How finishing fourth in Premier League may not guarantee Champions League spot
By Gerard Brand
Last Updated: 18/03/16 8:01pm
The fourth-place team in the Premier League may drop into the Europa League if both Liverpool and Manchester City lift silverware in Europe this season.
UEFA rules stipulate that each association can have a maximum of five clubs in the Champions League for the 2016/17 season, meaning if Manchester City win this season's competition and Liverpool win the Europa League, the fourth-place side will have to drop out, provided Manchester City and Liverpool do not finish in the top four.
That means the likes of either Arsenal, West Ham or Manchester United, all in and around the top four places at present, could lose their Champions League reward if they finished fourth.
UEFA rules now state that Europa League winners automatically qualify for Europe's elite competition, as well as Champions League winners.
The previous maximum number an association was permitted in the Champions League was four, a scenario which saw Tottenham drop out of the Champions League for the 2012/13 season despite finishing fourth, thanks to sixth-place Chelsea's Champions League final win over Bayern Munich in May 2012.
Manchester City reached the last eight of the Champions League for the first time this week with a 3-1 aggregate win over Dynamo Kiev, while Liverpool got past Manchester United on Thursday night to reach the Europa League quarter-final.
- 1) Manchester United finish fourth in the Premier League, while Manchester City and Liverpool finish outside of top four
- 2) Manchester City win the Champions League and Liverpool win the Europa League
- 3) Manchester United would drop into the Europa League because City and Liverpool automatically qualify
- 4) Because a maximum of five clubs are allowed in Champions League for 2016/17 season
United are currently four points behind rivals City in the race for the Champions League spots, but they face off in a crucial Super Sunday clash.
West Ham, meanwhile, are two points behind Manchester City with nine games remaining, while the likes of Southampton, Stoke and Chelsea would not rule themselves out of pulling themselves into contention.
There could also be a bizarre scenario which would give the eighth-place side in the Premier League a Europa League spot.
As it stands, the three Europa League places will go to the fifth- and sixth-place side in the Premier League, as well as the FA Cup winners.
However, if West Ham win the FA Cup and finish fifth or sixth, and Liverpool win the Europa League and finish between fifth and seventh, the eighth-place side will be given a Europa League spot.
This is because both West Ham would automatically qualify for the Europa League if they won the FA Cup, while Liverpool would enter the Champions League if they win the Europa League, stretching England's quota for the competition.