LONDON: The battle for the ‘other two’ Champions League slots remains open with two rounds of matches remaining after Chelsea were held 2-2 at home by fighting Tottenham.
Chelsea have the advantage in terms of points of goal difference over Arsenal and Spurs. However they also have the distraction of next Wednesday’s Europa League Final against Benfica in Amsterdam with their players unhappy at their ticket allocation.
The third-placed Blues have 69 points, Arsenal 67 and Tottenham 66 and the fixture perspectives in the run-off are complicated by the staggered nature of the fixtures because of the various cup finals:
Saturday: A Villa v CHELSEA.
Sunday: Stoke v TOTTENHAM.
Tuesday: ARSENAL v Wigan.
Sunday, May 19: CHELSEA v Everton, Newcastle v ARSENAL, TOTTENHAM v Sunderland.
Possibly Chelsea have the more awkward fixtures but, given their goal difference,they need ‘only’ three points from the two games.
Chelsea’s season finale is also shadowed by speculation over the managership. Rafa Benitez has dropped a broad hint that he expects Jose Mourinho to return from Spain but negotiations have stalled over Real Madrid’s demand that the Blues pay up €20m for the outstanding three years of the Special One’s contract.
Perhaps the weight of all these uncertainties were partly to blame as they allowed Tottenham to hit back twice for Wednesday’s 2:2 draw. Oscar and Ramires scored for Chelsea in each half while man of the match Emmanuel Adebayor chipped Petr Cech for the first equaliser then provided the backheel which created the second for Gylfi Sigurdsson.
An honourable draw for André Villas-Boas on his first return to Stamford Bridge was not really enough for Tottenham because, even if they win their remaining two games, they are still dependent on Chelsea and/or Arsenal slipping up.
Villas-Boas, who had rebuilt his reputation at White Hart Lane, said: “Anything can happen. The Premier League is completely unpredictable and the next fixtures, with the emotion of the last few games of the season, can be decisive. Keep the faith!”
Benitez conceded the weight of pressure of events in the 66th game of a high-pressure campaign. He said: “We didn’t have the legs.”