PL hopes of fifth CL spot hanging by a thread – what must happen

The prospect of five English clubs competing in next season’s Champions League is hanging by a thread after Liverpool and West Ham joined Manchester City and Arsenal in being knocked out of Europe this week.

In the reformatted edition of next season’s competition, the two countries with the highest coefficient will be given an extra group-stage place.

Each win is worth two coefficient points, a draw gets you one, and you get nothing for a defeat. There are also bonus points for getting to certain stages.

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David Moyes said West Ham fans have been ‘treated to three years of big nights in Europe’, and hopes there’s still a chance that next year there will be a fourth.

Italy have mathematically secured an extra Champions League spot and could end up with six teams competing at European football’s top table next season. That would occur if Atalanta, who are sixth, remain outside of the top five and win the Europa League.

City and Arsenal were eliminated from the continent’s premier club competition on Wednesday night, and things didn’t improve for Liverpool or West Ham after defeats in the first legs of their Europa League quarter-finals.

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Jurgen Klopp said Atalanta deserved to go through to the Europa League semi-finals after Liverpool’s 3-1 defeat on aggregate but praised his players for the performance they produced.

Aston Villa are the sole remaining English club flying the flag for the Premier League after Emiliano Martinez’s penalty heroics ensured they progressed to the Europa Conference League semi-finals.

The results on Thursday mean that Italy have accumulated an unassailable 19.428 points at the summit, with three of their seven European participants still in with a chance of lifting silverware.

Coefficient points

Standard points for CL, EL & ECL
Win: 2pts
Draw: 1pt
*Points are halved in qualifying rounds
Bonus points
Champions League
Group stage participation: 4pts
R16: 5pts
QF,SF & final: 1pt
Europa League
Group winners: 4pts
Group runners-up: 2pts
R16, QF,SF & final: 1pt
Europa Conference League
Group winners: 2pts
Group runners-up: 1pt
SF & final: 1pt
The number of points awarded each season is divided by the number of teams that participated for that association in that season and rounded to three decimal places.

Germany have strengthened their grip of the second extra spot courtesy of Leverkusen’s success over West Ham. The Bundesliga now boast 17.928 points, while England trail in third place on 17.375.

As things stand, England have their lowest total since the 2016/17 and it would have been an even lower figure but for the introduction of the Europa Conference League in 2021-22 – putting things in perspective, the Premier League finished in the top two in six out of the last seven seasons.

What needs to happen in order for England to leapfrog Germany?

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Lee Hendrie was left bemused as Emi Martinez was shown a second yellow card during Aston Villa’s penalty shootout with Lille but was not sent off. The Argentine then secured Villa’s progression by saving the hosts’ final penalty.

In short, a lot. Prior to a ball being kicked on Thursday, England had a 6.2 per cent chance of an extra Champions League spot, according to Opta. That number is now significantly less.

Tottenham, who currently occupy fifth place in the Premier League, will believe they can chase down Villa in their remaining games – but their supporters will also be cheering on PSG, Real Madrid, Roma, Marseille and Atalanta in the coming weeks.

Liverpool crashed out of the Europa League to Atalanta
Liverpool crashed out of the Europa League to Atalanta

Why? Well, Germany only require two more victories from the remaining European games in order for them not to be caught by England in the battle of the coefficients. They would even finish second if Dortmund, Bayern and Leverkusen collect two draws and a win between them.

And that is if Aston Villa fail to win all three matches in their bid to lift the Europa Conference League trophy.

Marseille face Atalanta and Roma take on Leverkusen in the Europa League semi-finals while it’s Real Madrid vs Bayern Munich and Borussia Dortmund up against Paris Saint-Germain in the Champions League.

Standing in Aston Villa’s way are Olympiakos in the Europa Conference League semi-finals, with the winners facing either Fiorentina or Club Brugge in Athens.

So, you’re telling me there’s a chance? In theory, yes.

But Germany certainly have the clear advantage and could even end up with six teams in next season’s Champions League.

If Dortmund finish fifth in the Bundesliga but win the Champions League, it would be the second of those achievements which would secure them their Champions League place for 2024/25. The European Performance Spot (EPS) would then be awarded to whoever finishes sixth – currently Eintracht Frankfurt.

Champions League
Germany: Bayern Munich, Borussia Dortmund
Europa League
Germany: Bayer Leverkusen
Italy: Atalanta, Roma
Europa Conference League
England: Aston Villa
Italy: Fiorentina

From 32 to 36 – who gets the additional places?

  • One place will go to the club ranked third in the championship of the association in fifth position in the UEFA national association ranking
  • One place will be awarded to a domestic champion by extending from four to five the number of clubs qualifying via the so-called ‘Champions Path’
  • The final two places will go to the associations with the best collective performance by their clubs in the previous season (total number of points obtained divided by the number of participating clubs)

Regarding the final bullet point, those two associations will earn one place for the club best ranked in the domestic league behind the Champions League positions.

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Aleksander Ceferin says the growing popularity of football in the USA could see a future Champions League final being hosted there. Credit: Men in Blazers Media Network @meninblazers

For example, based on the collective performance of their clubs last season, England and Italy would have both had an additional spot in the Champions League, meaning Liverpool and Atalanta – both fifth in their respective leagues – would have entered the competition.

How does this affect the other UEFA competitions?

Qualification for the two other UEFA competitions, the Europa League and Europa Conference League, will follow the same protocols as in previous years, albeit if the fifth spot qualifies for the Champions League, the Europa League spot will go to the team finishing sixth.

Similar format changes will also be applied to the Europa League (eight matches in the league stage) and Europa Conference League (six matches in the league stage) and both will also include 36 teams in the league phase.

If England receive five CL places, does the ECL spot go down to eighth?

Yes, it does – provided the domestic cups are won by those finishing inside the top seven as seen last season, with Manchester United winning the Carabao Cup and Manchester City winning the FA Cup.

Based on last season, eighth-placed Tottenham would have qualified for the Europa Conference League and Aston Villa would have been promoted to the Europa League.

How could this impact the 2024/25 domestic leagues schedules?

Given the Champions League will almost double in size – from a total of 125 games to 225 – at least four additional matchdays will be required to fit in the extra games. This will inevitably cause issues for domestic leagues, with fewer dates to fit in all their games.

How does the new Champions League format work?

Taking the total number of teams from 32 to 36 in the Champions League, the biggest change will see a transformation from the traditional group stage to a single league phase including all participating teams.

Every club will now be guaranteed a minimum of eight league-stage games against eight different opponents (four home games, four away) rather than the previous six matches against three teams, played on a home-and-away basis.

The top eight sides in the league will qualify automatically for the knockout stage, while the teams finishing in ninth to 24th place will compete in a two-legged play-off to secure their path to the last 16 of the competition.

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Has the Premier League had five CL participants before?

Previously in 2005, when Liverpool won the Champions League but finished outside the top four, the Premier League was granted five potential Champions League berths, with the caveat of having to go through qualifiers.

During the 2015/16 season, Spain became the first association to have five teams in the Champions League group stage after Sevilla lifted the Europa League, despite finishing outside the top four in LaLiga the previous campaign, while Valencia came through the play-off round.

Remarkably, there is even a chance – albeit an extremely unlikely one – of there being as many as seven Premier League clubs in the Champions League next season based on the change in rules.

That would require both the Champions League and Europa League winners to be from the Premier League and both teams finishing outside the top five in the top flight.

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