UEFA today allowed Liverpool the chance to do something that the English FA were prepared to prevent them from doing – to defend their title of European Champions.
In future, if a club winning the European Cup is from a country with four European places, that country’s FA will have no choice but to award the fourth place to the European Cup holders. The team fourth in that country’s league would then go into the UEFA Cup. In fact this is pretty much how the existing rule were intended to be intepreted – and indeed they were interpreted this way the last time this situation arose, when the Spanish FA nominated Real Madrid for the Champions League even though they were outside the top four. Real went into the group stages that season.
The English FA however decided not to do this, feeling that fourth place (by some distance) in the domestic league was more important than being the winners of the premier European competition.
UEFA have decided to let Liverpool in – but have insulted them by putting them into the first qualifying round. After Liverpool finished the season so late (25th May) they’ll be playing their first Champions League Qualifier on July 11th or 12th. In all they have to win three two-legged fixtures to get into the group stages. Had the FA done the correct thing then Liverpool would have been put into the group stages – and it is still in the FA’s power to do this.
Liverpool are also expected to fit a UEFA Super Cup tie in at the end of August, along with a trip to Japan for the new World Club Championship tournament in December.
The club will now need to reconsider whether they can fit these games into their schedule, as they’ve also somehow got to fit the Premiership games in too. This news was obviously not expected by Liverpool – they’d already made arrangements for pre-season games which will now need to be scrapped.
Following are dates of games possibly involving Liverpool between now and the end of August.
Jun 27 – Pre-season training begins
Jul 12/13 EC
Qual Round 1 Leg 1
Jul 16 v Bayer Leverkusen (venue TBA) – awaiting confirmation
Jul 19/20 EC
Qual Round 1 Leg 2
Jul 22 v FC Cologne (away) – awaiting confirmation
Jul 26/27 EC Qual Round 2 Leg 1
Jul 27 v Smimizu S Pulse (away)
Jul 30 v Kashima Antlers (away)
Aug 2/3 EC Qual Round 2 Leg 2
Aug 9/10 EC Qual Round 3 Leg 1
Aug 13 – Premiership opening weekend
Aug 17 – International Fixtures (e.g. Denmark v England)
Aug 20 – Premiership week 2.
EC Qual Round 3 Leg 2
Aug 26 v CSKA Moscow (to be played in Monaco) UEFA Super Cup Final
Aug 27 – Premiership week 3