Champions League, Europa League, Europa Conference League qualification explained: Who will be playing in Europe next season?

Seven English teams will be playing in Europe next season but how do sides qualify for the Champions League, Europa League, or the new Europa Conference League? And what happens if cup winners finish in the top four of the Premier League?

Roberto Firmino heads Liverpool into a 2-1 lead at Manchester United
Image: Roberto Firmino scored twice as Liverpool beat Man Utd to boost their top-four hopes

The European Super League has been quashed but the race is very much on to qualify for the Champions League, Europa League, or the new Europa Conference League.

Here's how qualification works - and why the Champions League, Europa League, FA Cup and Carabao Cup winners make a difference to those chasing qualification through the Premier League.

It gets a little complicated but keep in mind, the maximum number of English teams in UEFA competitions is seven...

Champions League qualification

The top four teams in the Premier League qualify for the group stages of the Champions League.

Winning the Champions League or Europa League also guarantees a place in the group stages.

Up to five English teams can qualify for the Champions League through these two methods but if Manchester United win the Europa League and finish in the top four, their qualification for the Champions League through their league position is not transferred to another team.

The race for the top four
Image: The race for the top four

How fourth place now guarantees a Champions League place...

There was only one scenario that could play out and mean the fourth-placed finisher misses out on Champions League football.

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It would have occurred if Chelsea finished outside the top four and won the Champions League and Arsenal finished outside the top four and won the Europa League.

But Arsenal's Europa League exit to Villarreal in the semi-finals means the top four are now assured of a Champions League berth.

Europa League and Europa Conference League qualification

There are two Europa League spots available to English clubs. One goes to the team which finishes fifth in the Premier League, the second goes to the side which wins the FA Cup.

As well as the Champions League and the Europa League, the Europa Conference League launches next season.

The idea behind the Europa Conference League is to give more clubs a taste of European football, particularly sides from countries that struggle to qualify for the other two UEFA competitions. But there's a spot up for grabs for English clubs, too.

The winner of the Carabao Cup was guaranteed to qualify for the Europa Conference League play-off round. But after Manchester City lifted the trophy - having already secured a place in the Champions League qualifying spot - their place will be passed on to the next highest-ranked Premier League side which has not qualified for a UEFA competition.

Sergio Aguero and Fernandinho celebrate with the trophy after winning the Carabao Cup (AP)
Image: Sergio Aguero and Fernandinho celebrate with the trophy after winning the Carabao Cup

Meanwhile, Chelsea face Leicester in the FA Cup final and both of those sides are currently in the top four in the Premier League. If they stay there, they will qualify for the Champions League, meaning the Europa League qualifying spot for winning the FA Cup will be passed on to the next highest-ranked Premier League side which has not qualified for a UEFA competition.

Provided Chelsea and Leicester remain in the top five - or Thomas Tuchel's side go on to lift the Champions League - the Premier League's seventh-placed team will qualify for the Europa Conference League next season.

Club by club - who needs what to qualify for Europe

Man City - 80 points, 35 games

Remaining games: Newcastle (away), Brighton (away), Everton (home), Chelsea (Champions League final)

Courtesy of being crowned Premier League champions, City will be in the Champions League next season - and they could, of course, still win the trophy this year in May 29's final.

Man Utd - 70 points, 36 games

Remaining games: Fulham (home), Wolves (away), Villarreal (Europa League final)

Manchester United's win at Aston Villa coupled with West Ham's defeat later on Sunday already meant United were certain to finish in the top four prior to their loss to Leicester.

They could have, in any case, qualified for the Champions League via the Europa League - United are in the final on May 26.

Meanwhile, with Leicester potentially reaching 72 points and Chelsea 70, United still need at least one more win to be sure of finishing second.

Leicester - 66 points, 36 games

Remaining games: Chelsea (FA Cup final), Chelsea (away), Tottenham (home)

Leicester's victory against a much-changed Manchester United has put them within touching distance of Champions League qualification - just four points from their remaining two matches will be enough regardless of what the teams below them in the league table do. However, Leicester's win over United has reduced the number of teams that could still finish above them from four to three - it is no longer possible for Spurs to do so.

If Leicester were to slip out, as they did at the end of last season, they could still qualify for the Europa League via fifth place or by winning the FA Cup final.

Chelsea - 64 points, 36 games

Remaining games: Leicester (FA Cup final), Leicester (home), Aston Villa (away), Man City (Champions League final)

After their surprise home defeat to Arsenal, Chelsea still need six more points from their remaining Premier League games - Leicester at home and Aston Villa away - to guarantee a top-four finish.

Chelsea could still finish the season with 70 points while Leicester can reach 72. But both teams cannot reach those tallies given they play each other in the league next week, leaving the door open to the sides just outside the top four.

But Thomas Tuchel's team could still qualify for next season's Champions League by winning the competition outright this season - if you have not heard, Chelsea face Man City in the final on May 29.

In the event of a collapse of league form, a fifth-place finish or FA Cup win would place them in the Europa League.

Liverpool - 60 points, 35 games

Remaining games: West Brom (away), Burnley (away), Crystal Palace (home)

There's still work to be done to reach the top four but Liverpool are now just four points behind Chelsea and six behind Leicester - but with a game in hand on both - following their 4-2 win at Manchester United.

"This is a massive win for Liverpool," said Sky Sports' Jamie Carragher after the victory at Old Trafford. "It's now fully in their hands for the Champions League positions. There's still a lot of work to do but there will be a lot of nerves at Leicester and Stamford Bridge now."

On paper, Liverpool's remaining fixtures look inviting. Perhaps more critically, either or both Leicester and Chelsea will drop points in their next Premier League match given they play each other. That means both Chelsea and Leicester cannot finish the season with more than 69 points - which is the maximum Liverpool can achieve.

But even if Liverpool were to win all of their remaining games then it would not automatically follow that they will finish in the top four. One remaining scenario is that Chelsea could win both of their games to finish with 70 points while Leicester, after a defeat at Chelsea, would beat Tottenham on the final day to end the season on 69. In that case, Liverpool, assuming they win all their three final games, would finish level on points with Leicester. If that is what transpires, the fight for fourth would be decided on goal difference. At present, Liverpool's goal difference is +20 and Leicester's +21.

Fifth place, meanwhile, will send Liverpool into the Europa League, while the Reds are also in contention for a place in the Europa Conference League if they finish best of the rest among sides not qualified for the Champions League or Europa League.

West Ham - 58 points, 35 games

Remaining games: Brighton (away), West Brom (away), Southampton (home)

Back in genuine contention to qualify for the Champions League after Arsenal's win at Chelsea?

Yes, but David Moyes' side still have plenty of work to do if they are to reach the top four: although they have a game in hand on their London rivals, West Ham are still six points behind Chelsea.

West Ham are still eight points behind Leicester with three games to go - meaning that only three wins out of three will be sufficient to give them any chance of finishing above Brendan Rodgers' side.

Behind West Ham, Tottenham and Everton are both two points shy of the Hammers having played the same number of games.

As above, Arsenal's Europa League exit means the Hammers will avoid the nightmare scenario of finishing fourth but missing out on the Champions League - which would have happened had both Chelsea and Arsenal finished outside the top four and won the Champions League and Europa League respectively.

And they remain in contention for a place in the Europa Conference League if they finish best of the rest among sides not qualified for the Champions League or Europa League.

Tottenham - 56 points, 35 games

Remaining games: Wolves (home), Aston Villa (home), Leicester (away)

Defeat at Leeds means Tottenham remain eight points shy of the top four with just three games to go. So only three victories will do - had Chelsea beaten Arsenal, their hopes of qualifying for the Champions League would already be over.

More realistically, Tottenham are in contention to qualify for the Europa League - and the Europa Conference League if they finish best of the rest among sides not qualified for the Champions League or Europa League.

It's also worth noting that Tottenham's goal difference - plus 20 - is so superior to Everton's - plus 4 - that it effectively counts as an extra point over Carlo Ancelotti's team.

Everton - 56 points, 35 games

Remaining games: Sheffield United (home), Wolves (home), Man City (away)

Despite starting the week in ninth and despite their disappointing draw at Villa, Everton still have a mathematical chance of qualifying for the Champions League - were they to win all of their three remaining games, they would end the season on 65 points, one more than fourth-placed Chelsea currently hold. But even with the acknowledgement that Everton still have a game in hand on most of the clubs above them, including Chelsea, it is clearly an extremely unlikely outcome.

So Everton's more realistic ambition still looks to be qualification for the Europa League. While the draw at Villa amounted to a setback, the win at West Ham on Sunday means Everton are now only two points behind the Hammers with two home games to come next.

Arsenal - 55 points, 36 games

Remaining games: Crystal Palace (away), Brighton (home)

Arsenal are now mathematically unable to make the top four, and their best chance of qualifying for the Champions League was extinguished when they were knocked out of the Europa League by Villarreal in the semi-finals.

Amassing enough points to reach the Europa League or even Europa Conference League still looks unlikely, leaving the club without European football for the first time in 25 years. However, were they to follow up their win at Chelsea with victories against Palace and Brighton then Arsenal would end the season with 61 points - which might be enough.

Leeds - 50 points, 35 games

Remaining games: Burnley (away), Southampton (away), West Brom (home)

It's still mathematically possible for Leeds to finish the season in fifth, although it would require an utterly improbable set of results for that outcome to occur.

But, given the league position of their remaining opponents, three victories from their final three games is far from improbable, in which case Leeds would end the campaign with 59 points - and in with a chance of qualifying for Europe.

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