The final day fight for fourth: Joy, heartbreak and lasagne
With the race for fourth place headlining on the final day of the 2015-16 Premier League season we thought it’d be pretty cool to look back at previous last-ditch attempts at securing that valuable Champions League place.
In terms of this season’s climax, it’s in Manchester City’s hands with rivals United needing to win and hope City lose.
Oh, and don’t forget about West Ham. All they need is both Manuel Pellegrini’s side and the Red Devils to lose and for themselves to complete the simple task of winning by at least 15 goals away at Stoke.
Don’t completely write-off that eventualty. As we’ve seen in the past the race for the top-four can be unpredictable and exhausting…
2012/13: Guess which team got the better of Spurs…
A two-horse race between Arsenal and Tottenham which went all the way. Spurs had led the way for the most part of the campaign and looked in good shape to qualify for Champions League football for the second time in three years, but back-to-back defeats against Liverpool and Fulham in March meant Arsenal could close the gap and eventually overtake their local rivals.
Both teams continued to pick up points meaning that it went down to the final day of the season. Spurs were at home to Sunderland knowing that a win wasn’t enough – they needed Arsenal to slip-up away at Newcastle.
Both teams won 1-0, a Laurent Koscielny goal securing European football once again for the Gunners.
2011-12: Toon turmoil and another north London nightmare
A Champions League spot for Newcastle could well have completely changed the fortunes of the Magpies. Instead, since this campaign the problems at St James’ Park have only snowballed.
With one week of the season left to go, the Toon sat one point behind Tottenham and two behind Arsenal. A win at Everton would mean Newcastle would have been able to capitalise on any mistake from the teams above them.
That didn’t happen, however. Everton won 3-1 while Arsenal and Spurs both picked up three points.
But what’s noteworthy about this particular season is that fourth place didn’t actually matter. Roberto Di Matteo’s Chelsea finished the campaign in sixth, five points behind the congested European spots.
However, their unforgettable Champions League win against Bayern Munich meant they automatically qualified for the next season’s tournament as holders, meaning although they finished in fourth, Spurs’ players had to watch next season’s competition from their sofas.
2005-06: Spurs left with a bad taste and no bragging rights
Ah, the infamous Lasagne-Gate. With one game to go, Tottenham sat one point above Arsenal in fourth place, and had the chance to finish above their neighbours for the first time in 11 years.
A win at Upton Park was all that stood between Spurs and some long-awaited bragging rights.
Arsenal kept the pressure on with a comfortable 4-2 victory over Wigan, but – as long as Martin Jol’s men picked up three points – that was irrelevant.
However, a crazy outbreak of food poisoning in the Spurs camp resulted in a staggering ten players being taken ill, meaning Jol had to field a much weaker team.
West Ham subsequently won 2-1 and Arsenal snatched the last European place.
2003/04: Villa’s impossible dream proves to be, err, impossible
Admittedly, this top-four bid was pretty unlikely. In short, Aston Villa needed to beat Manchester United by 12 goals and also hope Liverpool lost to achieve elite European status.
Suffice to say that didn’t happen. In fact, David O’Leary’s side lost 2-0 and were beaten to fifth spot by Newcastle,but it’s crazy to think about what could have been for a Villa side who now face the tough challenge of bouncing back from relegation.
2002/03: Chelsea give Stevie G and Liverpool the blues
The original. and arguably most exciting, final day race for the top-four.
With just one game to go, Chelsea and Liverpool were both locked on 64 points in fourth and fifth place with Chelsea boasting the greater goal difference.
The two sides met at Stamford Bridge knowing that a win for either side would guarantee Champions League football. Knowing a draw wasn’t good enough, Liverpool went out all guns blazing and took the lead through a Sami Hyypia header.
However, they couldn’t hold on and Chelsea equalised just three minutes later, going on to win the game 2-1 and secure Champions League football for only the second time with a goal from Jesper Gronkjaer just before the half hour mark.
A late red card for Steven Gerrard compounded the Reds’ misery but certainly won’t go down as the midfielder’s most ignominious career moment against the Pensioners.
All Odds and Markets are correct as of the date of publishing.