Seven contenders compete for three or four prizes

This is my last ever post here on Premier League football, and to mark the final day of the 2011-12 season I’m going to back the underdog in the different categories that still remain up for grabs tomorrow afternoon.

The qualification place or places for next season’s Champions League still to be decided have three teams left in the running. If there’s no positional changes in the table after the 38th game then Arsenal would qualify in third place while Tottenham would need Bayern Munich to win the Champions League at Chelsea’s expense in one week’s time to eventually claim their place via fourth spot.  However Newcastle United can’t be ruled out of pipping either or both north London teams at the last.

The biggest focus will of course be on the title race. Manchester City in the driving seat go into their home game against QPR with an eight goal advantage over United, while their rivals must travel to Sunderland. And at the other end of the table it will be just as tense with QPR, currently a couple of points and nine goals better off than relegation rivals Bolton Wanderers who head to Stoke City needing three points and (most probably) for QPR to get nothing at the Etihad Stadium, to survive. Put more simply Bolton Wanderers and Manchester United fans will not be celebrating together tomorrow, though Bolton and City or United and QPR fans might be. The latter realise they can afford to lose over 90 minutes at what would be City’s party and still be in the mood to celebrate if Bolton should fail to win at the Britannia Stadium.

This is the point where I should apologise to any Newcastle United supporters for a claim I made on here back on March 4th. When you won the derby I said your home form would stand in the way of a top five finish, and yet with the help of Chelsea’s capitualation in the league in the final weeks of the season, top five is already secured. They’ve won 11 times at the Sports Direct Arena this season while Arsenal accumulated 12 home wins, although the Gunners have scored ten more goals and goal difference could yet prove to be the difference IF Newcastle were to win at Everton AND Arsenal could only manage a draw at West Brom, how ever unlikely both outcomes may seem. It would also present Tottenham with the opportunity of stealing third place, although that would still require Harry Redknapp’s team to take all three points at home to Fulham unless West Brom defeated Arsenal by at least a two goal margin AND Newcastle were unable to take all three points from Goodison Park - in which case a draw would still settle it in Tottenham’s favour.

It’s away from home that Newcastle and Arsenal have identical records going into their final games – having both won eight but lost seven. Alan Pardew has just been named the Premier League manager of the season. As the underdog for third place and hot on the heels of their 2-0 win at Chelsea, could they really cause an upset amongst the competition from London? Sorry, but once again I think not!

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