Tuesday 08 May 2012

European qualification: The permutations

Chelsea hold the key to a number of scenarios relating to reaching Europe next season

Chelsea reached the UEFA Champions League final with a memorable display

Chelsea's superb performance in Barcelona on Tuesday ensured a place in the UEFA Champions League final for a Barclays Premier League club for the seventh time in eight seasons.

On 19th May, the Blues will hope to go one better than their narrow defeat on penalties to Manchester United in the 2007/08 final in Moscow.

Chelsea will face German giants Bayern Munich - and the match represents one of two opportunities for Roberto di Matteo's men to qualify for next year's competition.

They can qualify via their Barclays Premier League placing or as competition winners - but the various permutations regarding qualification are complex, so here is a guide to show how the various outcomes of the next few weeks could affect qualification.

IF CHELSEA WIN THE UEFA CHAMPIONS LEAGUE

The Blues will qualify for the Group Stage of next season's tournament as winners.

If Chelsea also finish third in the Barclays Premier League (their highest-possible finish as of April 25th), then the fourth-placed team will enter the competition at the Play-Off stage (which follows the three qualifcation rounds) - the final obstacle ahead of the Group Stage.

If Chelsea finish fourth, all four Barclays Premier League teams will enter at the Group Stage.

If Chelsea finish fifth or lower, they still enter at the Group Stage as defending champions. Because no nation can have more than four teams in the competition, the team that finishes fourth in the Barclays Premier League will qualify for the UEFA Europa League, not the UEFA Champions League. The top three clubs will enter the UEFA Champions League at the Group Stage as normal.

IF CHELSEA DO NOT WIN THE UEFA CHAMPIONS LEAGUE

The situation reverts to the standard qualification procedure - that is the top four clubs in the Barclays Premier League will qualify.

The top three will enter at the Group Stage, with the fourth having to win the Play-Off to reach the Group Stage.

Manchester United and Manchester City are both guaranteed to finish in the top two and have secured their Champions League place for 2012/13.

WHAT ABOUT THE UEFA EUROPA LEAGUE?

England has three places available, with The FA Cup winners entering at the Group Stage, the team finishing fifth in the Barclays Premier League entering at the Play-Off Stage, and the Carling Cup winners entering in the third qualifying round.

Liverpool are this season's Carling Cup champions, while Chelsea beat Liverpool 2-1 in The FA Cup final on May 5th.

Here are the possible qualification scenarios:
(Key - UCL = UEFA Champions League, BPL = Barclays Premier League)

CHELSEA WIN UCL
Chelsea qualify for the Champions League, with their FA Cup Europa League place going to the highest-placed Barclays Premier League team which has not already qualified for Europe. Liverpool qualify for the Europa League through winning the Carling Cup and the Champions League places will be decided as outlined above.

CHELSEA LOSE UCL FINAL, FINISH IN TOP FOUR IN BPL
Chelsea qualify for the Champions League, with their FA Cup winners' Europa League spot going to the highest-placed Barclays Premier League team which has not qualified for the Champions League. Liverpool qualify for the Europa League courtesy of winning the Carling Cup.

CHELSEA LOSE UCL FINAL, FINISH FIFTH IN BPL
Chelsea qualify for the Europa League with Liverpool (Carling Cup winnners) and the sixth-placed team also entering the Europa League.

CHELSEA LOSE UCL FINAL, FINISH SIXTH IN BPL
Chelsea qualify for the Europa League with Liverpool (Carling Cup winners) and the fifth-placed team also entering the Europa League.

FAIR PLAY

The one remaining aspect is that the winners of the Fair Play League could enter the Europa League at the first qualifying round.

View the latest UEFA Respect Fair Play rankings

This place automatically goes to the three best-placed national associations in the UEFA Respect fair play rankings provided they achieve an average of 8.0 points or more.

The top three associations will then be entitled to enter the club that has either won their domestic top-division fair play competition, or if they have already qualified, the runners-up and so forth.

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Key Points

  • Chelsea reached UEFA Champions League final on Tuesday night
  • Barclays Premier League teams in seven of past eight finals of Europe's premier club competition
  • Host of possible European qualification scenarios for next season