Who has the best run in? Liverpool, Chelsea, Leicester or West Ham?

Leicester, Chelsea, West Ham, Tottenham and Liverpool are battling for a top four place (Getty Images)

The Premier League may not have much of a title race to speak of this season but the battle to finish in the top four and earn a place in next year’s Champions League is still just about alive.

Leicester City and Chelsea currently occupy third and fourth place and look relatively comfortable but they face busy, difficult run-ins, with FA Cup and Champions League finals to prepare for.

The other contenders – West Ham, Tottenham and Liverpool – have no such problem and can focus solely on the task at hand but all have ground to make up if they are to mount a late push.

With four or five games left for those involved, The Independent has broken down the run-ins, checking the average home and away points-per-game and average expected goal difference (xGD) of their remaining opponents.

Who has the best run-in and who has the worst?

3. Chelsea

Run-in difficulty: ⭐⭐⭐

Remaining Opponents

Avg PPG: 1.65; Avg xGD: +7.4

12/05 Arsenal (H)

18/05 Leicester (H)

23/05 Aston Villa (A)

The fear for Chelsea heading into the most recent round of fixtures was that they not only had a busy schedule with FA Cup and Champions League finals to prepare for, but that they also faced the toughest domestic run-in. What a difference one win makes.

Marcos Alonso’s late winner against Manchester City at the Etihad was huge for Thomas Tuchel’s side, securing three points from their biggest test between now and the end of the campaign, lifting them above Leicester into third.

A top-four finish now looks likely but run-in is still tough, with Arsenal and Leicester visiting Stamford Bridge before a trip to Villa. Chelsea cannot afford to get complacent but they are in a good position. A couple more wins should do it.

4. Leicester City

Run-in difficulty: ⭐⭐⭐⭐

Remaining Opponents

Avg PPG: 1.69; Avg xGD: +16.7

11/05 Manchester Utd (A)

18/05 Chelsea (A)

23/05 Tottenham (H)

Leicester are still clinging on to a spot but Friday night’s stunning 4-2 home defeat against Newcastle has set up a nerve-wracking end to the season and sparked fears of another late collapse from Brendan Rodgers’ side.

Story continues

Their final three games are tough. First up, they travel to Old Trafford next Tuesday night. After playing Chelsea in the FA Cup final next Saturday, they face Thomas Tuchel’s men again at Stamford Bridge, then round off their campaign against Tottenham.

Points were there for the taking in the Foxes’ last four games but they only managed seven from a possible 12 and will now have to secure a top-four finish the hard way. It couldn’t happen again, could it?

5. West Ham

Run-in difficulty: ⭐⭐

Remaining Opponents

Avg PPG: 1.22; Avg xGD: -7.4

09/05 Everton (H)

15/05 Brighton (A)

19/05 West Bromwich (A)

23/05 Southampton (H)

West Ham’s hopes of an unlikely top-four finish were dealt a substantial blow by that Chelsea defeat last month. Moyes has struggled to take results against the top-flight’s elite clubs but that at least bodes well for the run-in.

With all ‘big six’ opposition out of the way, West Ham come up against mid-table and bottom-half sides. Everton could provide a test this weekend and have a good away record, but Brighton and Southampton can be confident of staying up and have little left to play for.

West Bromwich Albion have improved of late but may well be relegated by the time they welcome Moyes’ men to the Hawthorns. All West Ham can do is win and hope that either Leicester or Chelsea succumb to their rough run-ins.

6. Liverpool

Run-in difficulty: ⭐1/2

Remaining Opponents

Avg PPG: 1.27; Avg xGD: -13.8

13/05 Manchester United (A)

16/05 West Bromwich (A)

19/05 Burnley (A)

23/05 Crystal Palace (H)

Liverpool are the ones to watch. Even though they have repeatedly passed up opportunities to gain ground on their rivals, they took maximum points from Saturday’s meeting with Southampton and have a game in hand over the other contenders.

Once that rearranged trip to Old Trafford is out of the way, their run-in is very kind. All three of their other remaining opponents are in the bottom half of the table and West Bromwich may have been relegated by the time Jurgen Klopp’s side visit the Hawthorns.

Still, their fate is not in their own hands so they cannot afford any slip ups like the late draws against Leeds and Newcastle. Liverpool have not looked like a top-four side since Christmas but a near-perfect end of the season could help salvage their otherwise forgettable campaign.

7. Tottenham

Run-in difficulty: ⭐⭐⭐

Remaining Opponents

Avg PPG: 1.44; Avg xGD: +2.9

16/05 Wolves (H)

19/05 Aston Villa (H)

23/05 Leicester (A)

It has taken longer than many expected but Tottenham finally look like they can be counted out of the race. Defeat at Leeds on Saturday effectively consigned Spurs to a second straight season without Champions League football.

With three games left, the maxiumum number of points that Ryan Mason’s side can take is 64, with fourth-place Leicester only one point off reaching that total. Mason had done well to keep hopes alive for this long by winning his first two league games in charge.

A Europa League place is by no means out of the question but a spot in next season’s inaugural Conference League looks more likely, particularly as their run-in from here is made up of three capable sides in Wolves, Aston Villa and Leicester.

What if Chelsea finish outside the top four but win the Champions League?

In this scenario, Chelsea would join the Premier League’s top four in next season’s Champions League as the Premier League’s fifth representative.

The Premier League can send a maximum of five teams to the Champions League.

The fourth-place finishers would only have missed out on qualification if Chelsea had won the Champions League while finishing outside the top four and Arsenal had also won the Europa League.

Arsenal’s semi-final elimination at the hands of Villarreal means the teams who finish in the top four will all qualify for the Champions League.

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