- European football is back this week with knockout rounds in three competitions
- Manchester United and Newcastle crashed out of the Champions League early
- Chris Waddle and Gareth Bale are IN but no David Beckham… CHRIS SUTTON reveals his top 5 Brits to have played abroad – It’s All Kicking Off podcast
As the three European club competitions make a welcome return for their knockout stages this week, we have a very interesting little sideshow.
What has become known as the ‘top four’ in the Premier League could be about to become the ‘top five’ when it comes to Champions League qualification.
But after both Manchester United and Newcastle United crashed out of Europe’s top competition after the group stage, England’s extra place hangs in the balance.
The Premier League is currently jostling with Italy’s Serie A, Germany’s Bundesliga and Spain’s LaLiga for just two additional spots in the expanded 36-team Champions League group stage next season.
And, as it stands, the Premier League will miss out on that extra place with Italy and Germany rewarded instead.
Manchester United crashed out of the Champions League after a disastrous group phase
It was a low point in the season for Erik ten Hag’s side as they bombed out of Europe entirely
Manchester City are the reigning European champions and a repeat would benefit United
Your browser does not support iframes.
That would obviously be a major blow to the self-styled ‘best league in the world’ and the performance of Man United and Newcastle before Christmas would be heavily to blame.
But all hope isn’t lost yet. A good performance by Manchester City and Arsenal in the Champions League from here, plus strong showings by the English clubs left in the Europa League and the Europa Conference League – all are taken into account in the sums – and England will get its fifth spot.
UEFA is basing everything on its Association Club Coefficient ranking, a league table of all its member nations based on how their clubs get on.
Ahead of the Champions League expansion, they’re only looking at this season’s performances to allocate the extra places.
The best two leagues get one – that’s where the Premier League is hoping to end up – as well as the one that finishes in fifth place (likely to be France or the Netherlands).
The final extra spot in the 36-team group stage goes to the ‘champions path’ qualifiers – the domestic leagues who don’t get a direct ticket to the group stage already.
But while Premier League fans might be fretting about getting a fifth team in, according to Opta’s calculations there’s nothing to worry about.
They predict England has a 77 per cent chance of getting it, with Italy on 50.4 per cent, Germany 48.3 per cent and Spain 12.5 per cent.
According to Opta, the English Premier League has a 77 per cent chance of securing a fifth spot for next season’s Champions League group stage
Opening up a fifth Champions League spot brings a number of sides – including United – into contention. Aston Villa currently occupy the place
Arsenal impressed during the Champions League group stages and are being tipped to progress deep into the knockout rounds with Porto ahead in the last-16
United would also benefit if their arch-rivals Liverpool progressed in the Europa League
They say that although two English clubs bombed out of the Champions League in December, Man City and Arsenal carry strong hopes of a deep run and will boost the coefficient.
What’s more, Liverpool, West Ham and Brighton in the Europa League and Aston Villa in the Conference League should have a decent chance of getting through a few more rounds yet.
At the moment, England’s coefficient stands at 13.625 but Opta expected it will end up being 19.4 because one point is awarded for each round clubs reach from the last-16 onwards in the Champions League and Europa League.
In the Conference League, Villa would have to get to the semi-finals to begin adding extra points but there’s a decent chance of that.
Good performances will ensure that fifth Champions League spot via the Premier League, which keeps Aston Villa, Man United, Newcastle, West Ham and Brighton hopeful of getting in.
Villa sit fifth at the minute, one point behind Tottenham in fourth. But Man United closed the gap to Villa to five points by beating them on Sunday and they have Newcastle, West Ham and Brighton bunched behind them.
So United and Newcastle really would owe their rivals one if they get the reward in May.