Chelsea and Liverpool play each other in the FA Cup final today, in the Premier League on Tuesday and could meet in the latter stages of next season’s Europa League as well.
Liverpool have known for a while they will be in the Europa League next term: they qualified as Carling Cup winners (and only the winners of that competition qualify so we can forget about beaten finalists Cardiff City getting in through the back door), although their actual route abroad could be through the FA Cup, the senior competition, either as winners or runners-up.
Chelsea, on the other hand, are keen to carry on in the Champions League. And they can still qualify for that by finishing fourth or higher in the Premier League or by defeating hosts Bayern Munich in this month’s final.
The result of that game will have huge repercussions for Arsenal, Tottenham and Newcastle, the teams currently in third, fourth and fifth. Arsenal are currently ahead by just one point of rivals who are separated only by goal difference.
As it stands, Arsenal and Tottenham would go into the Champions League and Newcastle and Chelsea join Liverpool in the Europa League. However, a Chelsea win in Munich changes that picture completely as the Blues would qualify as defending champions and the fourth placed team in the Premier League would drop out.
If Roberto Di Matteo’s side loses in Munich then everything reverts to the normal procedure, although Chelsea, currently in sixth and able to finish no lower, could still end up as high as third.
The identities of the seven English sides in Europe next season are already known therefore. The two Manchester clubs are assured of Champions League football and it is just a question of which two of Arsenal, Tottenham, Newcastle and Chelsea get to join them and which pair has to travel the same route as Liverpool.
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