It’s May dammit! How wonderful. Look at those flowers and clear skies…
[flicks 🚬 at bird]
It’s still a long way for the damn NFL season, but at least there’s high drama in fútbol.
The EPL and La Liga are wrapping up. Each has its champion: Barcelona remains unbeaten in league play and Man City smoked everyone in the 2017 half of the season. However, the World Cup is less than six weeks away
with Barça and City having around 20 international starters for their respective countries. (Total guesstimate.) The only drama there is injury right before the tournament. I’ll say this: if Luis Suárez gets nicked, something’s getting arsoned.
Still up for grabs in each league are entrants to next season’s European tournaments. That ain’t a trophy, but it’s meaty stuff. On the one hand, there’s the chance at continental glory; on the other hand, cash money.
The EPL and La Liga each get seven teams into European tournaments. (Maybe more.) According to the rules, the top four of the EPL and La Liga go to next year’s Champions League, considered the Majors of club fútbol, due to prestige and dough. Next season, the prize money for only making the tournament is $18 million per team. A win in the group stage (six games total) will get a team an additional $3.2 million; get a draw, collect $1.1 million. Teams reaching the knockout stage get an additional $11.4 million, and the prize money for advancing to each round increases until the Final: $18 million for reaching it, $22.8 for winning it.
Places 5-7 in the EPL and La Liga go next season to Triple A: the Europa League. For this year, participant teams received $12.7 million just for reaching the group stage. Plus, the Europa winner earns an automatic berth to the Champions League for the next season and $68.5 million in accumulated winnings. Those sums will increase for next season, so the Europa is hardly the Chopped Liver Cup.
And while those teams finish the season playing for future riches and dreams of glory, the bottom teams scrap to survive. A relegated club faces a sudden drain of money, talent, and reputation. Plus, I suppose, a lot of “You think you’re better than me?” taunts by the new B-league opponents. By contrast, next season the Browns can go 0-16 again and would still be on the AFC North, get the first pick in the draft, receive 1/32 of the billions in league revenue for teams, and cement their reputation.
So let’s have a look at the EPL and La Liga tables, and gauge the prospects of the top and bottom.
(All times Central)
Girona vs. Eibar – 6 AM
Eibar, thank you for participating. Girona has an outside chance at the Europa place for 7th place. Pretty amazing, given that this is the club’s first year in the top flight. Forward Cristhian Stuani is Girona’s star, he’s the fifth top scorer in La Liga with 19 goals, and is having the best season in his career at 31 years old. He’s also an Uruguay international, so I’d politely suggest some light calisthenics before the game and a massage during it.
Athletic Bilbao vs. Real Betis – 9:15 AM
Athletic Bilbao plays out the string without shame or glory, Real Betis has clinched an Europa entry and can’t improve.*
* Unless Valencia fails to get a point** in three games.
** Fat chance.
Celta Vigo vs. Deportivo La Coruña – 11:30 AM
The relegation picture in La Liga is set. R.I.P. El Depor. You were the best of the worst, and will never be forg—is that a penny? Oh, it’s some lint. Celta Vigo, arithmetic says you got a chance to finish 7th. Let’s have a look at your record:
Villarreal vs. Valencia – 1:45 PM
Valencia had a torrid start until it lost its first game in December, the start of a 3 wins and 6 losses stretch up to February. Otherwise, they’ve been pretty good, with expected results against the top three: a draw and a loss each against Barcelona and Atlético, with a loss against Real Madrid–whom it defeated in January, when it was the hipster thing to do. But it also has a game in hand, which is enough to clinch Europa but still fall short of the Champions.
ENGLISH PREMIER LEAGUE
Man City already qualified for the Champions. So did ManUre; with 77 points to go with three games left, the worst it can finish is 4th—thus already securing a berth to be knocked out by a lesser team in next season’s Champions. So two of the four Champions seeds assigned to the English are taken.
And now, the bottom of the EPL table:
Woof. It looks like any team south of Lester can, in theory, get banged down to the Championship. Still, 40 points seems like a good rule of thumb to forecast survival.
Stoke City vs. Crystal Palace – 6:30 AM
Stoke’s mostly ded. Still, what I would give for Stoke to blast Palace 4-0, in light of the latest Roy Hodgson paean.
Bournemouth vs. Swansea City – 9:00 AM
Swansea closes hosting Soton and Stoke. So no matter what happens in this game (Go Cherries), Swansea gets the chance to bury the two teams clawing at its heels. So he Welsh control their relegation. Whatever happens, it’s deserved.
In short, Swansea: beat Soton or gtfo.
Leicester City vs. West Ham United – 9:00 AM
West Ham will remain in the EPL because the last three are terrible. Lester is pretty much locked at 9, which is intriguing…
Watford vs. Newcastle – 9:00 AM
Whatever. Both remain in.
West Bromwich Albion vs. Tottenham Hotspur – 9:00 AM
West Brom’s out. Spurs win and are practically in the Champions. Yep.
Everton vs. Soton – 11:30 AM
OK. Suppose Everton locks up the #8, which should happen after they beat Soton. Please.
Chelsea vs. Liverpool – SUN 10:30 AM
Burnley is locked at 7th, which is the last Europa place. Everton is kinda pretty much locked at 8. And right now, only 3, 4, and 5 are in some mix for two Champions and one Europa place:
3. Liverpool (2 games left) – 72 points (78 maximum points) @Chelsea, Brighton
4. Spurs (3 games left) – 71 points (80 points maximum) @West Brom, Newcastle, Lester
5. Chelsea (3 games left) 66 points (75 maximum points) – LIV, Huddersfield, @Newscastle
If Liverpool defeats or ties Chelsea on Sunday, it’s in next season’s Champions League right then and there. Now: suppose Chelsea defeats Liverpool, and then CHE wins out. That’s 75 points. If Liverpool, looking ahead to the Champions League final, ties with Brighton—that’s 73 points and Chelsea finishes 4th and Liverpool 5th, in the Europa League.
Unless, of course, Liverpool defeats Real Madrid in the Final, which would give LIV the separate automatic berth to next season’s Champions. If that happens, Everton would then receive the extra Europa berth. Should this cause dread to Everton fans, they shouldn’t fret. There’s still time for Spurs to fail spectacularly.
Gifs vis giphy.com; tables and info. via soccerstatistics.com; banner via biofieldtuning.com