The race for Champions League qualification is set to take another twist in midweek, with Chelsea and Arsenal both in action.
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While the English title race has already been concluded, it’s still all to play for in the battle to finish in the top five—with fifth place likely to result in a UCL berth unless Manchester City’s European ban is overturned.
However, their form has been underwhelming since football returned, with a lack of creativity in midfield and an absence of dynamism without the injured Ricardo Pereira.
They were particularly toothless as they were eliminated from the FA Cup at the hands of Chelsea on Sunday, and must improve if they’re to secure a result away at Everton on Wednesday.
The Toffees have improved in recent weeks, holding Liverpool 0-0 between winning away at Norwich on Wednesday, and Brendan Rodgers’ side need a significant improvement to break them down.
In fourth place, Chelsea will be confident they can get over the line, although they face a potential banana skin in Wednesday’s London derby against West Ham United.
Frank Lampard’s side improved dramatically in the second half of their FA Cup clash against Leicester on Sunday to advance 1-0 and they will be buoyed after consecutive victories over Aston Villa and Manchester City.
While they still must play Liverpool, Manchester United and Wolves, the dark horses in the UCL qualification race, this season, the Blues have momentum on their side, and their attacking options may prove too much for the Hammers when these two collide on Wednesday.
Tuesday 30 June – Brighton vs Manchester United (Premier League)
Wednesday 1 July – Inter Milan vs Brescia (Serie A)
Wednesday 1 July – Everton vs Leicester (Premier League)
Wednesday 1 July – West Ham vs Chelsea (Premier League)
Wednesday 1 July – Arsenal vs Norwich (Premier League)
Down in ninth, Arsenal have their work cut out to muscle their way into the top five.
The Gunners’ victory over the Blades in their FA Cup quarter will have done the confidence and morale of Mikel Arteta’s side a major boost, as will the 2-0 victory at Southampton on Thursday, as they put the disappointment of consecutive defeats behind them.
Nicolas Pepe was again the hero against Sheffield United, having netted against Brighton last weekend, and the Londoners will be confident they have the edge against a Norwich side who had to play to extra time against United on Saturday.
Speaking of the Red Devils, Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s side has returned to action in style, battling back to draw at Tottenham Hotspur in their first match after the restart, before thumping the Blades in midweek.
Admittedly, they struggled to put Norwich away on Saturday, but having given many of his starters a rest, Solskjaer will be confident they can take maximum points away at Brighton—live on SuperSport—on Tuesday evening.
There’s also Serie A action in midweek, with the top three all looking to boost their title aspirations.
Internazionale came from behind to defeat Parma at the death in dramatic fashion on Sunday and move eight points behind leaders Juventus.
Despite beginning to lose their composure, and seeing reserve keeper Tommaso Berni sent off from the bench with a 68th-minute red card for dissent, Stefan de Vrij and Alessandro Bastoni struck inside the final six minutes to keep the Nerazzurri’s hopes of a grandstand finish alive.
Admittedly, Juve—who are away at struggling Genoa on Tuesday—are favourites, but Antonio Conte will be acutely aware that his rivals have some tricky fixtures to come before the season’s conclusion.
Inter will be confident of taking all three points from 19th-placed Brescia on Wednesday, although they’ve displayed a certain brittleness throughout the campaign so far, and have lost two of their last five.
Can they dispatch relegation-threatened Torino away on Tuesday evening?
In La Liga, there’s also a massive midweek match-up, as Barcelona host Atletico Madrid on Tuesday evening.
The Catalan giants are fast in danger of throwing away a title that had appeared theirs for the taking and dropped two more points on Saturday when Celta Vigo twice came from behind to snatch a 2-2 draw.
This draw, coupled with Real Madrid’s 1-0 victory at bottom-placed Espanyol on Sunday, has led to Zinedine Zidane’s side pulling out in front; they’re now two points clear of Barca with six games to go.
This one could still go either way, but third-placed Atletico, who have won their last four matches in a row, have the quality to heap further misery on Barca this Tuesday.