London’s European representatives are all in good positions to progress in this year’s continental competitions but from next season the structure of UEFA’s competitions and the qualification process will have a very different look.
Chelsea are leading Atletico Madrid 1-0 ahead of their Champions League last-16 second leg and both Tottenham and Arsenal have the upper hand in their Europa League last-16 ties with all three favorites to progress through to the quarter-finals in their respective competitions.
On the domestic front Arsenal are lagging behind their traditional London rivals and the surprise package of the season West Ham have put themselves in an excellent position to challenge for European football.
With the Premier League and domestic cup competitions reaching the business end, fan’s eyes are naturally being drawn to next season and what. if any, European football their club may be involved in.
England’s European representatives
UEFA is introducing a new competition for the 2021/22 season and one of the London clubs could well be taking part in the inaugural Europa Conference League.
Thie third tier of European football will involve a total of 184 teams over the course of the season with at least one representative from each of the 55 UEFA associations.
Forty-six clubs from either the Champions League or Europa League will also be involved following elimination from the more prestigious competitions.
Currently, England’s representative in the Europa Conference League is set to be the winner of the League Cup, the final of which is to be contested by Manchester City and Tottenham on April, 25th.
No teams qualify directly for the Europa Conference League group stage with the League Cup winners missing the qualification rounds and starting in the final play-off phase.
But if the League Cup winners qualify for Europe via their final league position, then the team that finishes in sixth will drop from their Europa League spot to the Europa Conference League play-off round.
However, that play-off spot will move to the Premier League’s seventh-placed team if a top-six club wins the FA Cup.
Further complicated qualification scenarios would arise were, for example, Liverpool or Chelsea to win this season’s Champions League and finish lower than fourth and Arsenal or Spurs to win the Europa League and also miss out on a top-four finish.
In this scenario, the two holders of the European trophies would both enter the following season’s Champions League and the fourth-placed Premier League side would drop into the Europa League.
The Europa Conference League qualifier would remain the League Cup winners or the Premier League’s sixth or seventh-placed side depending on the final league position of the FA Cup victors.
UEFA Europa Conference League
The new competition will take place alongside the slimmed-down Europa League, from next season only 32 teams instead of this year’s 48 will be involved in the group stage, on Thursday evenings with kick-off times set to be at 5:45pm and 8:00pm UK time.
Thirty-two teams will enter the Conference League group stages after three qualifying rounds and a final play-off round.
The winners from the play-off round will go into the group stage of the competition alongside the losers of the Europa League play-off round to make up eight groups of four teams.
Only the top team from each group will directly progress to the round of 16 knockout format.
Their opponents in that round will come from a play-off round featuring the group stage runners-up and eight third-placed teams from the Europa League groups.
From there on it is a two-legged knock-out tournament until a one-off final set to take place on May, 25., 2022 in Tirana, Albania.
The winner of the Europa Conference League will be rewarded with a place in the following season’s Europa League as well as a shiny new trophy.
Chances of Europa Conference League qualification
In all likelihood, either the League Cup winners or the seventh-placed Premier League team will be involved in the Europa Conference League play-off stage next season.
Not since 2013 and Wigan’s shock FA Cup victory coupled with Swansea City winning the League Cup have both the domestic cup winner’s cup come from outside the Premier League European places.
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With Chelsea in form under Thomas Tuchel. West Ham looking up the table rather than down. Spurs back in Champions League contention through the Premier League and Europa League. And Arsenal pinning all their Champions League hopes on a Europa League triumph. London teams are bound to be heavily involved in continental competitions next season.
All four teams are aiming for higher than the Europa Conference League but one of them could easily find themselves in with a chance at making history and becoming the first-ever winners of the new tournament.