FA: Give us five

Liverpool’s defeat at Palace on Saturday has opened up the story about who gets England’s fourth Champions League place next season. According to reports, the English FA have asked UEFA for a fifth place in the tournament.

Not all countries get four entries into the competition, and the problem has been raised due to the possibility of Everton or Bolton finishing fourth in the Premiership, and Liverpool winning the competition outright.

The Daily Express carried a quote today from UEFA’s chief executive Lars-Christer Olsson. He said, “There is no way England can have more than four teams so we would refer it to the English FA to make the decision if it arises. But normally I would say that it’s more important if you are qualified through your national league position than if you have won the competition.”

Meanwhile the FA’s website says in their Guide to European Qualification that, “as a result of England’s place in the UEFA Coefficient Rankings, England has four places in the UEFA Champions League and three places in the UEFA Cup.” It goes on to say that for the Champions League, “England is entitled to four places in the Champions League, i.e. the four top-placed teams in the Premiership. If an English team wins the Champions League and finishes in the top four, we do not gain an extra place. If an English team wins the Champions League and do not finish in the top four, The FA can request that this team qualify automatically for the Champions League, but the fourth-placed team in the Premiership is entered into the UEFA Cup.”

So the FA are saying that it’s their decision on who they want to be the fourth team in the tournament next season.

Real Madrid won the Champions League in 2000. They beat Valencia 3-0 in a match that saw goals from ex-Red Steve McManaman and current-Red Fernando Morientes. Raul got the other, and Nicolas Anelka also played that night for Real. Current red Mauricio Pellegrino was in the Valencia side that night. Why do we mention this? Well that season Real Madrid finished fifth in La Liga. That season it was decided that fourth-placed Real Zaragoza would go into the following season’s UEFA cup, and Real Madrid would take their place in the Champions League. What’s not clear is who actually made the decision.

Although it goes against the feelings of UEFA to allow five teams from one country into the tournament, there’s surely room for an extra team in the qualifying rounds if needed. In fact the year that Real Madrid were given Spain’s fourth place they were put straight into the group stages.

All of this will be irrelevent though if Liverpool don’t find some form away from home on Wednesday night against a Chelsea team that may well already be English Champions as the game kicks off.