Sheffield United in the Champions League?
One major question on the lips of many Premier League clubs is who will take City’s Champions League spot if the club finish in the top-four following their two-year ban from next season.
While UEFA and the Premier League have not confirmed what will happen regarding England’s qualification spots, UEFA rule 4.08 says: ‘A club which is not admitted to the competition is replaced by the next best-placed club in the top domestic championship of the same association, provided the new club fulfills the admission criteria. One potential solution is that fifth place qualifying for European’s biggest club competition.’
This would mean Chris Wilder’s Sheffield United – who currently occupy that fifth position with a dozen Premier League games to go – are in pole position to qualify for the Champions League if Manchester City end up finishing in the top-four.
The Blades were sitting in England’s third tier just over three years ago and were playing in the Championship last season, meaning potential ties against Barcelona, Juventus and Paris Saint-Germain would cap off a meteoric rise by Wilder’s side.
It would also mean Sheffield United could attract some of Europe’s elite players which would have long-term benefits regarding the stature of the club.
That being said, given Oliver Norwood, John Fleck and Lys Mousset’s performances this season, why would Wilder look to replace them?
However, Sheffield United’s hold of fifth-place could go out of their hands if Tottenham beat Aston Villa on Sunday, with Jose Mourinho’s side sitting two points behind the Blades with a game in hand.
Arsenal and Manchester United given hope
Arsenal and Manchester United’s seasons – both of which can only be described as disastrous so far – have just been kicked into life.
Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s Red Devils sat six points behind the Champions League spots before City’s ruling – now that gap has been reduced to four given fifth-place’s potential eligibility for Europe’s top club competition.
If United end up reaching the Champions League next season, it may give Solskjaer a boost with regards to his long-term future at Old Trafford. The Norwegian manager is under pressure following several poor results over the past 12 months.
Meanwhile, Arsenal currently sit 10 points behind fourth-placed Chelsea as Champions League football next season seemingly looked like a bridge too far for new head coach Mikel Arteta.
The north London club have registered just 31 points this season – their lowest total after 25 games since the 1912-13 season – having drawn 13 times since the start of the campaign and winning just six games.
They have also gone three years without Champions League football, with their last match in Europe’s premier club competition being a crushing 10-2 aggregate defeat in a 2017 last-16 tie.
However, if the Gunners beat Newcastle United on Sunday afternoon, they can close the gap on fifth-placed Sheffield United to just five points.
Both Arsenal and Manchester United, alongside Wolverhampton Wanderers, also have winning the Europa League as a potential way-in to next season’s Champions League proper – but their end to the domestic season has just got interesting.
Carlo Ancelotti’s Everton with eyes on Europe
When Carlo Ancelotti took over as Everton boss, the Toffees sat in 15th place and sat four points above the relegation zone.
After a small resurgence masterminded by the Italian at Goodison Park, Everton now look highly likely to qualify for Europe next season, with spots in both the Champions League and Europa League up for grabs.
The Toffees currently sit in seventh place – two points behind Sheffield United and five points behind Ancelotti’s former club Chelsea in fourth.
If Manchester City beat Aston Villa in the League Cup final, and a top-four club wins the FA Cup in May, then eighth place would qualify for the Europa League.
Goodison Park has only seen two European campaigns in the last nine seasons, so qualification for Europe would confirm Ancelotti’s position as an Everton fan favourite.
But given Ancelotti has won the Champions League three times as a manager, he may just fancy his chances to get his new team playing with the big boys sometime soon.
By Sam Blitz