Premier League run-in: Who faces the best and worst run-ins when Premier League returns on June 17?
The 2019/20 Premier League season is back on June 17. Who has the toughest run-in, whose is simpler, and how could it affect the Champions League and relegation race?
Last Updated: 18/06/20 11:57am
Ahead of a Premier League return, what kind of run-in does your team face? Here's our guide to every side's prospects, on paper at least...
Finally, we have a confirmed date of June 17 for the resumption of the Premier League, more than three months since the last ball was kicked in anger, when Leicester thrashed Aston Villa 4-0 back in early March.
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The initial fixtures have been confirmed, but what we do know for certain is who has to play who in the remaining 92 matches of the campaign.
And even if home advantage is wiped out in a few games, the form of the 20 teams across the season to date still stands - with some facing sides with a far higher, or lower, average position than others. For the likes of Newcastle in 13th, they may be looking on eagerly with five of the bottom six left to play across their last nine matches.
There may be less anticipation of a return for Crystal Palace, in 11th, who have every top-six side except Manchester City left to face.
And while the title may be all but decided - so we'll leave that out of the equation - the race for the Champions League still looks like it would have plenty of twists and turns. So what do the run-ins say about the chances of the runners and riders?
Champions League hopefuls
As it stands, pending Manchester City's appeal against their two-season Champions League ban, the top five teams in the Premier League, bar City, will qualify for next season's Champions League. At the moment, that means Manchester United in fifth would join Chelsea, Leicester and Liverpool in the competition.
But with only six points separating United from even 11th-placed Crystal Palace, there is plenty to play for in the last nine games of the campaign.
In third and fourth, Leicester and Chelsea's average opponent position is relatively low (11.0 and 11.3 respectively) but the Blues still have three of the top six left to play, while Brendan Rodgers' men have only a final-day showdown with Manchester United on the cards.
United themselves may be confident of returning to Europe's premier continental competition - they are due to play only one of their top-six rivals in the rest of the season, and the average position of their remaining opponents is the lowest of any team in the Premier League this season, at 12.3.
That said, they have the fifth-worst record per game against the bottom half of the table, so perhaps Ole Gunnar Solskjaer would prefer it the other way around.
All three of sixth-placed Wolves' next three games come against teams in the bottom six, while they too only face one top-six rival - Chelsea - in their last nine games.
The run-in looks toughest for Sheffield United. Even though the Blades could move fifth if they were to win their game in hand against Aston Villa, they face what is on paper the hardest end to the season of any side in the top 10 with an average opponent position of 9.4 and Wolves, Chelsea, Leicester and Manchester United still to play - Villa are their only bottom-six foe.
Only Arsenal in ninth have as many top-six opposition left to play before the season is out, but they also face four of the bottom six.
Of the six teams who will realistically feel they are still in a relegation battle - thanks to Southampton's five-point cushion to 15th-placed Brighton, most have a fairly tough schedule of games still on the horizon, with bottom side Norwich, the only side with fewer than three of the top six left to play.
For Bournemouth, hovering inside the bottom three only on goal difference from Watford and West Ham, the run-in looks particularly bleak; they have the highest ranking average opponent (8.2) of any side in the division, and play four of the top six but none of their relegation rivals.
Things are little better for 19th-placed Villa, who admittedly could rise to 16th should they win their game in hand over Sheffield United, but have four of the top six left to play, and only West Ham - on the final day - from the teams around them.
Teetering above the drop zone, Watford have a considerably easier run-in on paper than the two teams below them - their opponents have an average position of 10.1, including big six-pointers against Norwich and West Ham.
But it's the Hammers who would look at the fixture list and feel confident. Although they have three of the top six left to play, they come in the shape of fourth, fifth and sixth-placed Chelsea, Manchester United and Wolves. Games against Villa, Watford and Norwich also give them the lowest average opponent position (11.3) of any side in the bottom six.