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Learn English through Football Podcast: The Top Four Race

The Top Four RaceIn this week’s show we focus on the race for the top four spots in the Premier league. These places secure a berth in the Champions League. So, we at the end of the show, for our predictions, we have three games all featuring teams fighting for third or fourth spot – Arsenal, manchester United, Manchester City and Liverpool. In our football language section, in the middle of the show, we have some phrases used to talk about the race for the title or the top four places, including to pip at the post and looking over their shoulder. And we start the show with news from the week of football related to the scramble for the last Champions League places. Read the transcript for the show in our post below (Damian = DF, Damon = DB).

Learn English Through Football Podcast: The Top Four Race

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Transcript of the show

DB: You’re listening to Languagecaster’s football-language podcast. Hello everyone, my name is Damon and I am back in Japan after a short trip to China last week. Now, last week I couldn’t make the show because of that trip and this week, Damian is also tied up with work and can’t join us. Apologies! This is recorded after the Saturday round of games, too, and there were some big results there – Manchester City stuffing Crystal Palace 5-0, Hull losing at home and dropping in to the relegation zone, and of course on Friday night Tottenham falling to a 1-0 loss at West ham.

Line up

DB:, Now, on this week’s show we’ll be focusing on the final run in and the race for the third and fourth spots in the Premier League. It looks like Chelsea and Tottenham have sewn up first and second, with Tottenham still in with an outside chance of pipping Chelsea at the post – more on that phrase later. So, in our first section, we’ll have a few stories connected with the fight for the Champions League spots and the title. After that, we have two phrases that you may hear to describe the situation at this stage of the season – to pip at the post and looking over their shoulders. And we’ll finish with three games involving teams hoping to squeeze into the top four.

DB: Yes, you are listening to and that message was in French. If you would like to record the message “You are listening to languagecaster” in your language then just send it on to us here at


DB: OK, I’m going to kick off with the good from last week and it was good for the top three teams in the Premier League who all won – Chelsea saw off a spirited Everton 3-0. Tottenham finally guaranteed a finish above their north London rivals Arsenal with a 2-0 derby win – the first time they will finish above the Gunners for over 20 years! And Liverpool clinched a 1-0 away win at Watford with an incredible Can overhead volley. What a cracker that was!


DB: Now, I’ve mentioned the top three sides won last weekend, but the two Manchester clubs will be rueing dropping points and passing up the chance to go ahead of Liverpool before the start of this weekend. Manchester United first drew in the Manchester derby 0-0, a decent away result, but they also drew against Swansea, a game they would have hoped to win at home – they therefore got two points out of a possible six – this means a top four finish is out of their hands; that is, if Manchester City and Liverpool win all their remaining games, the Red Devils can’t get a Champions League place via the league. City also dropped points, and like their cross town rivals they only picked up two out of a possible six points – we’ve already mentioned the derby draw, but they also drew two-two with relegation threatened Middlesbrough.


DB: Now, ugly – I mentioned Manchester United drawing against Swansea and Manchester City drawing against Middlesbrough – both of these results were secured with the help of players diving to win penalties. Sané for City, went down in the box with no contact by Marten De Roon – in fact the City player appeared to flick his legs back into the Middlesbrough defender. But the Oscar award for acting goes to Marcus Rashford whose outrageous dive in the penalty area won Manchester United an undeserved spot kick. I’d like to see some retrospective punishment for that kind of behaviour – very ugly.

Follow us

DB: Now, remember there are many ways to follow us or get in touch: our twitter handle is @languagecaster, and we also have a Facebook page Learning English Through Football. As always, hi and thanks to all those who have followed or liked us recently, including Marc from @getgreatenglish and Sue from @esolcourses_sue on twitter. Drop us a line at or you can join in the discussion on our football-language forum.

DB: Now next up we have some football language used to describe the end of season race for the top spots.

Football Language: To Pip at the Post

DB: This first phrase, to pip at the post, means to beat someone at the end of the race. The phrase is probably from horse racing, with the post being the finishing line or post at the end of the race. Usually the phrase is used in the passive, as in ‘be pipped at the post‘, and it implies that a front runner is beaten right at the last stages of the race. In football, the phrase is used at the end of a season, when a team catches the leading team, maybe in the last few games, and wins the title. So, Tottenham are hoping they can pip Chelsea at the post and win the title.

Football Language: To Look over Their Shoulder

DB: And our second expression also comes from the sport of horse racing. To look over their shoulder describes a jockey checking the horses close behind, perhaps nervously, as they are close. In football, it describes a team worried about another just behind them on points. For example, Liverpool are looking over their shoulder at the two Manchester clubs, who are just behind on points – one point for Manchester City and Manchester United are four points behind.

Quiz question

DB: OK, next it is our weekly quiz question – and we’re going to stick with our theme of the top four spots in the Premier League. The question is, if two teams finish equal on points, they have the same goal difference, and they have scored the same number of goals, how is the position decided? How does the league decide which team finishes above the other? Is it a) they toss a coin; b) it is head-to-head results (the results in the league between the two teams – so if team A beat team B once and drew, team A would finish higher); or c) the have a playoff – another game with the winner finishing in the higher spot. We will have the answers at the end of the show.


DB: It’s nearly the end of the show, which means it’s our weekly predictions.

And looking at the overall standings, I am still 2nd with Damian top, and the monthly competition is still being led by Alexrr – so no changes from last week .

Remember you can join our predictions and play in our monthly league by coming along to the site,, and there at the top of the page you can see predictions competition – click, sign up or login for free and enter your predictions – we only have one more month to go.

Manchester City vs Crystal Palace

DB: Right, we have three games as usual and let’s start with Manchester City versus Crystal Palace. this was a potential banana skin for City as Palace are a team that can beat any other team on their day. As a Liverpool fan, I was hoping for a slip up by City so Liverpool could stay ahead but I predicted 2-0 to the Manchester side- they got a fine 5-0 victory and leapfrogged Liverpool into third spot.

Arsenal vs Manchester United

DB: And next match is the big clash this weekend between Arsenal, at home, and Manchester United. No love lost between Wenger and Mourinho the two managers, and the Frenchman will hope to dent United’s top four ambitions and keep Arsenal’s alive. I think this one will a 1-1 draw. And finally…

Liverpool vs Southampton

DB: … Liverpool and Southampton. I’m very nervous about this one, as recently, Liverpool haven’t looked that great. My head says 0-0 but I’ll go with my heart 2-0 to the Reds!

DB: Now, if anyone would like to come on the show to talk about some football language or take part in our predictions then drop us a line at

Quiz Answer

DB: And before we go, let’s get the answer to the quiz question we asked earlier. We asked you how the Premier League decides which team finishes higher if they are tied on points, have the same goal difference, and have scored the same number of goals – the answer is the two teams have to play a match to decide – there is a playoff. This is only done if a team needs to qualify for a competition, for example, the top four in the Premier League or they are threatened with relegation. There’s an outside chance that Manchester City and Liverpool or Hull and Swansea could be involved in a playoff but it looks unlikely.

Good bye

DB: Right, that’s it for this week’s podcast – drop us a line and let us know what you think of our show. Enjoy all the football this week, including the Champions League semi-final second legs. Ta-rah!

Check out our glossary of footballing phrases here
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Learn English Through Football
Learn English Through Football
Learn English Through Football

I was born and brought up near Chester in the north west of England. I have always loved playing and talking about sport, especially football!
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