Premier League 2018-19: How Champions League & Europa League spots are decided

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Goal takes a look at how the European places are divided out in England and the different scenarios that force change

The race is well and truly on in the Premier League, with the usual suspects fighting it out for a place in Europe next season.

Barring an exceptional fall in the final weeks, Manchester City and Liverpool will be the division's top two, but five other clubs remain in the hunt for a Champions League spot.

Europa League places are also up for grabs and, depending on who wins the cups, some of those spots can be allocated to teams further down the table.

So how exactly does qualification for UEFA's tournaments work and which league positions are rewarded? Goal takes a look.


Premier League's Champions League & Europa League spots


In normal circumstances, there is a minimum of seven European spots available to teams competing in the Premier League: four Champions League places and three Europa League places.

As of the 2017-18 season, the top four teams in the Premier League qualify automatically for the group stage of the Champions League.

Prior to that, the top four qualified the Champions League, but only three automatically entered for the group stage with the team that finished fourth entering at the play-off round.

The team that finishes fifth in Premier League is rewarded with a place in the group stage of the Europa League. The remaining two Europa League spots ordinarily go to the winners of the FA Cup, who enter the group stage, and the winners of the Carabao Cup, who begin at the second qualifying round.

So, to break that down, the normal sequence is as shown below.

Champions League places go to:

  1. Premier League winners (group stage)
  2. Premier League runners-up (group stage)
  3. Premier League third place (group stage)
  4. Premier League fourth place (group stage)

Europa League places go to:

  1. Premier League fifth place (group stage)
  2. FA Cup winners (group stage)
  3. Carabao Cup winners (second qualifying round)

However, things are not always so straightforward and become complicated when teams qualify via the league and also win domestic or European trophies, which we come to next.


What if a top-five team wins the FA Cup or Carabao Cup?


Sergio Aguero Carabao Cup trophy 2018

Given how strong the teams at the top of the Premier League are there is a strong possibility that one of those sides will win one of England's domestic cup competitions, if not both.

In those scenarios, the places normally reserved for the winner of the cup are allocated to the teams that finish highest in the Premier League that have not already qualified for a UEFA competition.

What that means is that a sixth-place finish and seventh-place finish may turn out to be sufficient to earn continental qualification.

For example, in the 2017-18 season, when the winners of the FA Cup (Chelsea) and Carabao Cup (Man City) both achieved continental qualification via the league it was of benefit to Burnley, who finished the season in seventh.


What if an English team wins the Champions League or Europa League?


Paul Pogba Manchester United Europa League

The top English teams boast some of the best players in the world so there is always a good chance that they will come out on top in the Champions League or Europa League.

Winners of the Champions League and the Europa League are automatically granted a place in the group stage of the following season's Champions League, regardless of their league position.

However, that doesn't mean there could potentially be six English teams in the Champions League. The reason: UEFA has dictated that there can be a maximum of five English teams in the tournament.

If an English club finishes in the top four and wins either the Champions League or the Europa League no extra Champions League place is allocated to the country.

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What happens instead is that the league winners of the association ranked 11th in UEFA's coefficient table are promoted into the group stage from their original place in the play-off.

Interestingly, a fourth-place Premier League finish does not always guarantee a team a place in the Champions League either.

In a situation where English teams do not finish in the top four but win both the Champions League and Europa League, the team in fourth place is demoted to the Europa League.

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