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The lowdown on the Premier League’s crunch finale

It all comes down to this. The final day of the Premier League season will affect the standings at both ends of the division, with the race for Europe and the scrap to avoid the drop still yet to be decided. 

Players and coaching staff alike will have hoped that such a fate-defining showdown could have been avoided, but the league’s tendency to drag down teams kicking and screaming has once again set up a series of clashes that are certain to live long in the memory.

Manchester United, Chelsea and Leicester will hope to clinch the final two Champions League spots up for grabs, with one giant club braced for disappointment on an unimaginable scale. Just below, Wolves and Tottenham will aim to finish in sixth and secure a Europa League place.

And down at the bottom are three teams fighting with every sinew to preserve their top flight status. Aston Villa may have hauled themselves out the relegation zone after beating Arsenal, but Watford and Bournemouth may yet experience deadline day delirium.

Here, Sportsmail takes a look at what is at stake ahead of the biggest Super Sunday in recent years…

The race for the top four has thrown up countless, intriguing twists and turns across the course of this elongated season. Chelsea and Leicester appeared strong favourites to finish behind dethroned Manchester City, and eventual champions Liverpool, but the complexion has changed dramatically.

There are two places up for grabs, with three teams tussling it out. Manchester United have slowly but surely edged into the picture, and into the third, as a result of their impressive unbeaten streak. 

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s men need just a draw against Leicester to qualify for the Champions League, with Chelsea also in a similar position.

The onus has now fallen on the Foxes. They must beat United to guarantee a spot at the top table.  

However, the Old Trafford outfit do have a fallback option in the event they were to fall short in the league. They could return to Europe’s elite competition by winning the Europa League. 

Wolves and Tottenham are scrapping it out to secure a spot in next season’s Europa League showpiece. 

Nuno Espirito Santo’s team currently sit in sixth, just a single point ahead of the North London contenders. Both sides also hold a similar goal difference (Wolves: +13, Tottenham: +14), rendering the final round of games a straight shootout between them.

They now cannot finish below seventh, but their objective to end up in sixth will take precedence at the campaign’s close. This is because fifth spot will be taken up by any of three clubs vying to finish in the Champions League places, and sixth will guarantee entry to the second tier continental tournament.   

Jose Mourinho and Santo will certainly have also stressed the importance of avoiding seventh to their teams. Should Arsenal win the FA Cup against Chelsea on August 1, they will take the Europa League spot from the unlucky competitor.

With Spurs at serious risk of missing out, Mourinho’s ranks will look to seal a crucial result at struggling Crystal Palace. Wolves, meanwhile, travel to Stamford Bridge in the hope of denting the Blues’ own ambitions and rounding off a superb past 11 months.  

Norwich’s fate was sealed just over a fortnight ago after their home humbling at the hands of West Ham. Three other clubs are at real risk of joining them in the Championship next season, and their struggles to avoid the drop will culminate in either ecstasy or agony.

Aston Villa, Watford and Bournemouth are teetering on the brink, although the Midlands outfit took a gigantic leap towards safety after beating in-form Arsenal, who couldn’t even muster an attempt on target, at Villa Park. Trezeguet’s emphatic finish sent them outside the bottom three on goal difference. 

But the situation remains complicated. The finest of margins will likely decide the layout of the top flight table next season. Villa sit in 17th spot with 34 points, marginally ahead of Watford on goal difference. Behind them are Bournemouth, three points adrift.

Villa travel to West Ham, who have already secured their safety, on the final day. Watford will play Arsenal at the Emirates and Bournemouth will take on Everton away. All three are sure to be nervously glancing over their shoulder, but will perhaps still dream about another historic escape. 

Dean Smith’s outfit are in full control of their destiny. Should they down the Hammers, they should seal survival. Bournemouth and Watford face difficult encounters in their bid to stave off the drop, meaning Villa may not even need maximum points. 

The turmoil at Vicarage Road has certainly helped their mission. The sacking of Nigel Pearson may very well backfire and doesn’t appear to have had the desired result. His appointment came with one simple objective: keep Watford up. But their 3-1 defeat to West Ham, which is understood to have stirred tensions between Pearson and owner Gino Pozzo, proved to be the final nail in his coffin. 

The heavy defeat to a rampant Manchester City means Watford must better Villa’s result on the final day. They will also have to hope that Smith’s side lose by a margin of two goals more than them.  

Bournemouth, meanwhile, appeared to have fought back from the inevitable after beating Leicester 4-1 at Vitality Stadium, but losses to Man City and Southampton have piled on the pressure.         

Eddie Howe’s troops are three points behind both Villa and Watford. They will only be able to stay up provided they beat Everton on Sunday, and Watford and Villa lose their respective clashes. 

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