How Man United’s Europa League exit impacts Newcastle United, Spurs & Co in Champions League race

Manchester United exited the Europa League on Thursday evening following a 3-0 (5-2 aggregate) defeat to Sevilla.
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Man United threw away a 2-0 lead in the first leg to exit the competition at the quarter-final stage as their chances of qualifying for the Champions League took a knock. Winning the Europa League guarantees a Champions League group stage place for the next season, now The Red Devils will have to earn qualification by finishing in a top four spot in the Premier League.

The battle for Champions League qualification

Heading into this weekend’s round of fixtures, Arsenal and Manchester City are effectively (though not mathematically) guaranteed Champions League qualification – but it is far from certain for the team’s immediately below the top two. Man United sit third, three points ahead of Newcastle United in fourth while Tottenham Hotspur are a further three points behind in fifth having played a game more.

UEFA Champions League trophy (Photo by Fabrice COFFRINI / AFP) (Photo by FABRICE COFFRINI/AFP via Getty Images)UEFA Champions League trophy (Photo by Fabrice COFFRINI / AFP) (Photo by FABRICE COFFRINI/AFP via Getty Images)
UEFA Champions League trophy (Photo by Fabrice COFFRINI / AFP) (Photo by FABRICE COFFRINI/AFP via Getty Images)
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Spurs face Newcastle at St James’ Park on Sunday (2pm kick-off) though are unlikely to break into the top four even with a win this weekend due to The Magpies superior goal difference.

The three teams below Spurs – Aston Villa, Brighton and Liverpool – will also be hoping to secure European football for next season despite only having an outside chance of Champions League qualification. Villa are six points off the top four having played a game more while Brighton are seventh with at least one game in hand.

Liverpool are nine points behind Newcastle with eight games to play.

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Could fourth place not qualify for the Champions League?

The last time Newcastle competed for the European places in 2011-12 saw the rare instance of fourth place in the Premier League not being enough to qualify for the Champions League. Spurs finished fourth that season but entered the Europa League with Newcastle due to Chelsea winning the Champions League that season despite finishing sixth in the table.

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This season five English teams are allowed to qualify for the Champions League – a maximum of four via Premier League positioning plus the winner of the Champions League or Europa League if they finish outside of the top four.

So the only way fourth place would not be enough to qualify for the Champions League this season would be if a Premier League side were to finish outside of the top four and win the Champions League as well as an English side finishing outside of the top four and winning the Europa League.

Premier League rules state: “In the event that a Premier League club win the UEFA Champions League and another win the UEFA Europa League and neither of these clubs finish in the top four of the Premier League, the club lying fourth in the table will drop into the UEFA Europa League group stage.”

A few days ago this was still technically possible with Chelsea in the Champions League and Man United in the Europa League. But with both teams exiting the respective competitions, fourth place is guaranteed a place in next season’s Champions League group stage.

How Europa League and Europa Conference League qualification is impacted

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This is where it gets complicated. Manchester United are already guaranteed at least a place in the Europa Conference League having won the Carabao Cup against Newcastle in February.

But given that Man United are likely to finish in the top five and achieve at least Europa League qualification, their Conference League position will transfer to the highest ranked Premier League side who hadn’t already qualified for European competition.

The FA Cup adds another curveball into the mix as the winners of the competition automatically qualify for the Europa League group stage. If the winners have already qualified for the Europa League or Champions League then the qualification will transfer to the highest ranked Premier League side who hadn’t already qualified for European competition.

Every Premier League European qualification variable explained

Manchester United, Manchester City, Brighton and Sheffield United are the four remaining teams left in the FA Cup. Should Sheffield United pull off a shock and win the FA Cup, then that actually makes things simpler as far as European qualification is concerned as fifth place would join Sheffield United in the Europa League while sixth place (or Manchester United if they finish outside of the top six) would get the Conference League spot.

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An FA Cup win for Manchester City, assuming they finish in the top five, would see the Europa League place drop to sixth in the Premier League while seventh place (or Manchester United if they finish outside of the top seven) would get the Conference League spot.

The same goes for Manchester United unless they finish seventh or below. In that instance, Man United would qualify for the Europa League and sixth place would qualify for the Conference League – the same goes for Brighton if they finished outside the top six.

If Brighton win the FA Cup and finish in the top five then the Europa League place drops to sixth and so on.

West Ham United are highly unlikely to finish in the European places this season but could qualify for the Europa League by winning this season’s Conference League. The Hammers would qualify for the Europa League as an ‘additional club’ so it would not impact the qualification positions in the Premier League.

So, in more simple terms:

Top four = Champions League group stage in all scenarios

5th = Europa League in all scenarios

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6th = Europa League if FA Cup winner finishes in top five, Conference League if FA Cup winner finishes seventh or below

7th = Conference League if FA Cup winner finishes in top six, no European qualification if FA Cup winner or Manchester United finish below seventh