The race for Europe: Manchester United, Arsenal, Tottenham and Chelsea among TEN Premier League clubs battling it out in the hottest ever race for European football

As the Premier League returns, BTSport.com takes an in-depth look at every team vying for European qualification.

Published: 19 June 2020 - 12.28pm

The Premier League returns with one of the tightest races for European football we’ve seen

One hundred days after the last game, the Premier League returned on Wednesday with the first of 92 matches to be played over the next six weeks – and with it one of the tightest races for European football we’ve seen.

Leaders Liverpool, who are on the brink of a first league title in 30 years, had already qualified for next season’s Champions League group stage, where they will be joined by three other Premier League sides.

As things stand, second-placed Manchester City are banned from Europe for breaching Uefa’s club licensing and financial fair play regulations, although they have lodged an appeal.

If City lose the appeal and finish in the top four, their Champions League spot goes to the fifth-placed team.

Europa League places are usually reserved for the Premier League’s fifth-placed team as well as the League Cup and FA Cup winners.

However, Manchester City’s League Cup win over Aston Villa in March means – subject to the Uefa appeal – sixth-place will qualify for the Europa League.

Leicester City and Chelsea currently occupy third and fourth placed in the Premier League, Manchester United are fifth and Wolves are sixth.

However, seven more clubs are capable of stringing a run of results together and gate-crashing the European places.

Here, BTSport.com takes an in-depth look at every team competing for European qualification and ranks their chances of finishing in the Champions League and Europa League spots.

Leicester City – 3rd

P29, W16, D5, L8, Pts 53.

Brendan Rodgers, who revealed he contracted coronavirus in March, has guided Leicester to third-place in the Premier League

Third-placed Leicester are well placed to clinch a Champions League spot for the first time since their unlikely Premier League win in 2015/16.

Brendan Rodgers’ side briefly threatened to repeat their title heroics again this season but couldn’t replicate their remarkable early season form post-Christmas.

Rodgers – who revealed he ‘had no strength’ after contracting coronavirus in March – can rely on the ageless Jamie Vardy to fire his side into Europe.

Vardy, who has 99 Premier League goals to his name, needs one more strike to become the 29th player to reach a century in the competition.

The Foxes, winless in their last four Premier League games, have played Liverpool and Manchester City twice already this season but still have to travel to Arsenal and Tottenham and host Manchester United.

Remaining Fixtures

  • Sat 20 June: Watford (A)
  • Tues 23 June: Brighton (H)
  • Wed 1 July: Everton (A)
  • Sat 4 July: Crystal Palace (H)
  • Wed 8 July: Arsenal (A)
  • Sat 11 July: Bournemouth (A)
  • Wed 15 July: Sheffield United (H)
  • Sat 18 July: Tottenham (A)
  • Sun 26 July: Manchester United (H)

Chance of top-four finish: 8/10

Chance of top-six finish: 9/10

More on Leicester City:

Chelsea – 4th

P29, W16, D9, L9, Pts 48.

Frank Lampard’s Chelsea have been active off the pitch in lockdown – signing Ajax winger Hakim Ziyech and chasing RB Leipzig’s sought-after marksman Timo Werner – but they have work to do to secure Champions League football next season.

With Manchester United only three points behind and games against Liverpool and Manchester City to play, the Blues' young squad must pick up where they left off before the break to avoid slipping out of contention.

They trounced Everton 4-0 last time out, a week after beating Liverpool 2-0 in the FA Cup.

However, their form has been inconsistent – they have not won any of their four away Premier League games in 2020 – and their crop of young stars are yet to experience a pressurised run-in.

Remaining Fixtures

  • Sun 21 June: Aston Villa (A)
  • Thu 25 June: Manchester City (H)
  • Wed 1 July: West Ham (A)
  • Sat 4 July: Watford (H)
  • Wed 8 July: Crystal Palace (A)
  • Sat 11 July: Sheffield United (A)
  • Wed 15 July: Norwich (H)
  • Sat 18 July: Liverpool (A)
  • Sun 26 July: Wolves (H)

Chance of top-four finish: 7/10

Chance of top-six finish: 8/10

More on Chelsea:

Manchester United – 5th

P29, W10, D13, L8, Pts 45.

Manchester United’s form improved significantly before lockdown after a sub-par start to the season.

The Red Devils are unbeaten in five Premier League games, winning three and drawing two and were unbeaten in 11 league and cup matches prior to the postponement. They beat bitter rivals Manchester City 2-0 last time out.

Only three points off fourth-placed Chelsea with nine games left, Ole Gunnar Solskjaer will be confident of chasing down Frank Lampard’s side given United’s relatively tame run-in.

Six of United’s remaining games are against clubs in the bottom half of the table and only three (Tottenham, Sheffield United and Leicester) are against top-half sides.

Forward Odion Ighalo’s loan extension is a timely boost for the Reds who resume their Premier League campaign against Tottenham on Friday 19 June.

Remaining Fixtures

  • Fri 19 June: Tottenham (A)
  • Wed 24 June: Sheffield United (H)
  • Tue 30 June: Brighton (A)
  • Sat 4 July: Bournemouth (H)
  • Wed 8 July: Aston Villa (A)
  • Sat 11 July: Southampton (H)
  • Wed 15 July: Crystal Palace (A)
  • Sat 18 July: West Ham (H)
  • Sun 26 July: Leicester (A)

Chance of top-four finish: 7/10

Chance of top-six finish: 8/10

More on Manchester United:

Sheffield United – 6th

P28, W11, D11, L7, Pts 44.

Sheffield United fan Chris Wilder has masterminded the Blades’ rise up the leagues

Sheffield United’s meteoric rise from League One to the Premier League’s upper echelons shows no sign on relenting and they are a realistic bet for European football next season.

The Blades, whose players joined manager Chris Wilder and chief executive Stephen Bettis in agreeing partial pay and bonus deferrals during the pandemic, have confounded all expectations. From relegation certainties to European contenders, Sheffield United have ripped up the rulebook.

With 9 matches to go, European qualification is a real possibility for the Steel City club.

Their only defeats in their last 13 matches before the lockdown came against Liverpool and Manchester City and Wilder has a fully fit squad to choose from when the season gets up and running once again.

With an FA Cup quarter-final at home against Arsenal on the horizon, Blades fans have a lot to look forward to in the coming months.

Remaining Fixtures

  • Sat 21 June: Newcastle (A)
  • Wed 24 June: Manchester United (A)
  • Thu 2 July: Tottenham (H)
  • Sat 4 July: Burnley (A)
  • Wed 8 July: Wolves (H)
  • Sat 11 July: Chelsea (H)
  • Wed 15 July: Leicester (A)
  • Sat 18 July: Everton (H)
  • Sun 26 July: Southampton (A)

Chance of top-four finish: 4/10

Chance of top-six finish: 6/10

More on Sheffield United:

Wolves – 7th

P29, W10, D13, L6, Pts 43.

Wolves’ Mexican forward Raul Jimenez has scored 13 Premier League goals this season

After playing 48 league and cup games already this season, the break may inadvertently benefit Nuno Espirito Santo’s Wolves.

Wolves, who are on course to repeat last season’s seventh-place finish, restart two points behind fifth-placed Manchester United and are still in the Europa League.

Despite starting the season way back in July with a Europa League qualifier against Crusaders, they have maintained their charge towards European football right up until the season’s postponement in March.

They are unbeaten in five Premier League games (W2 D3), keeping a clean sheet in four of those matches and take on West Ham, Bournemouth and Aston Villa in their next three games.

With the Europa League likely to resume after the Premier League’s conclusion, Wolves can fully focus on qualifying for Europe through league position.

Remaining Fixtures

  • Sat 20 June: West Ham (A)
  • Wed 24 June: Bournemouth (H)
  • Sat 27 June: Aston Villa (A)
  • Sat 4 July: Arsenal (H)
  • Wed 8 July: Sheffield United (A)
  • Sat 11 July: Everton (H)
  • Wed 15 July: Burnley (A)
  • Sat 18 July: Crystal Palace (H)
  • Sun 26 July: Chelsea (A)

Chance of top-four finish: 6/10

Chance of top-six finish: 7/10

More on Wolves:

Tottenham – 8th

P29, W11, D8, L10, Pts 41.

Jose Mourinho’s Tottenham were in turmoil before the break. The manager had major injury concerns with Harry Kane, Son Heung-min, Moussa Sissoko and Steven Bergwijn all sidelined.

They were toothless in attack and without a coherent identity – drawing one and losing two of their last three Premier League games.

However, Kane announced he was back in training during the break and although Dele Alli has been suspended by the Football Association over a social media post, Mourinho has his big hitters back fully fit.

Eighth in the table, seven points off a Champions League spot, with games against Manchester United, Sheffield United, Arsenal and Leicester City to come, Spurs have plenty to play as the season resumes.

However, the north Londoners must tighten up their porous defence. No side has kept fewer clean sheets in the Premier League this season (4) and the last time they’d kept as few clean sheets after 29 Premier League games was in 2006-07.

Remaining Fixtures

  • Fri 19 June: Manchester United (H)
  • Tues 23 June: West Ham (H)
  • Thu 2 July: Sheffield United (A)
  • Sat 4 July: Everton (H)
  • Wed 8 July: Bournemouth (A)
  • Sat 11 July: Arsenal (H)
  • Wed 15 July: Newcastle (A)
  • Sat 18 July: Leicester (H)
  • Sun 26 July: Crystal Palace (A)

Chance of top-four finish: 5/10

Chance of top-six finish: 7/10

More on Tottenham:

Arsenal – 9th

P29, W9, D13, L7, Pts 40.

With 9 games left to play, Arsenal face an uphill battle to qualify for Europe. In fact, the Gunners are as close to the relegation zone as they are to third spot.

Mikel Arteta has steadied the ship since his arrival and Arsenal’s performances have improved markedly since the Spaniard assumed the reigns in December, but he’ll have to architect an almost flawless run of form to qualify for Europe.

Fifth-place will be viewed as the bare minimum for Arsenal who will rely on Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang’s goals to fire them up the table. The Gabon striker has scored 49 goals in 75 Premier League appearances and if he gets on the scoresheet against Manchester City will be the sixth fastest player to reach 50 in the competition.

With Liverpool still to play, Arsenal must take advantage of fixtures against European rivals Wolves, Leicester and Tottenham in July.

Remaining Fixtures

  • Sat 20 June: Brighton (A)
  • Thu 25 June: Southampton (A)
  • Wed 1 July: Norwich (H)
  • Sat 4 July: Wolves (A)
  • Wed 8 July: Leicester (H)
  • Sat 11 July: Tottenham (A)
  • Wed 15 July: Liverpool (H)
  • Sat 18 July: Aston Villa (A)
  • Sun 26 July: Watford (H)

Chance of top-four finish: 6/10

Chance of top-six finish: 8/10

More on Arsenal:

Burnley – 10th

P29, W11, D6, L12, Pts 39.

The fate of Burnley’s run-in will depend on the form of Chris Wood

Burnley secured a place in the qualifying rounds of the Europa League after finishing seventh in 2017-18 and the Clarets – unbeaten in their last seven Premier League games – have an outside chance of qualifying for the Europa League.

Sean Dyche’s side still have Liverpool and Manchester City to play but otherwise face a relatively friendly run-in, with games against Norwich, Watford and Brighton.

Midfielders Ashley Westwood and Dwight McNeil have a crucial role to play and much will depend on the form of Chris Wood, who has scored 11 league goals this season.

Ashley Barnes, who had a hernia operation around Christmas, is also hoping to return to action to boost Burnley’s unlikely push for Europe.

They return with a daunting trip to the Etihad Stadium to face Manchester City before back-to-back winnable fixtures against Watford and Crystal Palace.

Remaining Fixtures

  • Mon 22 June: Manchester City (A)
  • Thu 25 June: Watford (H)
  • Mon 29 June: Crystal Palace (A)
  • Sat 4 July: Sheffield United (H)
  • Wed 8 July: West Ham (A)
  • Sat 11 July: Liverpool (A)
  • Wed 15 July: Wolves (H)
  • Sat 18 July: Norwich (A)
  • Sun 26 July: Brighton (H)

Chance of top-four finish: 2/10

Chance of top-six finish: 3/10

More on Burnley:

Crystal Palace – 11th

P29, W10, D9, L10, Pts 39.

The break came at the worst possible time for Crystal Palace who won their previous three games without conceding.

A win over relegation-threatened Bournemouth on their return to competitive action will be the first time Palace won four Premier League games in a row since August 2018.

Having looked in danger of being sucked into a relegation scrap for most of the season, The Eagles now have a small chance of challenging for European qualification.

Jordan Ayew and Wilfried Zaha will provide the spark for goal shy Palace but a late charge up the table looks unlikely given their tricky run-in.

The South Londoners play Liverpool, Leicester, Chelsea, Manchester United, Wolves and Tottenham and will be content with a top half finish given their daunting fixture list.

Remaining Fixtures

  • Sat 20 June: Bournemouth (A)
  • Wed 24 June: Liverpool (A)
  • Mon 29 June: Burnley (H)
  • Sat 4 July: Leicester (A)
  • Wed 8 July: Chelsea (H)
  • Sat 11 July: Aston Villa (A)
  • Wed 15 July: Manchester United (H)
  • Sat 18 July: Wolves (A)
  • Sun 26 July: Tottenham (H)

Chance of top-four finish: 2/10

Chance of top-six finish: 3/10

More on Crystal Palace:

Everton – 12th

P29, W10, D7, L12, Pts 37.

Carlo Ancelotti and Duncan Ferguson have drastically improved Everton’s Premier League form

Should Manchester City lose to Arsenal when the season resumes, Everton could be the unwitting hosts of Liverpool’s title party on Sunday 21 June.

However, if Everton stun their city rivals and claim the derby day spoils they have a very small chance of challenging for Europa League qualification themselves.

European hopes are highly ambitious given the sheer number of contenders vying for the sought-after league positions, though.

Carlo Ancelotti has presided over an upturn in form since he took over from caretaker boss Duncan Ferguson although the Toffees are winless in three Premier League games.

Last time out, Chelsea ruined Ancelotti’s return to Stamford Bridge when they thrashed his Everton side 4-0 in March.

European aspirations are extremely fanciful this season but Ancelotti and Everton will be looking to build some momentum ahead of a seminal 2020/21 season on Merseyside.

Remaining Fixtures

  • Sun 21 June: Liverpool (H)
  • Wed 24 June: Norwich (A)
  • Wed 1 July: Leicester (H)
  • Sat 4 July: Tottenham (A)
  • Wed 8 July: Southampton (H)
  • Sat 11 July: Wolves (A)
  • Wed 15 July: Aston Villa (H)
  • Sat 18 July: Sheffield United (A)
  • Sun 26 July: Bournemouth (H)

Chance of top-four finish: 2/10

Chance of top-six finish: 3/10