Following Chelsea’s sensational, and let’s face it, completely unexpected, 3-2 aggregate victory over Barcelona last night many fans are asking what happens to fourth place if the Blues go on to win the final on May 19th.
Liverpool and Everton fans will remember the uncertainty that surrounded them when the Reds won the Champions League in 2005. Rafa Benitez’s men finished 5th in the league that season, with the Toffees finishing fourth, and this unusual situation created confusion as to who had qualified for the following seasons Champions League.
In the end, UEFA decided that both Mersey clubs could enter the competition meaning England had 5 representatives in the 2006 Champions League. Something UEFA were keen to avoid happening again.
However, the scenario could repeat itself once again this season, so what’s the official ruling? Here is official confirmation from PremierLeague.com:
The top four teams in the Barclays Premier League qualify for the UEFA Champions League.
English winners of the UEFA Champions League finishing outside the top four places (but who qualify for the UEFA Europa League through their domestic Barclays Premier League position) go forward as Winners to the group stage along with domestic champions, runners-up and third place.
No extra domestic place can be gained by winning the UEFA Champions League, therefore the team finishing fourth drops to the UEFA Europa League.
English winners of the UEFA Champions League who do not qualify through their domestic position go forward as Winners to the group stage, with the team finishing fourth dropping to the UEFA Europa League. In this case, the national association of the title-holder is entitled to one additional place in the UEFA Europa League.
So, simply put. If Chelsea win the Champions League this season and finish fifth or sixth in the league, then the team finishing fourth will drop in to the Europa League, and Chelsea will go straight into the group stages of the Champions League.
Also, just to clear up the rumour that third place would have to go in to the qualifying round. It clearly states in the above quote from PremierLeague.com that the team finishing third in the league would go straight in to the group stages, no matter what.
Chelsea win the Champions League this season: If we take the Premier League positions as they are now. Man Utd, Man City, Arsenal and Chelsea would go straight in to the group stages of next seasons Champions League. However, fourth placed Newcastle would miss out on Champions League football next season, and would have to settle for Europa League instead.
So Tottenham, Newcastle and Arsenal have a nervy few weeks ahead. All three could conceivably finish fourth and miss out on Champions League football next season. One things for sure, whichever team does end up fourth will be supporting either Bayern Munich or Real Madrid on the 19th May!