The world of English soccer was rocked late last week when UEFA announced that Manchester City, the two-time defending Premier League champions, have been banned from European competition in 2021 and 2022. European soccer’s governing body found that the club had skirted the sport’s financial fair play rules, which means Pep Guardiola’s side will be ineligible for the Europa League or Champions League until the 2022-23 campaign.
The club has appealed the ruling and argued that they did nothing wrong. The rules prevent clubs from spending too much money in order to gain an unfair advantage over teams with less money to spend. Teams must control spending by balancing everything including player signings, salaries and ticket sales. The rule was put in place to try and ensure that richer clubs do not have an unfair advantage over lesser sides in European competition.
Assuming Manchester City loses its appeal, the penalty suddenly means whichever team finishes in fifth place in the Premier League this season will qualify for next season’s Champions League. The Premier League doesn’t simply lose its spot in Champions League as a result of the suspension, it just means that another English side will take their place.
Betting on who will finish in the Champions League spots just got a lot more interesting.
Prior to the ban, the top-4 finishers in the Premier League looked almost set. The breaking news of City’s disqualification means another team will have a chance to grab a spot. BetOnline has refreshed their odds regarding the top-4 finishers in the Premier League at season’s end. The updated odds are as follows, with Man City out of the equation:
Premier League Top-4 Odds
Odds at BetOnline
City’s only real hope at a trophy this season is, ironically, the Champions League. Liverpool have moved to 25 points clear of second-place City in the Premier League, which means the domestic outcome is all but done and dusted. Manchester City are set to face Real Madrid in a highly-anticipated round-of-16 clash in Champions League play this week.
Manchester City and Liverpool are +400 co-favorites to win Champions League this term. With City’s top-4 finish to be essentially stricken from the record, the race for the top-4 is suddenly wide-open.
Leicester City, who on 50 points are just one back of Manchester City, have separated themselves from the rest of the field. The Foxes are a near-lock to secure a Champions League spot, which is reflected in the -1000 odds. After that, things get congested.
Jumble Near Top of the Table
As of now, Sheffield United sit surprisingly sixth in the table on 39 points. That puts them just 2 back of Chelsea for fourth place, but just a fifth-place finish means a spot in next year’s Champions League thanks to Manchester City’s rules violations.
Nobody could’ve expected Sheffield to challenge for a Champions League place at the beginning of the season. This is Sheffield’s first season in the Premier League since 2006-07, which makes their rise to the top of the top flight table all the more shocking. It’s safe to say that Chris Wilder’s side have already surpassed expectations, and then some.
While Sheffield has to be feeling good about where they are, they can’t afford to take their foot off the gas. Just four points currently separate fifth-place Tottenham Hotspur (40) from ninth-place Everton (36).
Tottenham made a miraculous run to last year’s Champions League final, where they lost to Liverpool. Things haven’t gone according to plan for the North London side this season, but they do have a proven new manager in Jose Mourinho that knows what it takes to win at the highest level. Spurs have enjoyed a better run of form of late, which is why they have the best odds of any non-top-4 team of finishing in a Champions League place.
Manchester United picked up an impressive result earlier this week with a 2-0 win over Chelsea that pushed the Red Devils into seventh place and very much in striking distance of the highly-coveted No. 5 spot.
Can Arsenal or Everton Sneak In?
Everton looked like a legitimate relegation candidate at the beginning of the season, so the fact that they have even an outside chance at qualifying for Europe next season is stunning in and of itself. The Toffees won just four of their first nine matches of the season, and Marco Silva was promptly sacked. He was replaced by a known commodity in Carlo Ancelotti, though, and the Italian has helped turn things around.
Everton has gone 5-2-2 in the league since Ancelotti took charge, and they’re currently just 3 points south of Sheffield.
Arsenal also endured a managerial change when they ousted Unai Emery in favor of Mikel Arteta. The Gunners have drawn four of their last five games, though, which hasn’t helped the side surge up the table.
I’d bet on Arsenal sneaking into a top-5 spot before I’d do the same for Everton, but I don’t have a lot of faith in either team at this point. Neither has shown much consistency all season long, and the crowded nature of the standings make both sides a tough sell.
Manchester United Charging
One Manchester team’s loss could be another Manchester side’s gain. The news of City’s disqualification has to breathe some life into what has otherwise been a tumultuous campaign at Old Trafford. The Red Devils have been much maligned this season under Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, but the team’s board has thus far refused to make a managerial change.
The fact that United are even within striking distance is a story, but they now must make the most of their new opportunity. Just three points separates fourth-place Chelsea from seventh-place United thanks to the Red Devils’ triumph over the Blues earlier this week. Four of the team’s next five games in the league will come against teams near United’s place in the table, which means Solskjaer’s side will have a glorious chance to continue to make up ground and make a push for Champions League play.
The upcoming stretch features games against Everton, City, Tottenham and Sheffield. After that, United gets a bit of a break will contests against beatable sides like Brighton, Bournemouth, Aston Villa, Southampton, Crystal Palace and West Ham.
Given the way the schedule shakes out, it’s hard not to like United’s odds of beating the other contenders to the punch. The +375 odds on United landing in a Champions League spot carry plenty of appeal.
If you take City out of the mix, the fight for the remaining 2 Champions League spots for next season is shaping up to be fascinating. It looks as though we can go ahead and pencil in Liverpool and Leicester City, but there are 7 other teams with legitimate chances at getting the two other places.
While I think Wolverhampton are the best team among those with odds of +1000 or longer to get a top-4 spot, the most realistic outcome here is the battle coming down to Chelsea, Tottenham and Manchester United.
Sheffield make for a nice story, but I’m still skeptical of their chances at keeping up for the duration of the season. At some point, you’d think talent would have to win out. Chelsea have the slight edge over the rest, but a one-point lead is hardly big enough for me to be sold on their -110 odds at finishing top-4. I’d prefer to see plus-money odds, frankly.
As a bettor, the +225 odds for Tottenham and the +375 odds for Manchester United stand out. Chelsea at -110 make for a fine bet themselves, but I’d prefer to shoot for the upside you can get with Spurs and Man U. Wolverhampton at +1400 is the bet if you want a little more upside.
Taylor Smith has been a staff writer with GamblingSites.org since early 2017. Taylor is primarily a sports writer, though he will occasionally dabble in other things like politics and entertainment betting. His primary specialties are writing about the NBA, Major League Baseball, NFL and domestic and international soccer. Fringe sports like golf and horse racing aren’t exactly his cup of tea, bu ...
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