Monday, April 5, 2010

Man City, Spurs, Reds: Who's Going on a European Tour?

By El Chupa

Last week we looked at Liverpool's chances at overtaking Spurs and sneaking in to the fourth spot in the league.  Our conclusion was that Liverpool actually had a chance given how much easier was their remaining schedule.  In our analysis, we ignored Man City, not because we thought they had a worse chance than the Reds, but because regardless of what City accomplished, Liverpool had to overtake Spurs to make it to fourth.  We were also focused on refuting Rafa's claim that the Scousers still had a chance to earn the automatic bid to the Champions League.

Well, this weekend's fixtures have changed things, and we thought we'd update our prognostication.  So today we'll look at Spurs, Man City, AND Liverpool and make our prediction as to who, in fact, will attain the coveted fourth invitation to Europe's premier club competition.

We pointed out last time that Spurs had a very tough schedule compared to Liverpool, including games against Chelsea, Man U, Man City and Arsenal.  And, well, they still do.  To top it off, Spurs were soundly beaten by Sunderland last weekend, squandering an opportunity to pick up points that would have helped them immensely.  Lucky for them, Liverpool continued to torment their fans, managing a draw with a solid but surely weaker Birmingham.  Meanwhile, City absolutely THUMPED Burnley.  But Man City fans have to look forward to games against Man U (derby), Arsenal, Spurs and Villa.  The only tough game the Reds have left is against Chelsea. 

So, last weekend's fixtures put City at 59, followed by Spurs at 58 and Liverpool at a a distant 55 (notice how large the draw with Birmingham looms for the Reds).  Both City and Spurs have a game in hand over LFC. However, as we've indicated, Liverpool has by far the much easier schedule.  Liverpool's remaining opponents have earned on average 1.19 PTS/GM. Spurs' have averaged 1.69 followed by Man City's at 1.44.  This season, a team in the EPL has picked up, on average, 1.36 PTS/GM..  The table below summarizes the situation (if you can't make it out, click on it).

The final column reduces or increases each team's projected points based on the relative strength of that team's remaining opponents.  Notice that if each team earns the same number of points over its remaining games that it has all year, Man City squeaks in ahead of Spurs.  If we take into consideration the strength of each club's respective schedules, however, (at least from a numerical standpoint) City and Spurs finish in a dead heat.  Neither scenario looks good for the Reds.  Now that we've crunched the numbers, here's what we really think is going to happen.

Man City will pick up wins at home against Birmingham, Spurs, Villa, and West Ham.  They'll drop games to both Man U and the Gunners.   This will give them 12 PTS.  Spurs will manage only 1 PT over three games against Man U, Chelsea, and Arsenal.  They'll lose to City but thump both Bolton and Burnley.  This will give them a very disappointing 7 PTS.  Meanwhile, if we give the Reds a generous 12 points, with wins in four of their last five games, they still come up short.  Final standings in the race for fourth: Man City 71; Scousers 67; Spurs 65.  We actually expect the Reds to draw one of those wins, but feel magnanimous today.  And of course if Spurs go up to Manchester and manage to beat a surging City squad with its eyes on the prize, that swing in three points will pull them even with City.  It should be an interesting match.

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