What Aston Villa Conference League triumph would mean for Chelsea European qualification hopes

Cole Palmer will be hoping to lead Chelsea to a European finish in what remains of the season

Mauricio Pochettino's Chelsea side could well end up playing in Europe next season if their current form continues in the Premier League. With three games left on the calendar in the 2023/24 campaign, the Blues currently sit seventh and are hot on the heels of Newcastle United, who are one place and two points ahead of them.

Securing big wins over Everton and West Ham as well as a notable home victory over Tottenham, the west London club will be full of confidence going into their final three matches against Nottingham Forest, Brighton & Hove Albion and Bournemouth. European qualification seemed a long way off not so long ago but Chelsea may indeed secure qualification the way they're going at present.

As things stand, Arsenal, Man City, Liverpool and Aston Villa will be playing in the Champions League next season, Tottenham will be in the Europa League and Newcastle are on track for the Europa Conference League. With Chelsea two points off the Magpies at present, they will be looking to overtake Eddie Howe's men in what remains of the season and secure sixth unless fifth suddenly becomes attainable due to Spurs' current form.

There is a strong possibility that a sixth-place finish would equal a place in next season's Europa League rather than the Europa Conference League. That is because the winners of the FA Cup final between Man City and Manchester United at the end of the May are rewarded with a Europa League place.

As Man City, who are the favourites to win the famous trophy for the second year on the trot, are already assured of a place in next season's Champions League as they cannot drop out of the top four, an FA Cup victory would see their Europa League prize for winning the final at Wembley passed down the Premier League table. In that scenario, whoever finishes fifth and sixth would play in next season's Europa League, with seventh playing in the Europa Conference League.

However, if Manchester United are victorious at Wembley but miss out on a European spot via the league, they would qualify for the Europa League and the team in sixth would play in the Europa Conference League. As a European prize is also on offer for the teams who win UEFA's three club competitions, many Chelsea fans want to know if the Premier League would receive an extra European spot if Aston Villa are to triumph in the Europa Conference League final later this month.

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Unfortunately, that will not be the case even if Unai Emery's side, who are 4-2 down from their semi-final first leg against Olympiacos heading into the reverse fixture in Greece on Thursday evening, are to go on and lift the trophy in Athens on Wednesday, May 29. A Europa Conference League triumph does bring with it a place in next season's Europa League, yet Villa are already guaranteed a top-five finish and a Europa League berth as a minimum. That Europa League qualifying spot would not be passed down to another Premier League team as a result.

Twelve months ago West Ham, who finished 14th in the Premier League table, won UEFA's third club competition and qualified for the Europa League in the process. That meant the Premier League had eight representatives in Europe in the 2023/24 season, with seven set to do battle next term.

For Chelsea, they will have their fingers crossed that Pep Guardiola's side can win the FA Cup on Saturday, May 25, which in turn would see City's Europa League prize passed down the table. Key to securing a European place, though, is going to be carrying on their recent good form under Pochettino and achieving maximum points against Nottingham Forest, Brighton and Bournemouth over the next 11 days.