Some conspiracy theorists believe Tottenham and Southampton’s horrendous form – one win in six and none in four respectively – to be a deliberate effort to avoid Europa League qualification.
Were that the case (this writer suspects not), the assumption was that one would have to out-awful the other in order to miss out. However, that is no longer the case. If Aston Villa justify [4.0] FA Cup winner odds, only the teams in fifth and sixth get in. It initially appeared as though nobody could catch Spurs or Saints, but Swansea are suddenly two points shy of the former and one off the latter.
Odds of [18.5] on the Swans soaring into a top-six place confirm that it is a long shot, yet there is reason to believe that they stand much more than a one-in-18 chance of overtaking them both.
For starters, they are in drastically superior form, collecting 22 points from their last 11 encounters (W7 D1 L3) to Tottenham’s 15 (W4 D3 L4) and Southampton’s 11 (W3 D2 L6).
That equates to 2.00 points per match to Spurs’ 1.36 and Saints’ 1.00. If those averages were maintained over the final two rounds of fixtures, they would pass Ronald Koeman’s men but potentially fall just short of the Capital One Cup runners-up.
Anyway, rather than blind you and bore you with numbers, let’s focus on the remaining games themselves to ascertain precisely what would need to happen to raise Swansea up.
A victory and draw would suffice if neither of their rivals triumph again this season, though let’s work with a scenario in which Garry Monk’s side win twice, which indeed they should be aiming for if they are serious about this challenge.
First up is Man City at home: difficult, but far from impossible. Swansea have shut them out in two of their three prior Liberty Stadium visits and have the best 2014/15 record against the division’s top four (P7 W4) – yes, better than even Chelsea – owing to their doubles over Man United and Arsenal.
Then it is Crystal Palace away, a clash that they won 2-1 last term when the Eagles were intimidating hosts. The Londoners have the Premier League’s joint-worst 2014/15 home point-per-game average.
Six points would see the Welsh club up to sixth provided Tottenham take four points or fewer from meetings with Hull (H) and Everton (A) with a two-goal swing in the Swans’ favour (or swing-free if Spurs lose one of those contests) and Southampton don’t beat both Aston Villa (H) and Man City (A).
The Lilywhites haven’t won successive matches since week 28 and Saints last did it in week 24, so if Swansea do their job, they should be confident of progress.
They would hopefully embrace the Europa League too, having reached the knockout phase in 2013/14 while still achieving a 12th-place Premier League finish.