Welcome to the crazy world of the Premier League. Just when you thought the season was coming to a close on Sunday, it might not be all over after all.
For if the stars align, Mercury moves into Saturn’s compass and something sensible comes out of Robbie Savage’s mouth (okay, if results go a certain way), then Arsenal and Chelsea may have to meet in an unprecedented end-of-season play-off to decide who finishes third in the table.
Arsenal travel to Newcastle United on the last day knowing a win will secure a top-four place, while Chelsea, currently in third, face Everton at Stamford Bridge knowing they are already assured of finishing in the Champions League places with a game to spare.
But the Premier League confirmed yesterday that should the sides end up with identical records after 38 games, then a play-off would be required to see which team finished third – and looking at the table, that possibility cannot be discounted.
Of course, the difference between third and fourth is an automatic place in the Champions League group stage and a difficult qualifier at the start of the campaign, which in some ways gives any potential match an edge, with the winner going straight into the competition.
But how have we got here, and what needs to happen?
You might have thought that with Chelsea winning both league games against Arsenal this season they would be declared third given their superior head-to-head record, but why make the easy choice and reward the Europa League winners because of their 2-1 victories home and away against the Gunners when we can have something much more convoluted?
So the situation is thus: Chelsea are two points above Arsenal, having scored two more goals and boasting a superior goal difference of just one.
With me so far? Good, let’s continue.
This means that if Chelsea draw and Arsenal win, they will both finish on 73 points. But if Arsene Wenger’s side beat Newcastle by a one-goal margin while scoring at least two goals, then it will leave the teams level on points, goals scored and goal difference.
In (Jens) layman’s terms, a 0-0 draw for Chelsea and a 2-1 win for Arsenal would bring about the need for a play-off. Not exactly that farfetched, is it?
And if you fancy that to happen, you can get 40/1 with bwin on the Premier League’s first ever end-of-season play-off (see the market by clicking here), which would translate to potential winnings of £820 for new customers who back it with their free £20 bet.
Any other similar result would also be good enough for your 40/1 shot: a 1-1 draw at the Bridge with a 3-2 win for Arsenal on Tyneside, a 2-2 draw with a 4-3 win, and so on.
And wouldn’t it just be like the mad world of football to throw up such a ridiculous scenario?
Although quite where and when the game would be played is unknown, because with Chelsea due to go to America for a post-season tour and Wembley out of use the week before the Champions League final, scheduling the match could prove a logistical nightmare.
But if, for the sake of everybody’s sanity, you think that won’t happen, you can just back Chelsea to finish third at 9/50, while Arsenal are 13/4 to leapfrog their London rivals and spoil the fun of neutrals everywhere.