West Ham United face a trip to Stamford Bridge on Sunday. With just five league games to go can we still qualify for Europe based on our league position?

If the Premier League was the Olympic Final of the 1500 metres we’d now be approaching the final bend on the last lap with the end in sight. Manchester City and Liverpool are now so far ahead that the gold and silver medals are theirs for the taking, but who will actually win the race? The bronze medal is still not decided although Chelsea are in pole position, but Arsenal and Tottenham are closing and may just snatch it if the West Londoners falter in the home straight. Manchester United, West Ham and Wolves are now unlikely to feature in the race for a top five finish and look as though they will fight it out for sixth, seventh and eighth. However the positions from third downwards are not yet mathematically certain and there can still be a surprise or two before the end, especially as teams still involved have fixtures against one another in the remaining games.

Now that we know that the FA Cup final will be fought out by Chelsea and Liverpool, it seems that qualification for Europe next season will now extend down to seventh, so there is still a lot to play for in the final few games of the season. Having had a taste for European football this season we would be massively disappointed not to feature in it in the 2022-23 campaign.

Of course winning the Europa League would be great and ensure a passage into the Champions League. But we mustn’t give up in our quest to qualify via our finishing league position. If we finish sixth then that would mean the Europa League, or seventh would be the Europa Conference. Either would do if we don’t win the Europa League this season. The worst ending to such a superb season would be missing out on a European trophy this time and finishing eighth in the league. That would be a massive disappointment. We currently sit in seventh place in the Premier League table.

The current league table – top 8 (games remaining in brackets):
Man City 77 (6)
Liverpool 76 (6)
Chelsea 62 (7)
Tottenham 57 (6)
Arsenal 57 (6)
Man Utd 54 (5)
West Ham 52 (5 – all to played on Sundays)
Wolves 49 (6)

The form table (last 5 games of the top 8 in the current league table – but even this can be misleading with Arsenal’s win at Chelsea this week):
Liverpool 13
Tottenham 12
Man City 11
Chelsea 9
Wolves 9
Man Utd 7
West Ham 7
Arsenal 6

The remaining fixtures give you the opportunity to work out what you think the final finishing positions will be:
Man City: H – Watford, Newcastle, Villa
Man City: A – Leeds, West Ham, Wolves
Liverpool: H –Everton, Tottenham, Wolves
Liverpool: A – Newcastle, Southampton, Villa
Chelsea: H – West Ham, Wolves, Watford, Leicester
Chelsea: A – Everton, Man Utd, Leeds
Tottenham: H – Leicester, Arsenal, Burnley
Tottenham: A – Brentford, Liverpool, Norwich
Arsenal: H – Man Utd, Leeds, Everton
Arsenal: A – West Ham, Newcastle, Tottenham
Man Utd: H – Brentford, Chelsea
Man Utd: A – Arsenal, Brighton, Palace
West Ham: H – Arsenal, Man City
West Ham: A –Chelsea, Norwich, Brighton
Wolves: H – Brighton, Norwich, Man City
Wolves: A – Burnley, Chelsea, Liverpool

In this weekend’s round of matches for the chasing teams we face a difficult trip to Stamford Bridge, and Manchester United visit the Emirates. Wolves visit Burnley and Tottenham are away at Brentford. Whilst it would be great to challenge the top five, perhaps we should be pinning our hopes on achieving sixth, and for that we would probably want Arsenal to beat Manchester United and Burnley to defeat Wolves too.

Our team selection choices diminish as the weeks go by, especially in central defence, and I wonder what the manager has in mind for the trip to West London? Does he promote from the academy? Or perhaps Johnson or Cresswell could fill a central back role? Or even both? Rice is always a possibility to play there but personally he wouldn’t be my choice for that role, he is such an important player in the midfield. It’s such a shame that as the business end of the season approaches we might fall short but it was always something that was likely to happen with a limited squad.

The European adventure (whatever happens now) has been great this season, and it would be excellent if we can qualify once again. The spirit within the squad continues to be high. Can we do it? I think we can. What are the chances?