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Explained: What Happens To 4th Place If Chelsea Win The Champions League

Explaining what happens to Champions League qualification if Chelsea go on to win the Champions League but finish outside the top four positions in the league.

champions league

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

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 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!




    April 25, 2012 at 11:05 am

    I cant believe this to be true because i can still see the Ufa spokesman saying this will be a one of and wont be repeated.

  2. SP

    April 25, 2012 at 11:15 am

    I don’t think UEFA really thought this out – I would expect any 4th placed team, dropping into the Europa, to be extremely unhappy at missing out on £30 odd million in revenues. UEFA set a precedent by allowing Liverpool into the competition, contrary to their regulations, at the time. I wuold expect any 4th placed team, thus missing out, to look long and hard at legal proceedings.

    UEFA may believe they clarified things – I think they didn’t envisage this happening again so soon, and all they have done is to leave a can full of wriggly worms waiting to be opened. At the end of the day, this ill-thought out ruling could be the making or breaking of a club like Spurs or Newcastle over the next 10 years, and could seriously weaken Arsenal’s position.

    • Football Talk

      April 25, 2012 at 11:41 am

      @SP – Totally agree. I don’t think UEFA expected anyone to ‘do a Liverpool’ so soon. I would be gutted for Newcastle if they work so hard to come 4th, then miss out on champions league. No disrespect to Tottenham, or Arsenal, but the Geordies run to 4th has been incredible.

      I suppose in one respect though, it just highlights the strength of the Premier League once more. That a team could win the champions league, yet finish lower than fourth in their domestic league. Don’t think this could possibly happen in any other league in Europe.

  3. Michael

    April 25, 2012 at 11:16 am

    This is true, the rule came into place a few season ago when i think it was liverpool lost the final. Dont worry DAVSPURS Spuds are never going to finish 4th anyways so you wont be effeced, stick to thinking Europa mate

    • shaun

      April 25, 2012 at 6:19 pm

      hahahaha you need to check your spelling

  4. Acton_Yid

    April 25, 2012 at 12:54 pm

    Sorry to be a grammatical stickler but when you wrote this:

    >”All three could conceivably finish fourth and miss out on Champions League football next season.”

    I think you meant:

    >”Any of the three could conceivably finish fourth and miss out on Champions League football next season.”

    Clearly some of the teams out of Arsenal, Newcastle and Spurs HAVE to finish 3rd of 4th, they can’t ALL not finish 3rd or 4th…

    • Football Talk

      April 25, 2012 at 1:06 pm

      @Action_Yid – LOL, yes thanks for pointing that out. School boy error, but you knew what i meant!

  5. Dazspur

    April 25, 2012 at 3:36 pm

    So, another conundrum. If there are 5 English teams, what country loses a spot? That would be a much bigger can of worms than worrying about a protest from the 4th placed team. Whoever that may be would obviously be pissed off at the revenue lost, but that applies to any team in any country having to make way. The way it is written by EUFA is the way it will stand and will also withstand any legal challenge. So case closed (excuse the pun)

  6. Peter

    April 25, 2012 at 3:43 pm

    There should be a place for winners every year.
    The league that they are in will get their normal number of spots as well as this one.
    Eg: man u win the league, AND UCL, they do not take a place in the four allocated spots. So 5 EPL teams go through.
    This will give incentive on the league wanting a UCL. Winner, as it is rewarding for all clubs

  7. ParkLane

    April 25, 2012 at 5:39 pm

    This has been said so many times why bother with an article about it. If anyone doesn’t know this they must have had their head in a toilet for 7 yrs.


    April 25, 2012 at 5:49 pm

    This is a wake up call on Arsenal not to toy with the remaining matches which are within their reach to win. Poor selection based on other considerations should wait till next season. Wenger please give us something to smile home about this end of season.

  9. Dayho

    April 25, 2012 at 10:33 pm

    Hang on, I thought only 5th place got Europa and the other places went to the 2 cup winners and maybe a fair play place. So there for Chelsea would have to win the CL and finish 5 th! Or just come 4th.

    • Matt

      April 26, 2012 at 8:07 pm

      The League Cup winner and both of the FA Cup finalists get a Europa spot. If there is a fair play position, which there isn’t this year, that would be an extra allocation (i.e. we would have 5 teams entered rather than 4, like we did this season).

      Anyway, regardless of the FA Cup result both Liverpool and Chelsea have a Europa place. Liverpool had it already by winning the League Cup though to be fair. The implication of this is that Liverpool have effectively taken 2 Europa spots, so the 6th placed team will get this instead.

      The rules above do state that a team must “qualify for the UEFA Europa League through their DOMESTIC Barclays Premier LEAGUE POSITION”. In other words, not through being a cup winner/FA Cup finalist. Therefore, if Cardiff had won the League Cup, Cardiff, Liverpool, Chelsea and 5th place would have a Europa spot. In these hypothetical circumstances Chelsea would need to finish 5th to get Champions League.
      As it stands though, due to Liverpool taking 2 spots, Chelsea have to finish in 6th place or better if they win the Champions League to qualify for it next season and deny fourth place.
      Chelsea could well finish 6th but it is HIGHLY unlikely they will finish 7th. Therefore, if Chelsea win the Champions League 4th place do not get entered.

      Hope that helps, Dayho.

      In terms of how I feel about the matter I completely agree with SP and Football Talk, and I would be devastated if allowances couldn’t be made for a team like Newcastle (assuming they finish 4th) who bounced back from relegation, sold well, bought well and have had an outstanding season, to get a Champions League place.

      • Dayho

        April 26, 2012 at 8:28 pm

        Last season was fulham (fair play)
        Stoke ( cup runners up)
        Birmingham city ( L cup winners)
        Spurs (5)

      • PP

        May 2, 2012 at 6:58 pm

        If Chelsea finish fourth and win CL, do they avoid qualifiers? If not, fifth or sixth would be better (assuming they beat Bayern)!

  10. Pat Onaji

    April 26, 2012 at 11:23 am

    Arsenal just come 3rd and forget about what happens behind and UEFA rules. Let Platini do the worrying, thats what he is paid to do. COYGS

  11. emil

    April 27, 2012 at 8:40 am

    i think all the 5 teams should have a chance to participate in the champions league. Let the fourth and champion teams play knockout before the group stages..

  12. Timspur

    April 27, 2012 at 9:29 am

    If they don’t get top 4 they shouldn’t get CL. Even if they’re the champions. Just my opinion.

  13. Adepoju

    April 28, 2012 at 1:58 pm

    Chealsea and the fourth place should play a match together to qualify for next year cl. UP BARCA

  14. stevus

    April 29, 2012 at 2:44 pm

    If Chelsea wins 2012 CL AND finishes 3rd in EPL, does the team finishing 4th then avoid a qualifier for CL?

  15. Russ

    May 3, 2012 at 12:13 am

    They should really have at least 5 champions league places for english teams. Even If it’s in the 1st round qualifying, the epl is too strong. If you think that the ucl is meant to be a competition for the strongest teams in Europe, and you have teams from places like faroe islands getting. It really doesn’t make sense. I’m sure the 5th best English team can trash any crappy unknown teams from outskirts of europe

  16. Adam

    May 3, 2012 at 4:05 pm

    I would like to interject a little perspective on the ‘If Chelsea win’ argument. It seems that people feel as if Chelsea will be ‘stealing’ the 4th Champions League spot rather than ‘Winning’ a Champions league spot. Surely, if they do manage to win the cup, they will thoroughly deserve their spot next year a damn sight more than whoever comes 4th in the league.
    Everyone prattling on about the 4 spaces has been speaking under the assumption that a team coming lower than forth couldn’t possibly win the Champions League. But the qualification rules where in place at the start of the season and, if Chelsea win it, no ‘theft’ will have taken place whatsoever.
    Crying about it will be the equivalent of Cardiff claiming that Liverpool stole their Europa League spot by beating them in the Carling Cup.

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  28. Emmanuel

    May 21, 2012 at 1:21 am

    In 2005-06 champs league We ( Real Betis ) got screwed over in our group stage because we had both chelsea and liverpool and so clearly never had a chance of making it out of the group stages. If it had been like every other group ie two teams from big footballing countries (Spain, England, Italy, Germany) and two smaller teams that belonged in Europa League we would have had a chance of finishing a little better. Thanks for being completely incompetent again UEFA!

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