Following Manchester City’s European ban being lifted, what does it mean for Premier League teams chasing Europe? How many teams qualify and who can make it?
Champions League qualification
Two teams have already booked their place in European competitions or their qualifying rounds – Liverpool as Premier League winners and Manchester City, who confirmed their status as runners-up with the win at Brighton at the weekend, but there is still plenty of competition for places.
With City reinstated back into European competitions, the top four teams in the Premier League will qualify for the group stages of the Champions League.
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
There are three ways to qualify for the Europa League:
- Finish fifth – 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-placed Wolves entered into the second qualifying round.
Manchester City’s Carabao Cup win this term is good news for the European-football chasers. Because City are guaranteed to finish as Premier League runners-up, their place in the second qualifying round of the Europa League transfers to the next highest-placed side, in this case in sixth-place.
The FA Cup is down to the final four – City, Chelsea, 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, the Europa League second-round qualifying spot will drop to the team who finishes seventh.
Can a team gain European qualification if finishing in eighth? No. Seven is the maximum any country can have in European competition, unless a team qualifies by winning the FA Cup or a European competition. So this season, it will not be possible to qualify for Europe by league position any lower than seventh even if Manchester United or Wolves win the Europa League and finish fifth.
Why fourth or fifth may not guarantee a Champions League place…
So what happens if, like last season, the winners of the Champions League and Europa League come from England and both those winning clubs finish outside of the top four?
In that case, which is very unlikely given City are confirmed as top-four finishers and Chelsea have such a sizeable first-leg deficit to Bayern, then finishing in the lowest-ranked Champions League qualifying place would drop into the Europa League as 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 would miss out on playing in the elite club competition next season.
Who has already qualified?
Champions League – Liverpool, Manchester City
Who is in the mix?
Depending on the identity of the winners of this year’s Champiopns League, FA Cup and Europa League, clubs which finish in the Premier League’s top sevencould secure a place in Europe next season:
Chelsea – Chelsea’s crushing defeat at Sheffield United threatens to transform the European qualification picture. All of a sudden, with City’s successful appeal against their ban ensuring that only the clubs finishing in the top four will qualify for the Champions League, Frank Lampard’s team look vulnerable – although it would be one of the shock results of the season if Chelsea do not collect a comfortable three points against already-relegated Norwich.
But if the teams behind Chelsea can keep up the pressure then Chelsea’s final two matches will have a very intriguing narrative bubbling in the background.
Meanwhile, Chelsea are also in the semi-finals of the FA Cup and remain in this season’s Champions League with a last-16 tie against Bayern Munich to complete. Technically, it’s still possible that Chelsea will finish outside of the top four and win the Champions League, but the odds are stacked firmly against that scenario after they lost the first leg 3-0 to Bayern at Stamford Bridge in February.
Remaining fixtures: Norwich (h), Liverpool (a), Wolves (h)
Leicester – Still in position to qualify for the Champions League, but Brendan Rodgers’ side have badly struggled for form since Christmas and their incredible collapse at struggling Bournemouth has pushed the Foxes close to crisis.
Can they hold on to the top-four place they have held since September?
Given the form of Manchester United and Chelsea since the restart, Leicester may need three wins from three to stay in the top four but Crystal Palace and Aston Villa currently remain the only two teams they have beaten since February. That final day clash with United will surely prove decisive, one way or another.
Remaining fixtures: Sheffield United (h), Tottenham (a), Manchester United (h)
Manchester United – Now just a point behind Leicester with a game in hand, Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s side have the easiest Premier League run-in of the European contenders, mostly playing teams in the bottom half with only Leicester – who they will face 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 LASK in the last 16 after a 5-0 away victory in the first leg.
Remaining fixtures: Southampton (h), Crystal Palace (a), West Ham (h), Leicester (a)
Wolves – How quickly the picture changes. Just when the impression was taking hold that Wolves were faltering at the wrong time following their back-to-back defeats to Arsenal and Sheffield United, Nuno Espirito Santo’s side surged back into Champions League equation with a thumping victory over Everton.
Three victories from their final three games would make things very interesting indeed – not least because they face Chelsea on the final day.
Wolves are also still in Europa League contention with a home tie against Olympiakos to come following a 1-1 away draw in the first leg. Win that competition and they will qualify for the Champions League no matter where they finish domestically.
Remaining fixtures: Burnley (a), Crystal Palace (h), Chelsea (a)
Sheffield United – This season’s surprise package, Chris Wilder’s side are very much back in contention for Europe after an excellent bounce-back to form: defeat of Tottenham, a point at Burnley, a last-gasp victory over Wolves, a thrashing of Chelsea.
Thursday’s game at Leicester, live on Sky Sports, could prove pivotal for both sides. As things stand, as long as Arsenal don’t win the FA Cup, finishing seventh will be enough for Europa League qualification.
Remaining fixtures: Leicester (a), Everton (h), Southampton (a)
Tottenham – Back above Arsenal in the league table after their derby win and very much back in the hunt for European qualification. Their final games have good potential for a decent haul of points too, although the fixture against Leicester will be a particularly tough proposition.
Remaining fixtures: Newcastle (a), Leicester (h), Crystal Palace (a)
Arsenal – The failure to hang on to leads against Brighton, Leicester and Tottenham since the restart has cost Arsenal any lingering hope of qualifying for the Champions League. It has also put their hopes of qualifying for the Europa League in serious jeopardy too: given the number of teams above them in the league table, only three wins from their final three games may be sufficient. Trouble is, their next match is against Liverpool, the champions, live on Sky Sports.
They are still in the FA Cup but were drawn with Manchester City in the semi-finals – less than a month after losing 3-0 at City in their first game back.
Remaining fixtures: Liverpool (h), Aston Villa (a), Watford (h)
Arsenal vs Liverpool
July 15, 2020, 8:00pm
Burnley – If Arsenal are still in contention for Europe then so are Burnley: not only do Sean Dyche’s men have the same number of points as the Gunners but they are also on a far better run of form. It’s also very arguable that they have a more attractive set of remaining fixtures too.
Remaining fixtures: Wolves (h), Norwich (a), Brighton (h)