Premier League Race for Europe: Where We Stand

We are halfway through the season in the Premier League. At this stage, most teams have a good idea of what they are fighting for, whether that be a title, continental football, or relegation. 

In this piece, the European race will be discussed. A look at how the title race is going, the Champions League places, and the remaining European spots. Finally, a look at who else is in the hunt to qualify for Europe with predictions for the coming season. 

How Premier League Teams Qualify for Europe 

When it comes to qualifying for UEFA club competitions from England, there are a variety of ways to do so. A top four finish assures Champions League football the following season. Fifth place provides access to the Europa League group stages, as does winning the FA Cup. The Europa Conference League berth (playoff round) goes to the EFL Cup winner.  

It is worth noting that it either or both cup winners qualify for Europe via the Premier League, the next best ranked teams in the league (sixth, and if applicable, seventh) take the remaining spots in Europe.  

Lastly, teams can also earn continental berths by winning one of this season’s UEFA club competitions. Winning the Champions League or Europa League results in a group stage spot in the former, while a Europa Conference League triumph results in a Europa League entrance. 

A small note that, although highly unlikely, is still worth pointing out. Should both the Champions League and Europa League title holders come from England, and neither of them finish in the top four, then the fourth-place team will lose out on Europe’s premier club competition. Instead, that team will have to be satisfied with Europa League football. 

Premier League sides currently in a European spot 

Arsenal continues to top the league, despite a shocking reverse at relegation threatened Everton. Both Manchester teams are just below the Gunners, who have a game in hand on both. City sit five points back of the North London club, United a further three behind. Newcastle, having only been defeated once in the league all campaign, round out the top four. 

Spurs currently holds fifth spot following their important weekend success at home to Manchester City. Those are the teams who as things stand would play in Europe next season. 

Should the FA Cup winner finish in the top five, Brighton, currently sixth, would join Spurs in the Europa League. Roberto de Zerbi’s side has gone unbeaten in their last six games, winning five of them. A maiden continental journey could await the Seagulls. 

If any team or teams above them win the FA Cup and/or EFL Cup, seventh place Brentford would also enjoy UEFA club competition action for the first time. The Europa Conference League would be the competition for Thomas Frank’s men, who have also impressed this season. 

Teams in contention for European places 

The next three teams in the Premier League are all within touching distance of at least the top seven. 

Fulham is enjoying an excellent return to the big-time, sitting a point and a place behind Brentford. A return to Europe would be The Cottagers’ fourth ever campaign in UEFA club competition. Each of the previous three came in the Europa League or its predecessor the UEFA Cup. 

The other two bubble teams are among the biggest under-performers thus far. Neither Chelsea nor Liverpool expected to be in midtable at this point in the season. Yet, the two find themselves there. Both out of the FA Cup and EFL Cup, both at least 10 points behind Newcastle in the race for the Champions League spots. In fact, their numbers are almost identical this calendar year. Just one win for each, which does not bid well for their hopes of European football next season. 

Domestic cups and UEFA club competitions 

The EFL Cup is nearly over, with the final in a few weeks. Manchester United and Newcastle battle it out at Wembley, where the first European place will be awarded. As they are both comfortably in the top five, the Conference League place given to the winner will likely be passed down in the league. 

As for the FA Cup, the fourth round replays take place this week. Among the 10 teams looking to progress, Fulham is involved. A trip to Sunderland beckons for the Londoners. Premier League sides already in the last 16 are Manchester United, Manchester City, Brighton, West Ham, Leicester, Southampton, Spurs, and Leeds. Still a long way to go in order to see who will lift the trophy at Wembley at season’s end. 

Regarding the UEFA club competitions, Manchester City, Spurs, Chelsea and Liverpool are all left in the Champions League last 16. The pressure will be on the latter two, who will surely need to prevail in Istanbul to maintain a UCL place next season. 

Both Manchester United and Arsenal are in the Europa League knockouts, where the former will have to play in the knockout round playoffs. As for Mikel Arteta’s Gunners, they advanced directly to the last 16 courtesy of topping their group. 

West Ham is the other Premier League side still competing in Europe. David Moyes’ men won their Europa Conference League group back in the fall. That leaves them waiting to find out their opponent in the last 16 there. 

As things stand, if Chelsea or Liverpool, plus West Ham, win in the Champions League and Conference League respectively, England could realistically have as many as nine teams in Europe next season. While we are ways away from that being confirmed, it is not unthinkable for it to happen. 

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