Liverpool failed to qualify for the Champions League after finishing fifth in the Premier League last season, but that could be enough this year despite Manchester United’s struggles in the competition.
The Premier League is still on course to win a fifth place for next season’s Champions League despite Manchester United and Newcastle United’s early exits from the competition.
UEFA continental competitions will be revamped next season, utilising the Swiss model, with the Champions League expanding to a 36-team competition. Two of the four additional places will go to leagues that perform best across all three European competitions the previous season.
In six of the past seven seasons, England would have qualified for that extra ‘most successful’ spot. Consequently, had such a revamp been implemented this season, then Liverpool would have qualified for this season’s Champions League despite finishing fifth in the Premier League last season.
However, the group-stage exits of both Manchester United and Newcastle, with the pair eliminated from Europa altogether, had jeopardised the Premier League’s hopes of obtaining that fifth qualifying berth for 2024/25.
Fortunately, the Premier League still has six sides competing in Europe, with their performances ensuring England remains firmly in the hunt for the extra berth – competing with Italy, Germany, and Spain.
Both Arsenal and Manchester City topped their Champions League groups, and have been handed favourable draws in the round-of-16. The Gunners will take on FC Porto, while City face FC Copenhagen, with both confident of progressing as a result.
In contrast, Serie A, Bundesliga, and La Liga sides have all been handed tougher draws, with their sides set to lock horns against each other. Napoli face Barcelona, Inter Milan have been drawn against Atletico Madrid, Lazio face Bayern Munich, while RB Leipzig take on Real Madrid. Elsewhere, Real Sociedad take on Paris Saint-Germain, with Borussia Dortmund handed a favourable tie against PSV Eindhoven.
Meanwhile, Liverpool, West Ham United, Brighton & Hove Albion and Aston Villa all topped their respective groups in the Europa League and Europa Conference League. Consequently, they have bypassed the knockout round play-offs, and will be seeded sides set to be handed favourable ties when the round-of-16 draws take place.
England were fourth in the UEFA coefficients following the conclusion of the Champions League group stages, cited by BBC Sport. However, they overtook Spain in third courtesy of their teams’ progress in the Europa League and Europa Conference League. Meanwhile, according to ESPN, they are only marginally behind Italy and Germany in the rankings.
Consequently, the Champions League round-of-16 draw has been really kind when it comes to England’s hopes of claiming a fifth qualifying spot for next season. Not only have Arsenal and Man City been handed favourable draws, but their rival nations’ teams will eliminate each other.
Meanwhile, Liverpool, West Ham Brighton and Aston Villa’s progress has made amends for Man United and Newcastle’s premature exits. While England might not currently qualify for a fifth qualifying berth, that looks likely to change as European knockout stages progress in 2024.
Of course, Jurgen Klopp’s side would like to think they won’t need to rely on fifth spot qualifying for the Champions League this season. While they would have benefitted from such a model last year, they currently sit second in the Premier League table.
Meanwhile, they are the favourites to win this season’s Europa League, with the winners qualifying automatically for the following year’s Champions League.
If the Premier League was to win a fifth qualifying spot for Europe’s elite competition through league position, Tottenham Hotspur are currently the side set to benefit. They sit fifth in the table, a point off Man City, with Arsenal, Liverpool and Aston Villa making up the rest of the top four.
And while Spurs boast a four-point lead over sixth-placed Newcastle, the Magpies and Manchester United, who currently occupy seventh, could still be in contention to qualify for the Champions League, if England won a fifth spot, despite their premature group-stage exits and inconsistent league fortunes.
West Ham and Brighton sit behind the two sides as things stand, with their own Europa League progress also giving them two potential avenues to secure unlikely Champions League qualification.