European Qualification Picture for Aston Villa
With only four matches left in the current Premier League season, the race for European football is now at the business end. Aston Villa, currently in seventh place, are in a strong position to qualify for European competition for the first time since 2010. However, there are still a few scenarios that could play out. With some Aston Villa supporters still confused where the European places can potentially stretch to in the league, let’s clear it up.
Current Qualification Situation
As it stands, the European qualification picture for the Premier League teams is as follows: Arsenal, Manchester City, Newcastle, and Manchester United qualify for the Champions League; Liverpool and Tottenham qualify for the Europa League, and Aston Villa qualifies for the Europa Conference League.
What About Eighth in the League?
At the start of the season, it was stipulated that the top four teams in the Premier League qualify for the Champions League, while fifth place and the FA Cup winners enter the Europa League. The winners of the Carabao Cup qualify for the Europa Conference League. However, Manchester United’s success in the Carabao Cup, coupled with an all-Manchester FA Cup final, means that the European qualification picture is already distorted.
Technically, seventh place can qualify for the Europa Conference League only if Manchester United and the FA Cup winners (either them or City) finish in the top six of the Premier League. This is nailed on to happen, so seventh place will secure a place in the Europa Conference League. It is impossible for eighth place to qualify by league position.
In terms of domestic performance, the maximum number of teams that can qualify for Europe is seven, either through league position or by winning the FA Cup or Carabao Cup. The places reserved for European titleholders are separate if a team does not qualify domestically. With West Ham in the semi-finals of the Europa Conference League and unable to finish in the European places in the Premier League, it is possible that eight English teams could take part in European competition next season.
So, to recap, if West Ham wins the Europa Conference League, they will earn a place in next season’s Europa League group stage. As the Hammers will not qualify for Europe domestically, England would have eight teams in Europe next season, even if West Ham is relegated.
Again, there is no possibility for eighth in the Premier League to open up a Europa Conference qualification spot.
If Villa were to finish seventh, the irony is they would take Manchester United’s spot for winning the Carabao Cup, the very team that knocked them out of that domestic cup.
Europa League Showdown
Fifth place is the only guaranteed Europa League spot through the league table. However, an all-Manchester FA Cup final means that two places in the Europa League could be claimed by Premier League position.
If Manchester United joins Manchester City in the Champions League via their Premier League position, sixth place will claim the other Europa League group stage position for next season. It has to be pointed out that Liverpool are currently in fifth place, seven points behind United, with a vastly superior goal difference. But with so few games left in the season, and with United having a game in-hand, it would remain unlikely they’ll be a turnaround.
Villa would certainly prefer if United stayed in the top four, keeping sixth and seventh place open for potential European football.
If Liverpool, who have the softest of all the club’s run-in’s, do get fifth place, then it’s going to be extremely tight between Villa, Spurs and Brighton for the remaining spots.
Battle for Sixth
From a Villa point of view, to win the final Europa League berth, they’ll first probably need to get three points in the bank against Wolves this coming weekend, then beat both of their Europa rivals Spurs and Brighton at Villa Park. That should potentially be enough for sixth, whatever happens when they travel to Anfield.
If Brighton snag the Europa League spot, it would be an outstanding achievement. Since they have to catch up on games in the final month, with seven games in the space of four weeks. They still have to play all the current top four, as well as their visit to Villa Park. Their other two games are more winnable, as they entertain both Everton and Southampton at the Amex.
Spurs would be in a very good position if they avoid defeat at Villa Park, as their other three remaining games, include two home games against Crystal Palace and Brentford, with a trip to Leeds United on the final day of the season.
Realistically, it’s between those three teams – the winner (sixth) takes the final Europa League spot and the runner-up (seventh) the Europa Conference spot.
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Villa’s One Key Game
If you had to boil it down to one key game for Villa, it would be their next home game against Spurs. if they fail to win that, then the stakes for their final game of the season against Brighton, may vanish. If they do beat Spurs though, then the Villa Park clash against the Seagulls could be as equally epic.
But, of course, Villa are very much in the ‘take each game as it comes’ zone.
As MOMS said in this week’s Five Reasons to be Cheerful, Villa really are in a win-win situation. Europa League would be good, as we’ve got an expert in that competition, as coach. Europa Conference is at least a taste of Europe and European away days (think Intertoto Cup!). While eighth place will allow Villa, who currently have Champions League qualifying form since Emery took over, to have a clear run at the league next season.
In short, it’s all good. Although, of course, MOMS would certainly prefer “Under the Lights” at Villa Park to upgrade to “European Nights” once again.