Play-off for third not out of the question for Arsenal and Chelsea

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With Manchester United sewing the title up a month before the end of the season and the bottom three already decided, one might have expected the final round of fixtures to be nothing more than a formality.

There is, however, one sub-plot that has yet to be concluded – who will occupy third and fourth place?

After Arsenal’s 4-1 thumping of Wigan, at 2/1 the odds are now against Tottenham to secure a place in Europe’s premier club competition next year. They will need their north London rivals to drop points away at Newcastle on the last day.

With the Gunners in such fine fettle – undefeated in their last ten and winning eight of those matches – Spurs fans could be rightly pessimistic.

Chelsea’s late winner against Aston Villa and superior goal difference means that they are already out of reach for Andre Villas Boas’ men, but dropping points against Everton on the final day would leave the door open for Arsenal to nab third.

There is also one particularly interesting scenario, that would be unprecedented in the Premier League: Arsenal and Chelsea could finish with identical records at the end of the campaign, meaning that a play-off would be required to determine their final finishing positions. This eventuality is priced at 50/1.

Should the Blues draw 0-0 with Everton – available at 12/1 – for example, and Arsene Wenger oversee a 2-1 victory over the Magpies – 14/1 – both sides will have exactly the same goal difference and activate the Premier League’s rule C14 for the first time ever.

While many will expect Chelsea to beat Everton considering the Toffees manager has never won away at one of the traditional top-four sides, David Moyes will be keen to leave on a high-note and his players should be more than motivated to give their boss a perfect send-off.

Perhaps the more poignant question is whether Newcastle will be able to put in a performance that would limit Arsenal to only a one goal victory.

Having conceded 11 in their last five and scored just three, boss Alan Pardew stated that he wouldn’t care if the Gunners were to beat his side four nil after they confirmed their place in the top-flight next season. The return fixture finished 7-3 this term and the Geordies have been unable to pick up a win in their last five attempts against Arsenal.

Still, those wanting to drain a little more excitement out of this pulsating campaign may still be tempted to punt on a piece of history.

All Odds and Markets are correct as of the date of publishing.

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