Eight league games to go and after a scintillating attacking win away to West Brom, talk has began to intensify about a potential European tour next season.
But, no sooner had talk began than a complex situation started to unfold with permutation after permutation emerging. In a bout of insanity, we’ve decided to unravel the situation as it stands at present and gauge how the massively unexpected European qualification could actually become a reality.
Firstly, let’s clarify a few points before we start.
- The FA cup runner up only receives the Europa League place if the cup winner qualifies for the Champions League
- If the only remaining English team in this season’s Champions League, Chelsea, win that competition, they will take a place in next season’s CL, regardless of their league position.
- Liverpool have qualified for next year’s Europa League, regardless of what happens, therefore only 2 Europa league places remain.
- Any English team to win a cup will play European football next season – regardless of league position.
A few permutations…
There are, a frankly ridiculous list of permutations possible with the league and cup competitions remaining so fluid, therefore here’s a non-exhaustive list from the probable, to the mere possible, which all work on the basis that Chelsea do not win the Champions League.
- Scenario 1: Everton wins the FA cup and all teams remain in their current position (as of the w/c 26th March). Everton qualify for the EL (Europa League) as does 5th place in the league.
- Scenario 2: Liverpool reaches the FA cup final and all teams remain in their current position (as of the w/c 26th March) – both teams contesting the final have already a route into Europe by way of League or cup. 6th place opens up for Europa League qualification. Should Liverpool finish in 6th place, the EL place then moves to 7th.
- Scenario 3: Everton reaches the FA cup final but lose to a team who gain CL qualification by league position. Everton qualify for the EL via way of being FA cup runner-up. The Mersyside duo remain in their current league positions, therefore the EL place stays at 5th place in the league.
- Scenario 4: Liverpool wins the FA cup. Having already qualified for the EL by way of their Carling Cup win their ‘second’ qualification then passes to the league, to 6th place.
- Scenario 5: Everton wins the FA cup, but a late (and unlikely) surge from both them and Liverpool combined with a collapse of the teams above them means they take up both 5th and 6th places. With the Merseyside clubs having both already qualified for the EL via their cup wins, the league spot moves to 7th place. If only one of those clubs makes a late surge to 5th place, then 6th place becomes an EL qualifying place.
Complicating things further…
Confused? It only gets worse. A far from impossible Chelsea Champions League win throws everything up into the air – with the FA having confirmed that if they do indeed win the CL then they will take the coveted 4th qualifying place – regardless of where they finish in the league. If Chelsea win the CL and also finish 4th then nothing changes. But Chelsea winning the CL, winning the FA cup but finishing 6th (again, entirely possible) then we arrive at a unique situation.
For example, take the above hypothetical event – 6th place Chelsea beat an 8th place Everton in the FA cup final then win the Champions League final 2 weeks later. Everton would qualify for the EL by way of being FA Cup runner-up and Chelsea would take a CL place – despite both being off the pace in the league. The presumption from there is the Europa League place will then be moved to 4th place and 5th place would not be a qualifying position.
An equally complex scenario would manifest itself should Tottenham win the FA cup and finish 4th, then Chelsea win the CL after finishing 5th. This combination would see Spurs enter the EL, Chelsea enter the CL and the 6th place team qualify for the EL by way of League position. If Liverpool were to finish 6th then the spot would move further down to 7th.
As you can see, things are very far away from being clear, and the permutations will only begin to drop once it becomes clearer who will be contesting both the CL and FA cup finals, respectively. A 14 day period of time separates first the FA cup final, then the end of the Premier League season, then the Champions League final – in which technically a team could qualify for one European competition only to find themselves in another.
As far as Newcastle is concerned, we can only look to win as many games as possible from our remaining eight – particularly the home games against Bolton and Stoke; and the trip to Wigan. It would be a crying shame that such a strong season could end up being rewarded with little more than a few plaudits and extra positional reward money, but the stark reality is with the cup competitions holding dominance over the destination of the European qualification places, things are as much in our hands as they are out of them.
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