A tense Champions League race is in prospect as the Premier League season enters its final stretch.
Wins for Tottenham and Chelsea on Wednesday mean just three points cover the four teams chasing the two qualifying places behind Manchester City and Liverpool.
Chelsea and Manchester United’s April 28 meeting contributes to those two teams facing the toughest run-in of the teams in contention.
They each also have one of the leading pair to face – Chelsea travel to Liverpool on April 14 while United host rivals City just four days before the Chelsea clash – though United do finish their season against relegated Huddersfield and struggling Cardiff. Their opponents have an average of 44.5 points up to now, while Chelsea’s average 50.8.
Tottenham also face City, at the Etihad Stadium, but they too have a game against Huddersfield to count on and face opponents averaging 41.7 points. Arsenal’s opponents have an average of just 40.3.
Both United and Spurs have four of their remaining six games at home, with Chelsea facing an even three-and-three split. Arsenal will spend the majority of their time on the road but also have a game in hand – Unai Emery’s side have just two home games remaining and five away.
The wild cards
Everton and West Ham may not be involved in the Champions League race but they will have a significant influence on the final standings – they each have three of the four contenders still to play.
The Toffees host Arsenal on Sunday and Manchester United on April 21, before a trip to Spurs’ spectacular new stadium on the final day of the season.
West Ham, meanwhile, are the next opponents for both Chelsea this coming Monday and United next Saturday before also travelling to Spurs on April 27.
City, Watford, Leicester, Brighton, Burnley and Huddersfield are each on the schedule for two of the four teams.
Expected goals (xG) data from StatsBomb seeks to measure a player or team’s likelihood of scoring from their chances based on an analysis of similar shots in past games – and is typically a better predictor of future performance than their current record.
Though they went into Wednesday night’s game against Brighton sixth in the table and with manager Maurizio Sarri under pressure, Chelsea’s xG numbers are significantly better than those of their immediate competitors and almost in line with their actual results.
The Blues’ underlying numbers at that stage (Wednesday’s data is not yet available from StatsBomb) had them with 48.02 xG against 30.31 conceded – they had scored 52 and conceded 34, meaning their goal difference was +18 compared to an xG projection of +17.71.
By contrast, Arsenal have outperformed their expected goal difference by 21 goals (+26 against +4.97 xG) and Tottenham by 16 prior to Wednesday’s win over Crystal Palace (+24 against +8.08 xG), leading to suspicions both clubs could fail to sustain their performances during the run-in. Manchester United are closer to expectations but still eight goals above (+18 against +10.09 xG).
The Blues’ attacking numbers are in line with Arsenal and United while their defensive xG is comfortably better than any of their rivals, raising hopes of a Champions League spot.