Premier League European qualification: Which teams are in the race and what do they need?

As the Premier League season enters its final three weeks, the race for the European places remains an intriguing one.

Champions League, Europa League and Europa Conference League places are still up for grabs and the race to get them looks set to go the distance.

Seven English teams will play in Europe next season, despite an almost-certain lack of a fifth Champions League place, and only three spots could be classed as sewn up.

So, as the campaign boils down to its last days, here is how the battle is shaping up.


Firstly, how does European qualification work in the Premier League?

Champions League

The top four teams in the Premier League gain qualification for the Champions League.

With the incoming changes to the format, there is the opportunity for an extra place but poor performances from English sides in European competitions this season mean Italy and Germany are set to earn those.

Arsenal, Liverpool and Manchester City will almost certainly confirm qualification in their remaining games while Aston Villa, in fourth, are best placed to join them.

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Europa League

There are two Europa League places given to English teams: one for the team that finishes fifth in the Premier League and the other for the FA Cup winners.

When the FA Cup winner finishes in the top five anyway, that place is deferred to the next-best finisher in the Premier League.

Tottenham Hotspur are the team in fifth and, despite aspirations of catching Villa in fourth, are likely to have to settle for a Europa League place.

Manchester United are well placed to take the other one; they face neighbours Manchester City in the FA Cup final for the second consecutive year and are the team currently occupying sixth in the Premier League table.

Europa Conference League

The one place for an English team in the Europa Conference League is given to the Carabao Cup winners.

That place is deferred to the Premier League table if the Carabao Cup winners earn a Champions League or Europa League place through their league position.

This season’s Carabao Cup winners were Liverpool, who cannot drop out of the top five in what remains of the season, so the Europa Conference League place will likely be given to the seventh-place finisher in the Premier League. That is currently Newcastle United, but there are a few teams still in contention.


Which teams are fighting for a European place?

(Blue: Champions League qualification; Yellow: Europa League qualification; Green: Europa Conference League qualification)

It is fair to assume the top three will not drop out of the Champions League places in what remains of the season.

Below them, there is a six-team battle for the other four places with two more teams — Bournemouth and Brighton & Hove Albion — on the periphery.

Brighton’s fleeting hopes of another European tour were dealt a blow in their 4-0 defeat to Manchester City on Thursday and they will need a near-flawless run to the finish if they want any chance of a top-seven place.

In truth, the current top seven teams may not move much in the final three weeks of the season — an expectation shared by Opta.

Opta’s predicted final PL table

Tottenham can still catch Aston Villa in the final Champions League place but their inconsistent form and difficult run-in makes it unlikely that they will better Villa’s points total in what remains of the season.

It is equally unlikely, though, that they finish any lower than fifth. They need three wins from their six matches to guarantee fifth, but fewer points will probably be enough given the likelihood of the teams below them dropping points.

The battle for sixth is the one that looks likeliest to provide us with drama. If Manchester City win the FA Cup, sixth place will come with a Europa League place. If Erik ten Hag’s side win the FA Cup and don’t finish sixth, it will be a Europa Conference League place.


Manchester United can guarantee a Europa League place with an FA Cup triumph (Photo by Richard Heathcote/Getty Images)

Manchester United’s main competition looks to be Newcastle but, despite a poor season, Chelsea are also in the picture. United’s task is simple: keep the teams below them at bay.

To finish sixth, Newcastle need to pick up three more points than Manchester United during the run-in. Chelsea, meanwhile, need six more points than Manchester United and four more than Newcastle (due to Newcastle’s superior goal difference).

The two teams that miss out on sixth will then be in the running for seventh, which is likely to come with a Europa Conference League place.

West Ham (eighth), Bournemouth (10th) and Brighton (11th) all have an outside chance of a seventh-placed finish, although it looks like they have too much ground to make up on the team above them due to points difference and games in hand.

(Top photos: Getty Images)

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