European qualification explained: how Prem clubs reach Champions League and Europa competitions
The top four qualify for the Champions League, right? Not necessarily. As Premier League clubs stare down the home straight, we explain how the European places are allocated…
Everyone knows the Premier League’s top four qualifies for the Champions League. That’s usually pretty clear-cut – unless you’re Harry Redknapp’s Tottenham. But the other routes into Europe are not always as obvious. Here are the qualification criteria and permutations for the three main UEFA competitions.
The top four finishers in the Premier League enter at the group stage. No pesky qualification rounds necessary.
There are usually two Europa League places up for grabs. One belongs to the fifth-placed finisher in the Premier League. The other goes to the winners of the FA Cup. Both enter at the group stage.
Europa Conference League
As well as all the fizzy pop they can drink, the Carabao Cup winners also receive a place in the play-off stages for Europa Conference League.
Simple, right? Well, no…
At least if Spurs were to seal a place in the top four this season but Chelsea repeat their 2012 trick by winning the European Cup while finishing fifth or below then no longer would the fourth-placed team have to give up their spot. In that instance, the Premier League would have five teams in the Champions League the following season.
That would also be true if a Premier League club outside the top four wins the Europa League. They would enter the following season’s Champions League at the group stage.
Those, though, are the only circumstances in which there would be five English representatives in the Champions League. If a team who finishes in the top four also wins the Champions League, the place isn’t passed on to another club.
Indeed, with a maximum of five clubs allowed, there is still the possibility of suffering the same fate as Harry’s Spurs. If Premier League clubs win the Champions League and Europa League while neither finish in the top four, then the fourth-placed team would surrender their Champions League place and drop into the Europa League.
The one European place already allocated this season is Manchester United’s after their Carabao Cup triumph. But United look well-placed to finish in the top four, assuming their Anfield annihilation was a one-off. If United do secure a Champions League place or Europa League berth by finishing in the top five, then their Europa Conference League place will be reserved for the next highest Premier League finisher not already having qualified for Europe.
The same applies if the FA Cup winners finish in the top five – their Europa League place will go to the Premier League’s highest finisher without a European place by other means. Brighton and Fulham could yet do something mental, but it looks most likely that will only happen this season if United or City win the FA Cup.
In which case, fifth and sixth place would enter the Europa League next season, and seventh would go into the Europa Conference League. Which is how West Ham found themselves in Europe again this season.
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