Premier League: Who can qualify for Champions League and Europa League?

Premier League: Who can qualify for Champions League and Europa League?
Frank Lampard
Frank Lampard is hoping to lead Chelsea – who are still in this season’s tournament – into the Champions League

Chelsea’s 1-0 win over Norwich gives them a big boost in their hunt for a Champions League spot next season.

Manchester City’s successful appeal against their European ban means the top four in the Premier League will (probably) qualify for next season’s Champions League, with the next two (or possibly three) going into the Europa League.

What do their run-ins look like, who is likely to qualify and who could meet in what would effectively be a Champions League play-off? With only three games to go, BBC Sport thought it was time we checked things out.

Champions League

Third and fourth place qualify for the Champions League (unless English teams win both European competitions and finish outside the top four), with Liverpool and Manchester City having sealed the top two places

Premier League champions Liverpool and Manchester City, who will definitely finish second, have already booked their place in next season’s Champions League.

Chelsea, Leicester and Manchester United are probably battling it out for the final two Champions League group stage spots – although Wolves, Sheffield United and Tottenham could all qualify mathematically.

There is a possibility only the top three would qualify for the Champions League – if the two major European club trophies are both won by English teams won finish outside this season’s top four.

Why? Because there can be a maximum of five English teams in the Champions League. So if Chelsea win the Champions League and Wolves or Manchester United win the Europa League – and neither finish in the top four, then both sides would qualify for next season’s Champions League and fourth place in the Premier League would only earn a Europa League spot.

3. Chelsea

Liverpool (a, 22 July), Wolves (h, 26 July)

Chelsea, who are four points clear of fifth place, need four points from their final two difficult games to be sure of a top-four spot.

They may only need three points by the time they play Liverpool if some of their rivals drop points this week.

Chances of top four (from football statisticians Gracenote, A Nielsen Company): 87%

4. Leicester City

Sheff Utd (h, 16 July), Spurs (a, 19 July), Man Utd (h, 26 July)

Leicester City are in the fourth Champions League position, but only above Manchester United – their final-day opponents – on goal difference. That game could end up being winner-takes-all for the final Champions League spot.

They need to win their final three games to be sure of finishing in the top four. That is easier said than done as the Foxes have only won one of their six games since the restart.

Chances of top four (from Gracenote): 33%

5. Manchester United

Crystal Palace (a, 16 July), West Ham (h, 22 July), Leicester (a, 26 July)

Manchester United – the Premier League’s form team – will guarantee a top-four finish if they win their final three games.

Chances of top four (from Gracenote): 76%

Could there be a Champions League play-off?
Leicester are above Manchester United by +3 goal difference (with four more goals scored). If they finish level on points, goal difference and goals scored, and are fourth and fifth, then it goes down to head-to-head record (factoring in away goals). United won 1-0 at home in September. If the Foxes win 1-0 on the final day – and they are level on points, goal difference and goals scored, then they would need a play-off to decide who finishes fourth.

6. Wolves

Burnley (a, 15 July), Crystal Palace (h, 20 July), Chelsea (a, 26 July)

Wolves only have slim hopes of the top four now. They sit four points behind Leicester and Manchester United – and have to overtake two teams – so need several results to go their way.

Chances of top four (from Gracenote): 4%

7. Sheffield United

Leicester (a, 16 July), Everton (h, 20 July), Southampton (a, 26 July)

Sheffield United are five points behind Leicester – their next opponents – and Manchester United so would need to win all three games and hope for the sides above them to all drop lots of points.

Chances of top four (from Gracenote): less than 1%

8. Tottenham Hotspur

Newcastle (a, 15 July), Leicester (h, 19 July), Crystal Palace (a, 26 July)

Spurs are seven points behind the top four so need a miracle really. Failure to win all their games ends their theoretical hopes.

Chances of top four (from Gracenote): less than 1%

Europa League

Fifth and sixth place will qualify for the Europa League – and possibly seventh spot

The teams who finish fifth and sixth will qualify for next season’s Europa League (unless they win one of next month’s European tournaments).

If the FA Cup winners finish in the top six, then seventh place in the Premier League would qualify for the Europa League. The team who qualify in the lowest league spot go into the second qualifying round.

FA Cup semi-finalists Arsenal are currently ninth in the league.

At least one of Chelsea, Leicester City and Manchester United will end up in the Europa League spots but we will focus our permutations on the teams who will hope to qualify.

6. Wolves

Burnley (a, 15 July), Crystal Palace (h, 20 July), Chelsea (a, 26 July)

Wolves need to win their three remaining games to be sure of a Europa League spot. If seventh place will qualify, then they can afford to draw one game.

7. Sheffield United

Leicester (a, 16 July), Everton (h, 20 July), Southampton (a, 26 July)

Sheffield United need to hope Wolves slip up if they are to finish in the top six. Three wins will seal a top-seven spot.

8. Tottenham Hotspur

Newcastle (a, 15 July), Leicester (h, 19 July), Crystal Palace (a, 26 July)

Spurs are looking at a season without any European football unless they can close a three-point gap on Wolves (or two points on Sheffield United if seventh place is enough).

9. Arsenal

Liverpool (h, 15 July), Aston Villa (a, 21 July), Watford (h, 26 July)

Arsenal will be guaranteed a Europa League group place if they win the FA Cup – they face Manchester City in the semi-finals on 18 July.

They are five points below Wolves and four off the Blades.

10. Burnley

Wolves (h, 15 July), Norwich (a, 18 July), Brighton (h, 26 July)

Burnley are behind Arsenal on goal difference so would need a lot of results to go their way to even have a chance.

What happens if an English team win in Europe?

Manchester City, Chelsea, Wolves and Manchester United all play in Europe next month. If any of them win their trophy, they will go into next season’s Champions League group stages no matter where they finish in the league.

If Manchester City (who lead Real Madrid 2-1 in the last 16) win the Champions League, it makes no difference to the European places in the Premier League – England would not get any extra places.

But if Chelsea (who trail Bayern Munich 3-0) win the tournament and finish outside the top four, then five English teams would go into next year’s Champions League with two in the Europa League.

The same is true for Manchester United (leading LASK 5-0) and Wolves (1-1 v Olympiakos) in the Europe League last 16.

If either win the tournament and finish in the top four, England does not get an extra space. If they win and finish outside the top four, then England gets five Champions League spots.

If Chelsea win the Champions League AND Manchester United or Wolves win the Europa League – and neither finish in the top four – then only the top three in the Premier League qualify for the Champions League.

Uefa regulations suggest England could have eight teams in Europe if that happened and one of them did not finish in the top six/seven – or nine if they both fail to.

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