December 27

Fourth in the Prem: Who Liverpool could play in Champions League qualifying

first_imgLiverpool are in pole position to finish fourth in the Premier League, but that wouldn’t automatically secure Champions League football next season.The Reds would have to play a qualifying round to reach the group stages, but unlike top four rivals Manchester City and Arsenal, they would not be guaranteed a seeded place in the draw, meaning there is the possibility of a tough eliminator.Should Liverpool finish fourth, their nightmare Champions League qualifying draw as an unseeded side could include a tie against one of Sevilla, Borussia Dortmund, Napoli or Ajax.And even if they were seeded, at time of writing they could face a showdown with one of Roma, Hoffenheim, PSV Eindhoven, Sporting, Besiktas or CSKA Moscow.Here, talkSPORT explains what finishing fourth will mean for the clubs concerned and who they could potentially face.Fourth in the Premier League is rewarded with a place in the ‘League Route’ of the final Play-off Round of the Champions League.If Manchester United win the Europa League, there will be four English clubs in the Champions League group stages automatically (United plus the top three), but the fourth-placed team will contest the Play-off Round regardless of what happens when the Red Devils face Ajax.What is the ‘League Route Play-Off Round’ and which clubs could contest it?There are 10 teams in this round drawn in five ties – the five winners will go into the Champions League group stage, with the five losers entering the group stage of the Europa League.The 10 teams in this round are as follows:– Clubs that finish fourth in Spain, Germany and England– Third in Italy and Portugal– Five teams that have come through from the Third Qualifying Round (via the League Route – this is for clubs that have entered the qualification process courtesy of a domestic league position that is lower than first, ie. they aren’t national champions).These five teams are taken from the 10 teams in the League Route Third Qualifying Round, which are:– The third-placed club in France– Second in Russia, Ukraine, Belgium, Netherlands, Turkey, Switzerland, Czech Republic, Greece and RomaniaClubs so far confirmed in the League Route Play-off Round: Sevilla and Sporting Lisbon.Yet to be confirmed – From Germany: Hoffenheim or Borussia Dortmund. With one game to go, Hoffenheim and Dortmund are level on points. Dortmund have a goal difference four better than Hoffenheim. Both play at home in the final round of Bundesliga fixtures: Hoffenheim v 14th-placed Augsburg, Dortmund v eighth-placed Werder Bremen.From Italy: Napoli or Roma. With two games to go, Roma are one point ahead of Napoli. Remaining fixtures: Chievo (13th) v Roma, Napoli v Fiorentina (seventh), Roma v Genoa (16th), Sampdoria (10th) v Napoli.Clubs so far confirmed in the League Route Third Qualifying Round: Nice, Dynamo Kiev, Young Boys, PAOK, Steaua Bucharest and Ajax (who will be replaced by PSV Eindhoven if Ajax win the Europa League final v Manchester United)Yet to be confirmed – Belgium (most likely Club Brugge, but could yet be Anderlecht or Gent), Russia (currently CSKA Moscow, but could be Zenit), Turkey (currently Besiktas, could be Istanbul Basaksehir), Czech Republic (currently Viktoria Plzen, could be Slavia Prague)When Premier League clubs enter in the League Route Play-off Round draw, five teams are seeded and five are not (based on UEFA co-efficient score).Here is a list of all the clubs still in contention to qualify for the League Route Play-off Round, ranked by current UEFA co-efficient score (in order to be seeded, a club will need no more than four clubs in the draw to have a higher points total. Clubs in italics are confirmed as competing in 2017/18 Champions League qualifying):1. Borussia Dortmund (124.899)2. Sevilla (112.771)3. Arsenal (105.021)4. Manchester City (100.021)5. Napoli (88.499)6. Zenit (87.106)7. Dynamo Kiev (67.526)8. Ajax (64.092)9. Liverpool (56.021)10. Roma (53.566)11. PSV Eindhoven (46.172)12. Besiktas (45.840)13. Viktoria Plzen (40.635)14. CSKA Moscow (39.606)15. Club Brugge (39.480)16. Sporting (36.866)17. Gent (35.480)18. PAOK (35.080)19. Young Boys (28.915)20. Nice (16.766)21. Istanbul Basaksehir (10.340)22. Slavia Prague (8.135)=23. Hoffenheim (0)=23. Steaua Bucharest (0)What do these rankings mean for the Premier League clubs?Manchester City and Arsenal would definitely be seeded if they were in the Play-off Round draw, but Liverpool could find themselves unseeded if they are forced to qualify.If Sevilla are joined in the Play-Off Round by Dortmund and Napoli, plus two of Zenit, Dynamo Kiev and Ajax make it through the Third Qualifying Round, Liverpool would not be seeded, meaning they could be paired with any one of those clubs.What results would help Liverpool to be seeded?First, it would help if certain-to-be-seeded Dortmund won their final game of the season to ensure certain-to-be-unseeded Hoffenheim finish fourth in Germany.Second, if Napoli overtook Roma in Serie A.Third, if CSKA Moscow finish runners up in Russia, ahead of Zenit. With two games remaining, CSKA are a point ahead of Zenit, with a worse goal difference (+26 to Zenit’s +28). CSKA face ninth-placed Rubin Kazan away in their next fixture, then 12th-placed Anzhi at home. Zenit have fourth-placed Krasnodar at home, then eighth-placed Lokomotiv away.Fourth, if Ajax win the Europa League it would be handy, and not just because Liverpool fans would enjoy seeing Man United defeated, as it would put lower-ranked PSV in the qualifying rounds.Of course, Liverpool could avoid any doubt by securing third place in the Premier League, which will require Manchester City to drop points. The Reds could also yet find themselves overtaken by Arsenal, so we can only wait to see how results play out in England and across Europe before the final qualifiers for next season’s Champions League are confirmed. 1 Liverpool are battling with Arsenal (and Manchester City) for a shot at next season’s Champions League last_img read more