Liverpool could face Champions League play-off against Sevilla, Napoli or Dortmund
By Gerard Brand
Last Updated: 21/05/17 1:30pm
Liverpool could face the likes of Sevilla, Napoli or Borussia Dortmund in the Champions League play-off round if they finish fourth in the Premier League.
The Reds are in fourth place going into their final-day fixture at home to Middlesbrough, live on Sky Sports, but could overtake third-place Manchester City, who go to Watford, also live on Sky Sports.
Liverpool are two points behind City and with an inferior goal difference (+33 to +36), but overtaking them could be vitally important if they wish to reach the group stage of the 2017/18 Champions League.
Due to their strong UEFA club coefficient rankings, Manchester City and Arsenal would be guaranteed a seeded place in the 10-team play-off round draw if either finished fourth, though Liverpool's ranking is considerably weaker.
Even if Liverpool are seeded, the likes of Roma, Hoffenheim, Besiktas and Sporting Lisbon could be waiting for them, meaning Sunday's games take on even more importance.
Confused? You're forgiven. It's complicated. Here we explain what it all means...
How does the play-off round draw work?
The Champions League play-off round draw is split between five seeded teams and five unseeded teams, ranked on their coefficient score, which takes into account performances in Europe over the last five seasons. The five winners go into the Champions League group stage, and the losers go into the Europa League.
Five of the 10 teams in this round are made up of: clubs that finish fourth in Spain (Sevilla guaranteed), Germany and England, plus the clubs that finish third in Italy and Portugal (Sporting Lisbon guaranteed).
The remaining five are teams that have come through the previous Third Qualifying Round League Route, which is made up of five games between: third-place club in France and second-place clubs in Russia, Ukraine, Belgium, Netherlands, Turkey, Czech Republic, Romania, Greece and Switzerland.
So far, only Sevilla and Sporting Lisbon are guaranteed a spot in the Champions League play-off round. In Germany, Dortmund and Hoffenheim are battling it out for third spot with a game remaining. In Italy, where the top three places are awarded Champions League football compared to the Premier League, La Liga and Bundesliga's four, Napoli and Roma are fighting for second.
What needs to happen
To put it simply, here's what Liverpool fans will be hoping happens in order to avoid those tricky European ties…
- A) Liverpool finish third. No need to worry about coefficients, seeds or an early trip to Nyon for club officials. They go straight into the Champions League group stage for the first time since 2014. If Man City or Arsenal finish fourth, their coefficient score would already guarantee them a seeded spot in the play-off round.
- B) Put simply, Liverpool's coefficient score needs to be in the top five of the 10 clubs who qualify for the play-off round. With all possible outcomes, here's the current list of clubs who could reach the play-offs and their coefficient ranking. Those in bold are guaranteed a spot in the 10-team play-off round and those in bold italics are guaranteed to be in the third qualifying round.
1. Borussia Dortmund (124.899)
2. Sevilla (112.771)
3. Arsenal (105.021)
4. Manchester City (100.021)
5. Napoli (88.499)
6. Zenit (87.106)
7. Dynamo Kiev (67.526)
8. Ajax (64.092)*
9. LIVERPOOL (56.021)
10. Roma (53.566)
12. Besiktas (45.840)
13. Viktoria Plzen (40.635)
14. CSKA Moscow (39.606)
15. Club Brugge (39.480)
16. Sporting Lisbon (36.866)
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17. Gent (35.480)
18. Steaua Bucharest (35.370)
19. PAOK (35.080)
20. Young Boys (28.915)
21. Nice (16.766)
22. Istanbul Basaksehir (10.340)
23. Slavia Prague (8.135)
24. Hoffenheim (0)
*If Ajax win the Europa League final against Man Utd, they will qualify for the Champions League Group Stage, and despite reports elsewhere, PSV will not move into Ajax's place. UEFA say the access list will be adjusted and priority will be given to winners of domestic championships as per the 2017/18 access list. This will be announced at a later date by UEFA, but in any case, the team is highly unlikely to have a higher coefficient than Liverpool.
How Liverpool can move into the top five
As you can see, Liverpool are currently ninth in the list of possible play-off participants and need to come top five. You can wipe Arsenal and Manchester City off that list if Liverpool finish fourth in the Premier League, moving them up to seventh in the coefficient rank.
They then need to move up an extra two places, meaning two of these outcomes need to happen
- A) Dortmund need to finish third in the Bundesliga, above Hoffenheim, Both teams are level on points and Dortmund have a four-goal GD advantage. Dortmund host Werder Bremen on Saturday, while Hoffenheim host Augsburg. If Dortmund finish third, Hoffenheim go into the play-off round, but have a lower coefficient rank than Liverpool. See the Bundesliga table and fixtures HERE.
- B) Napoli need to overtake Roma in Serie A. Roma are a point above Napoli with two games remaining. See the Serie A table and fixtures HERE.
- C) CSKA Moscow must finish second in the Russian league, ahead of third-place Zenit. CSKA are a point ahead of Zenit with two games remaining.
- D) Ajax win the Europa League. Liverpool fans won't need much encouragement to cheer them on in any case on Wednesday...
- E) Dynamo Kiev must not make it through to the Champions League play-off round. The Ukrainian side are guaranteed a spot in the third qualifying round.
And if Liverpool are seeded…
Well, there's still a tough task ahead, and Jurgen Klopp wouldn't underestimate it. It's worth noting, nor would Manchester City and Arsenal, who of course would be seeded if they finished fourth.
If seeded, the fourth-place Premier League side could face the likes of CSKA, Besiktas, Sporting Lisbon, Hoffenheim or Roma in the play-off round. No easy task, whatever happens.
One thing is for sure, you won't be seeing this article again in 12 months. From next season, the top four in the Premier League will go directly to the Champions League group stage. Hooray!