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Champions League and Europa League qualification: Who can make it? | Football News 1

Champions League and Europa League qualification: Who can make it? | Football News

Champions League and Europa League qualification: Who can make it? | Football News

 

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Champions League qualification is a major target for the Premier League's biggest clubs

Champions League qualification is a major target for the Premier League’s biggest clubs

With the Premier League return in full swing, the race for Europe is back on. But how can teams qualify and what can make it?

Two teams have already booked their place in European competitions or their qualifying rounds – Liverpool as Premier League winners and Manchester City as Carabao Cup winners, pending the outcome of their appeal against a UEFA ban – but there is still plenty of competition for places.

Here’s how qualification works for the Champions League and Europa League, why the FA Cup and Carabao Cup matter and how Man City’s two-year ban from European competition could further change the picture.

Champions League qualification

Liverpool won the Champions League last season and have already qualified for next year's competition as Premier League winners

Liverpool won the Champions League last season and have already qualified for next year’s competition as Premier League winners

In a regular season, the top four teams in the Premier League qualify for the group stages of the Champions League. Those days of Champions League qualifiers for finishing third and fourth have gone.

Next season is set to look very different, however.

With City set to be absent from European competition for the next two seasons, pending the outcome of their appeal to the Court of Arbitration for Sport, finishing fifth could be enough to secure a place in the Champions League next season, given Guardiola’s side are almost certain to finish in the top four.

Winning the Champions League or Europa League also guarantees a place in the group stages, with Liverpool and Chelsea having done so last season. Despite mixed results in the first legs of their knockout ties, Chelsea, Manchester United and Wolves are still in the hunt in those competitions.

Holders Liverpool were knocked out of the Champions League by Atletico Madrid just before the suspension of football, but have already booked their place in next season’s competition as Premier League champions.

Europa League qualification

Chelsea won the Europa League in the 2018/19 season

Chelsea won the Europa League in the 2018/19 season

There are three ways to qualify for the Europa League:

  • Finish fifth (or sixth if City’s ban is upheld) – qualify for the Europa League group stage
  • Win the FA Cup – qualify for the Europa League group stage
  • Win the Carabao Cup – qualify for the Europa League second qualifying round

If the winners of the FA Cup and Carabao Cup finish fifth or higher in the Premier League, their Europa League spots go to the next-highest ranked team not qualified for UEFA competitions in the Premier League.

For example, last season, Manchester City won both cups and the Premier League. Therefore, their spot in the group stage from the FA Cup victory was given to Manchester United – who finished in sixth – and seventh place Wolves entered into the second qualifying round.

Man City's Carabao Cup win in March means they have already booked a place in the Europa League qualifying rounds, but have a CAS appeal pending

Man City’s Carabao Cup win in March means they have already booked a place in the Europa League qualifying rounds, but have a CAS appeal pending

Manchester City’s Carabao Cup win this term is good news for the European-football chasers. Because they’re set to finish in the top five, their place in the second qualifying round of the Europa League transfers to the next highest-placed side. If City’s appeal is successful, this would be sixth but if not it will be the side that finishes seventh in 2019/20.

The FA Cup is down to the final four – Man City, Chelsea, Manchester United and Arsenal – and fans of European hopefuls should follow the action there closely, too.

Should City or a team in the top five also win the FA Cup, and City’s ban is upheld, the Europa League second-round qualifying spot will drop to the team who finishes eighth – with the sixth-placed team taking the second available group stage place.

Who is in the mix?

 

If we consider the possibility that those who finish in the top eight could secure a place in Europe next season, then there is hope for a huge number of Premier League teams…

Leicester – Brendan Rodgers’ side are winless since the Premier League restart but, based on league position, are the best-placed team to qualify for the Champions League in third. With European rivals Sheffield United, Arsenal, Tottenham and Manchester United to come, they will need to rediscover that winning touch.

Chelsea – The Blues have hit a purple patch of form, unbeaten in six games in all competitions either side of the football suspension. They have a decent run of Premier League fixtures and are also in the semi-finals of the FA Cup, playing Manchester United in July. Chelsea do have the Champions League route too, with a last-16 tie against Bayern Munich to complete, although they did lose the first leg 3-0 at Stamford Bridge in February.

Wolves are in the mix for another European spot next season

Wolves are in the mix for another European spot next season

Wolves – It’s not the easiest of Premier League run-ins for Wolves with Arsenal and Sheffield United among the fixtures plus a final day trip to Chelsea that could end up being a straight shoot out for a Champions League place. Nuno Espirito Santo’s side have been impressive since the restart – winning and keeping clean sheets in all three games – and are still in Europa League contention, with a home tie against Olympiakos to come following a 1-1 away draw in the first leg.

Manchester United – Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s side have the easiest Premier League run of the European contenders, mostly playing teams in the bottom half with only Leicester on the final day placed above them. They have two other routes to Europe too, with an FA Cup semi-final against Chelsea and the Europa League where they are in pole position against Linz ASK in the last 16 after a 5-0 away victory in the first leg.

Tottenham – Spurs are seven points from fifth place, but seventh has been enough to secure a Europa League place in the last five seasons and could take them even further this season. The Premier League will be their only route into Europe, having already been knocked out of the Champions League by RB Leipzig, and have Sheffield United, Everton, Arsenal and Leicester to come.

Sheffield United have been superb this season, but have not been in the best form since the restart

Sheffield United have been superb this season, but have not been in the best form since the restart

Sheffield United – This season’s surprise package, Sheffield United have slipped in their incredible race for a European place. They haven’t won since the Premier League restart, losing their last three games including an FA Cup exit to Arsenal. Their remaining fixtures include Tottenham, Wolves, Leicester and Chelsea, and while a top-half finish would be a remarkable achievement, it would be a shame for the Blades to end their wonderful season on a sour note.

Arsenal – After a rocky restart, the Gunners have won their last two games in all competitions as their hunt for a European place goes on. They are two points behind local rivals Tottenham in seventh but nine away from the relative safety of fifth with Liverpool, Wolves, Leicester and Tottenham still to play. They are still in the FA Cup route and were drawn with Man City in the semi-finals, but recently beat Arsenal 3-0 in their first game back.

The outside contenders – Just three points separate Arsenal in ninth and Southampton in 13th. Crystal Palace, Burnley and Everton fill the places in between and if things work in their favour, either of the four sides could well find themselves in seventh or eighth, with both potentially being enough for a European spot next season.

Why fourth or fifth may not guarantee a Champions League place…

Chelsea's Champions League victory in 2012 demoted Spurs to the Europa League

Chelsea’s Champions League victory in 2012 demoted Spurs to the Europa League

Could there be a further twist?

Should the winners of the Champions League and Europa League both come from England – as they did last season – are not Manchester City and both finish outside the top four (or five if City are banned), the team finishing in the lowest-ranked Champions League qualifying place would drop into the Europa League, with the winning of a European competition taking precedence over a league finish.

Were, for example, Wolves to win the Europa League and Chelsea the Champions League – with neither finishing inside the top four or five, the side finishing fourth or fifth (depending on City’s appeal) would miss out on playing in the elite club competition next season.

Who has already qualified?

Champions League – Liverpool

Europa League – Manchester City*

*second qualifying round, pending appeal

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