European qualification explained: how Prem clubs reach Champions League and Europa competitions
As Premier League clubs stare down the home straight, we explain how the European places are allocated and which teams are headed into which competitions.
Everyone knows the Premier League’s top four qualifies for the Champions League. That’s usually pretty clear-cut – unless you’re Harry Redknapp’s Tottenham. But the other routes into Europe are not always as obvious. Here are the qualification criteria and permutations for the three main UEFA competitions.
The top four finishers in the Premier League enter at the group stage. No pesky qualification rounds necessary.
There are usually two Europa League places up for grabs. One belongs to the fifth-placed finisher in the Premier League. The other goes to the winners of the FA Cup. Both enter at the group stage.
Europa Conference League
As well as all the fizzy pop they can drink, the Carabao Cup winners also receive a place in the play-off stages for Europa Conference League.
Had a team from outside the top four won the Champions League or Europa League then there would be five English representatives in the Champions League but exits by Chelsea and Manchester United really do keep this simple: The top four will enter the Champions League at the group stage.
If a team who finishes in the top four also wins the Champions League (Manchester City), the place isn’t passed on to another club.
The first European place allocated this season was Manchester United’s after their Carabao Cup triumph. But they have also guaranteed a top-four finish, so their Europa Conference League place will be reserved for the next highest Premier League finisher not already qualified for Europe.
The same applies if the FA Cup winners finish in the top five – their Europa League place will go to the Premier League’s highest finisher without a European place by other means. After Brighton and Sheffield United were vanquished in the semi-finals, that route will revert to the Premier League.
Fifth and sixth place will subsequently enter the Europa League next season, and seventh will go into the Europa Conference League. Which is how West Ham found themselves in Europe again this season.
Current probable qualifications:
Manchester City, Arsenal, Manchester United and Newcastle United: Champions League.
Liverpool and Brighton: Europa League.
Aston Villa: Europa Conference League
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