Newly-crowned Premier League champion Leicester City and Tottenham Hotspur are already guaranteed a spot in next season’s UEFA Champions League, but seven other clubs remain in with a chance to claim the remaining European qualification slots as the English domestic season reaches its zenith.
Under normal circumstances, the top three finishers in the Premier League qualify for the group stage of the Champions League, while fourth has to come through the final qualifying round. If the qualifier ends in a defeat, that side goes directly into the Europa League group stage.
Three other sides – fifth, the FA Cup winners and the League Cup winners – qualify for the Europa League.
At the end of this, arguably the most unpredictable Premier League season ever, things can work out slightly differently.
Manchester City, who won the Capital One Cup (the League Cup) can finish no lower than fifth, so that Europa League spot will go to fifth.
In other words, fifth, sixth and the FA Cup winners will go into the Europa League. Should Manchester United win the FA Cup and finish in the top six, then seventh place will also go into the Europa League, albeit in the third qualifying round.
The situation is made even more complicated by Liverpool’s run in the Europa League, where they will take on Sevilla in the final next week. Should the Merseysiders win in Basle, they will go directly into the Champions League as well, irrespective of where they finish domestically.
Should Liverpool win the Europa League and finish in the top seven, the Premier League may lose one of its traditional qualification spots, with seventh place not guaranteed of European qualification.
However, should Liverpool win the Europa League and finish outside the top seven, England will have eight representatives in Europe for the first time ever – four in the Champions League proper, one in the Champions League qualifier and three into the Europa League.
A similar scenario would arise if Crystal Palace win the FA Cup and Liverpool win the Europa and finish seventh; or Liverpool won the Europa League and finish ahead of Manchester United, who finished eighth.
Here is a closer look at the permutations for each of the European contenders.
ARSENAL (68 pts, +25 GD)
Remaining game: Aston Villa (h)
Arsenal need at least a point against bottom side Villa on the final day to be guaranteed of third place and a spot in the Champions League group stage.
The only scenario in which the Gunners would miss out on the riches of the Champions League is if they lose to Villa – however unlikely that may be, while both Manchester clubs win their remaining matches.
On the other hand, Arsene Wenger’s men could still finish second if they beat Villa and Spurs lose to Newcastle at St James’ Park on the final day.
MANCHESTER CITY (65 pts, +30 GD)
Remaining game: Swansea (a)
After drawing with Arsenal at the Etihad on Sunday in Manuel Pellegrini’s final home game, City’s European fate is no longer in their own hands.
Should the Gunners avoid defeat to Aston Villa, and Man United win their final two games, City will find themselves in fifth place regardless of their result against Swansea.
Should West Ham or Bournemouth take points from Man United, three points on the final day will move City out of the Europa League spots.
City can’t finish lower than fifth, so the Europa League spot they earned for winning the Capital One Cup will automatically go to the next highest finisher in the Premier League that haven’t already qualified for Europa via a cup competition.
MANCHESTER UNITED (63 pts, +13 GD)
Remaining games: West Ham (a), Bournemouth (h), Crystal Palace (FA Cup final)
Despite being somewhat unimpressive over the course of the season, Louis van Gaal’s side have their fate completely in their own hands.
If they win their last two matches, they will move up to fourth or even third, depending on Arsenal’s result on the final day.
However, the Red Devils will be in the Europa League if they finish fifth, sixth or seventh, or beat Crystal Palace in the FA Cup final, regardless of their position in the league.
United could lose out on European qualification completely should they finish the season with three defeats and Liverpool, West Ham and Southampton won their remaining games.
SOUTHAMPTON (60 pts, +15 GD)
Remaining game: Crystal Palace (h)
The Saints cannot qualify for the Champions League, but remain in with a great chance of taking one of the Europa League spots. Ronald Koeman’s side will drop into seventh place if West Ham win their game in hand – against Man United on Tuesday – but that would still be enough to put them into the Europa League qualifying position.
If they finish seventh at Crystal Palace win the FA Cup, or Man United win the FA Cup and finish outside of the top seven, Southampton will miss out altogether.
Should Southampton win their league match against Palace, and the odds are they will since Alan Pardew’s men is likely to rest some of his players with the FA Cup final in mind, they can still finish as a high as fifth if Man United lost their remaining two league fixtures.
WEST HAM (59 pts, +14 GD)
Remaining games: Manchester United (h), Stoke (a)
Since Man City has a considerably better goal difference than the Hammers, their Champions League chances were ended with last week’s defeat to Swansea.
However, Slaven Bilic’s men remain with a fine chance of getting into Europe this season. A victory over Man United would see them leapfrog Southampton, and a win over Stoke may even be enough to secure fifth place and direct entry into the Europa League group stage.
Should they lose their remaining matches and finish eighth, their European fate will be decided by the result in the FA Cup and Europa League finals, as explained above.
LIVERPOOL (58 pts, +13 GD)
Remaining games: Chelsea (h), West Brom (a), Sevilla (Europa League final)
Liverpool can’t finish and qualify for the Champions League by virtue of the Premier League, but would go straight into the Group stage of the competition should they win the Europa League.
The Reds would miss out on European qualification completely if they lose to Sevilla and finish in eighth place. However, with matches against Chelsea and West Brom on the horizon, Jurgen Klopp’s side have an excellent opportunity to overhaul at least one of West Ham or Southampton. Again, a Crystal Palace FA Cup win would muddle the waters somewhat, as was explained earlier.
CRYSTAL PALACE (42 pts, -9 GD)
Remaining games: Southampton (a), Manchester United (FA Cup final)
For Palace, the task is simple: win the FA Cup and qualify for the Europa League. Don’t, and they won’t.