For the past couple of seasons, qualification for the Europa League was met by cries of derision. “Enjoy Thursday nights!” and “how is Channel 5?” were the two most commonly heard. Now though, ITV4 has a hold of the Europa League and with the end of the season approaching, it’s time to try and determine which English sides will be spending their Thursday nights on ITV4.
Before making any kind of prediction, it is important to understand how qualification for the Europa League works with regards to English football. England has three places up for grabs for the Europa League – one for the fifth placed side in the Premier League, one for the League Cup winners and one for the FA Cup winners. The FA Cup winners enter at the group stage (how Wigan got there automatically this season), the fifth placed team enter at the play-off round while the League Cup winners enter in the third qualifying round. All very simple so far. However, if the FA Cup winners have already qualified for the Champions League then the place will go to the FA Cup runners-up but they will enter as the lowest ranking English side, pushing the other two teams up a round. If both FA Cup finalists and the League Cup winners all qualify for the Champions League then that slot goes to the next best placed side in the Premier League. Simple.
There are a number of different scenarios that could happen with regards to Europa League qualification thanks to Manchester City (who are pretty much qualified for the Champions League next season) and their League Cup win including:
- Hull defeat Arsenal in the FA Cup final and enter the group stages automatically. Arsenal finish fifth and enter the play-off round meaning that the sixth placed side would enter the third qualifying round
- Arsenal win the FA Cup but finish fifth and qualify automatically for the group stages. Sixth placed team enter at the play-off round while Hull enter at the third qualifying round
- Arsenal win the FA Cup. Everton finish fifth and enter at group stage. Hull enter in third qualifying round while sixth placed team enter in play-off round
- Hull win FA Cup and Everton finish fifth. Sixth placed side enter at third qualifying round.
- Arsenal win FA Cup and Manchester City finish fifth. City enter group stages, sixth placed side enter play-off round and Hull enter third qualifying round.
It’s tough to make a prediction about who will and will not qualify for the Europa League next season but to make this worthwhile, I must. So here are my predictions for how the Europa League qualification will be decided:
- Arsenal will defeat Hull in the FA Cup final which will leave Hull as the lowest ranked English side in the Europa League entering at the third qualifying round
- Arsenal will also just edge out Everton into fourth leaving Everton to enter the group stages
- This means that the sixth placed side in the Premier League will enter the play-offs. Tottenham (currently in sixth) will just edge out Manchester United (currently seventh) and go into the Europa League.
So, Everton, Tottenham and Hull will be on ITV4 next season in the Europa League. Do you agree with these picks? Let us know who you think will be the English representatives in the Europa League will be next season.