How Premier League clubs can seal Champions League and Europa League spots
Last Updated: 19/04/19 11:57am
Which Premier League clubs will be playing European football next season - and how many English sides will there be in the Champions League?
As we head deeper into The Run In, eyes are now turning to qualification for next season's European competitions.
With four English sides involved in European semi-finals for the first time in 35 years, it is worth revisiting the possible permutations that double silverware on the continent might mean for sides competing for a top-four Premier League finish.
Here, we explain what spots are available for Premier League clubs in the Champions League and Europa League, and at what stage they will enter the respective competitions...
Methods of qualifying for the Champions League
In normal circumstances, UEFA grants four Champions League places to English clubs who fulfil the following:
- League position - The Premier League champions will be seeded in the group stage and will be joined in the draw by the second and third-placed clubs. Since the 2018/19 season, fourth place will also secure passage to the group stages.
Clubs can also qualify for the Champions League with the following:
- Champions League win - Guarantees a place in the group stage of next season's Champions League.
- Europa League win - Guarantees a place in the group stage if the Champions League winners qualify for next season's competition through their league position, otherwise, it secures a place in the playoffs.
Methods of qualifying for the Europa League
In normal circumstances, UEFA grants three Europa League places to English clubs who fulfil the following:
- League position - A fifth-place finish in the Premier League secures a spot in the group stages.
- FA Cup win - Guarantees a spot in the group stages.
- League Cup win - Guarantees a spot in the second qualifying round.
Note, if the winners of the FA Cup finish fifth or higher in the Premier League, their spot in the Europa League group stage goes to the next-highest ranked team not qualified for UEFA competitions in the Premier League.
The same applies to the League Cup. If the winners - Manchester City - finish in the top five - or top six if the FA Cup winner finishes in the top five - their spot in the second qualifying round of the Europa League goes to the next-highest ranked team not qualified for UEFA competitions in the Premier League.
With current leaders City all but guaranteed a place in the top four, their victory in the League Cup final will almost certainly see their Europa League qualifying spot handed down.
Interestingly, given the current Premier League standings, sixth-place Chelsea - who City beat in the final - would benefit, filling City's place in the Europa League second-qualifying round if they don't win the Europa League this season.
This also means that seventh spot - which allowed Burnley to compete in the qualifying rounds of the Europa League in August - is also a potential route into Europe should the above work out in their favour. Wolves currently occupy the spot but only on goal difference, with Watford level with them on 43 points.
Does fourth guarantee Champions League?
Ask any Tottenham fan this question and you'll get an unequivocal answer - no! Spurs, of course, were demoted to the Europa League in 2012 despite finishing fourth after sixth-placed Chelsea won the Champions League.
A similar series of events could occur at the end of the season if English clubs win both the Champions League and Europa League and neither qualify for the Champions League as a result of their position in the Premier League.
On Thursday night, Chelsea and Arsenal were joined by Valencia and Eintracht Frankfurt in the Europa League semi-finals.
How fourth may not be enough for Champions League
The team that finishes fourth in the Premier League at the end of the season may miss out on Champions League qualification
Arsenal face the Spanish side, who are sixth in La Liga, over two legs for a place in the final in Baku on May 29, while Chelsea will look to do likewise against their Bundesliga opponents.
Should we end up with an all-English Europa League final in Azerbaijan, it could raise the possibility of fourth spot domestically not being enough to secure a Champions League place for next season.
The winners of the Europa League are guaranteed a place in next season's Champions League.
The side that finishes fourth in the Premier League will enter the Europa League group stage if Tottenham win the Champions League but finish outside the top four and Chelsea or Arsenal with the Europa League next month and also finish outside the top four.
Could seventh place make Europe?
If the winners of the FA Cup finish fifth or higher in the Premier League, their spot in the Europa League group stage goes to the next-highest ranked team not qualified for UEFA competitions in the Premier League.
To add, with League Cup winners Manchester City assured of a top-four spot, their spot in the second qualifying round of the Europa League (awarded to them after winning the League Cup) goes to the next-highest ranked team not qualified for UEFA competitions in the Premier League.
So, should the FA Cup winner finish sixth or higher, seventh place will earn a Europa League second qualifying round spot.
The 'Fair Play' spot is a thing of the past. Following a UEFA Executive Committee decision in December 2014, as of the 2015/16 season, Fair Play no longer earns clubs a route into the Europa League.
Regardless of who wins the Premier League, Champions League, Europa League, FA Cup or League Cup, England can only have seven clubs representing them across the two European competitions.
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