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Thursday Hoddle of Coffee: April 20, 2017

Eyes on Manchester

RSC Anderlecht v Manchester United - UEFA Europa League Quarter Final: First Leg Photo by Clive Rose/Getty Images

One storyline that I have not seen discussed as much in Premier League coverage is the likelihood that we might have five Premier League teams in the Champions League next season. Though there is obviously enough time for things to change, at present it looks as if Chelsea, Tottenham, Manchester City, and probably Liverpool will be this year’s top four.

Liverpool is the most precarious of the four, especially with Sadio Mane set to miss the rest of the season. That said, their remaining schedule is relatively straightforward. The toughest remaining fixture is either home for Southampton or away at West Ham, both of which you still would like their shots at winning. The club chasing Liverpool, Manchester United, still has to play City, Arsenal, and Spurs and has been riding a hilarious run of bad luck all season. So while United could chase down Klopp’s men, it’s not looking likely.

That brings us today: United play Belgian side Anderlecht in the second leg of their Europa League quarterfinal tie. A victory sees them advance for sure as would a scoreless draw. Their likely partners in the final four are Lyon, Ajax, and Celta Vigo.

In other words: If United wins today, they have a very good shot at winning the Europa League and, therefore, qualifying for next year’s Champions League.

On the one hand, another year of United missing out on Europe’s crown jewel probably helps us. On the other, they signed Paul Pogba, Henrikh Mkhitaryan, and Zlatan Ibrahimovic when they couldn’t offer Champions League football so how much does it actually affect them?

The best outcome for Spurs is probably United overtaking Liverpool and finishing fourth. The Reds are closer to us financially and will take a bigger hit from missing the Champions League. But realistically it looks like Liverpool should go. So while they have other means of qualifying, it’s not a stretch to say that United today is playing to preserve their best shot at appearing in next year’s Champions League.