So… 282 days, 6768 hours, 406,080 minutes or 24,364,800 seconds since the start of this Premier League season and it all comes down to this. For, erm, some anyway. Top and bottom of the table may be done and dusted, but issues aplenty are yet to be decided for the sides in between.
Issue to be decided number one: RELEGATION - Five teams, one point between them, two relegation places to be decided. For Wigan, Blackpool, Birmingham, Wolves and Blackburn, ‘Squeaky-Bum Time’ barely does today any justice at all. Basically a loss for any of that quintet this afternoon and they’re left more nervy than a one-legged man at a backside-kicking contest. Monster. EDIT:Goodbye Blackpool, you’ll be missed. Goodbye Birmingham, enjoy your trips into Europe next season.
Issue to be decided number two: RACE FOR THIRD - Only a couple of months ago, Arsenal were challenging on four fronts and bag in the hunt for the Premier League title. Now, they need a slip up from Manchester City to even finish inside the top three. FA Cup winners City lead Arsenal by a point going into the last day, meaning Arsenal have to better the Eastlanders result at Bolton when they travel to Fulham if they are to snatch third and that all-important automatic Champions League qualifying place. Fourth spot, lest we forget, earns clubs only a place in the final qualifying. Tense. EDIT:Arsenal are going to have to face a qualifier to get into the Champions League proper.
Issue to be decided number three: RACE FOR FIFTH - Ah yes, the Europa League. Very much the ugly sister of European Cup competition. Still, though, better than a kick in the bollocks many would argue - and it has come down to Tottenham or Liverpool, the former in the prime seats having stolen a march on the Reds with victory at Anfield last week. As with Man City and Arsenal, if Tottenham match or better Liverpool’s result later, fifth and Europa League qualification is theirs. Who said ‘poisoned chalice’? EDIT:Although it’s tempting to blame Hodgson for us failing to get into Europe, the blame must go with the players who simply didn’t perform in the last two games (Spurs and Villa) once the King had got his contract.
Issue to be decided number four: THE FAIR PLAY LEAGUE - Not the most salubrious of issues, but a potentially crucial one for the likes of Fulham and Tottenham. Following the announcement from UEFA that England, Norway and Sweden have topped their Fair Play rankings, and that each country will therefore be awarded an extra Europa League spot, whoever ends today top of the rankings and has not already qualified for Europe slips in through the back door. That rules out Chelsea, currently top, but not necessarily Tottenham and Fulham, second and third. A warning though: whoever reaches Europe this way faces three two-leg qualifying rounds and a play-off even before the group stages. Ouch. EDIT:Fulham progress, good luck to them although I sadly doubt the heroics of two seasons ago will be repeated.
Issue to be decided number five: GOLDEN BOOT WINNER - Looks like a shoot-out between Dimitar Berbatov and Carlos Tévez, this one - both are currently on twenty goals, with Darren Bent (Aston Villa) and Robin van Persie (Arsenal) their nearest rivals who are both on seventeen. Hot-shots. EDIT:Good on you, Tevéz for not letting that lanky, lazy, overrated Bulgarian win it.
Good luck to all the teams today. Except Manchester United, obviously. And Tottenham (so we, LFC, can get fifth).