Two of the stars of the Team GB squad for last summer’s London 2012 Olympic Games go into the final game of the Premier League season knowing only one of them will be playing in next year’s Champions League competition.
Great Britain midfielder Aaron Ramsey – an integral part of Stuart Pearce’s squad last summer – and his Arsenal team-mates are in the box-seat. They go to Newcastle United for their last fixture with their destiny in their own hands. A win against the Magpies will guarantee Champions League football next season for Arsene Wenger’s side.
According to the bookies, that’s exactly what will happen. The match odds at Unibet have the Gunners as 1/2 favourites to beat Alan Pardew’s out-of-form team and continue their unbroken streak of Champions League qualifications to 14 seasons.
If they slip-up, a Tottenham squad containing GB centre-back Steven Caulker will be desperate to take advantage. Caulker himself is guaranteed a very long season. After barely enough time for a holiday around the time of the Olympics last summer at the start of the current season, he has now been named in the England under-21 squad travelling to the European Championships, where he will once again be managed by Stuart Pearce.
Back to the more pressing matter of his club’s fortunes, Spurs are up against a Sunderland team boasting fellow Olympian Danny Rose in their final match of the season. If they beat the Black Cats and Arsenal fail to beat Newcastle, it will be Andre Villas Boas’ team who qualify for the Champions League instead.
Spurs’ odds are even shorter than Arsenal’s: 4/7 is about the best you can get on them beating Sunderland at White Hart Lane on Sunday. But the problem for Caulker and his team-mates is that their fate is completely of their hands in the first instance.
Even if, as is widely expected by bookmakers and pundits alike, Gareth Bale and co. manage to brush the Wearsiders to one side, their return to European football’s premier club competition is dependent on their fierce north London rivals failing to win their own game.
Anything other than Arsenal joining Manchester United, Manchester City and Chelsea in the competition would involve a big upset.
Another interesting twist is the race for third. Chelsea are the favourites for that, but if they fail to beat Everton and Arsenal beat Newcastle, they will be overtaken by the Gunners.
Bizarrely, a 0-0 draw for Chelsea coupled with a 2-1 win for Arsenal, a 1-1 draw for Chelsea coupled with a 3-2 win for Arsenal or any variations on that theme of a Chelsea draw and Arsenal winning by a single goal having scored two more than the Blues would result in an unprecedented end-of-season play-off to decide who gets third spot.