safe no matter the outcome of their own game.
I hope that helps. I'm going for a lie down now because my head hurts!!
Updated Monday 7th May 22:00 following Blackburn Rovers 0-1 Wigan Athletic
Updated Tuesday 8th May 22:00 following Liverpool 4-1 Chelsea