Liverpool, Leicester, West Ham: Fourth place doesn't guarantee Champions League football

  • Kobe Tong
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The race for Champions League football is hotting up in the Premier League.

Give or take Manchester United and Manchester City being nailed on for Europe's top competition, there's going to be an almighty scramble to finish third and fourth across the final few game-weeks.

Leicester City are currently leading the charge in the bronze medal position, though they infamously bottled a top-four place last season, while Thomas Tuchel's Chelsea are hot on their tail in fourth.

Race for the top four

West Ham United are within a nose-hair of rounding off a truly remarkable season in fifth place whereas Liverpool and Tottenham Hotspur are hoping to save their campaigns from behind them.

And while, yes, technically Everton can also clamber their way into the Champions League places, the Toffees look to have blown their chance in Carlo Ancelotti's first full season in charge.

However, with the title race and relegation battle essentially sewn up, you can rest assured that the battle for the top four will be the Premier League's most enthralling narrative thread to go this year.

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Nightmare scenario

But before we get ahead of ourselves simply watching the table unfold, it's worth noting that the team that finishes fourth might not actually qualify for the Champions League.

Yes, you read that right, because the success of English teams in the Champions League and Europa League could mean that the Premier League reaches its UEFA maximum of five qualifiers.

According to the Daily Mail, Leicester are fearing yet another failure to qualify for the Champions League even if they finish in the top four courtesy of what would be a crushing technicality.

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No guarantees in fourth place

The report explains that UEFA only permits a maximum of five entries from the same country, while honouring automatic entries for winners of the Champions League and Europa League.

As such, if Chelsea were to win the Champions League and Arsenal secured glory in the Europa League with neither finishing in the top four, then fourth place would only be good enough for a spot in the latter competition.

That's because Chelsea, Arsenal and the top three Premier League finishers would fulfill the UEFA quota, recreating the brutal situation suffered by Spurs when they finished fourth in 2011/12.

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Exemplar scenario

Or to make things even clearer, a situation like this would leave Liverpool shy of Champions League qualification per the Mail's claims:

1. Manchester City

2. Manchester United

3. Leicester City

4. Liverpool

5. Chelsea

6. West Ham United

Europa League winners: Arsenal

Champions League winners: Chelsea

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Now, it goes without saying that Arsenal's chances aren't exactly favoured in the Europa League and there's equally good reason to think that Chelsea will finish in the Premier League top four.

So, it's still likelier than not that fourth place will be good enough for Champions League football, but make no mistake that the race for European football is even more dramatic than you thought.

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