Tottenham’s trip to Chelsea this Sunday is unquestionably the biggest game of the Premier League weekend. It might be the biggest of the Premier League season too.
With Manchester City out of sight, Liverpool and Manchester United highly likely to join them in the Champions League and Arsenal concentrating on the Europa League, there’s only one major issue remaining at the top: fourth place. nfl authentic jerseys cheap That battle, like Sunday’s contest at Stamford Bridge, is Tottenham against Chelsea and both sides have heavily been involved in the “battle for fourth” over the years.
The first Premier League campaign where fourth place was rewarded with Champions League qualification was back in 2001-02, when Newcastle finished there with relative ease. The following season, however, featured unquestionably the most significant battle for fourth. On the final day of 2002-03, two sides were gunning for the final Champions League position: Chelsea and Liverpool. Both were on 64 points but Chelsea had a superior goal difference ahead of the clash at Stamford Bridge, meaning the draw favoured them. Nevertheless, this was a play-off for the Champions League.
Among Chelsea supporters, this is now recognised as the most important match in the club’s recent history: Chelsea were in dire straits financially and the players had been informed many would be sold if the club didn’t qualify for the Champions League. It was widely billed as the “￡20 million match” but in retrospect, it was probably worth more like ￡1 billion.
After a 2-1 victory courtesy of goals from Marcel Desailly and Jesper Gronkjaer, Roman Abramovich bought the club weeks later. It’s generally understood that he wanted a club competing in the Champions League; therefore, had Sami Hyypia’s opener also been the winner, the subsequent course of English football may have been extremely different.
The 2003-04 season should have featured a similar final day decider because Liverpool and Newcastle faced off sitting fourth and fifth respectively. Unfortunately, Newcastle had contrived to collect only two points from their previous three games, all against bottom-half clubs, and therefore Liverpool already had a sufficient points gap.
There was something of a complication the following season because Everton clinched fourth ahead of city rivals Liverpool as Rafael Benitez’s side were distracted by their European Cup run. After their legendary comeback against Milan in the final, UEFA changed their rules to allow Liverpool back into the competition from the first qualifying round. Meanwhile, Everton failed in their own qualification process, meaning all the previous season’s work went unrewarded. nfl jersey wholesale Incidentally, this confusion prompted UEFA to change the rules permanently, formally declaring that any champions would be allowed to defend the trophy in future if finishing outside the usual qualification places, at the expense of the fourth-placed side. This would have major ramifications in 2011-12.