Why the papers are getting their Champions League scenarios wrong

by Red Billy

The British press are getting a little confused over the Premier League run-in today.

A report in The Telegraph, of all places, by Daniel Zeqiri claims that there is a scenario in which Manchester United and Leicester City could have to participate in a play-off to decide who goes into next season’s Champions League.

Zeqiri states ‘If Leicester and United finish fourth and fifth, level on points, goal difference and goals scored (United have scored 64 to Leicester’s 67) then it goes down to head-to-head record (including away goals).

‘United won 1-0 at Old Trafford in September. If Leicester replicated that exact scoreline then they would need a play-off to decide fourth.’

The problem with this scenario is that it cannot possibly happen. United are a point ahead of Leicester, so the two sides cannot finish level on points.

It is even wrong on another level, in that for the two sides to finish level on goals scored, United would have to win and score exactly three goals, increasing the gap even further.

The scare-mongering continues over at The Express, although the scenario that reporter Vickiie Oliphant has come up with, in which United finish fourth but are then excluded from the Champions League, could actually happen and to be fair, she does admit it is unlikely.

UEFA rules state that a maximum of five English teams can take part in the Champions League and that the winners of this season’s Champions League and Europa League automatically qualify.

This means that ‘In the event that … neither of these clubs finish in the top four of the Premier League, the club lying fourth in the table will drop into the UEFA Europa League group stage.’ (source: premierleague.com)

Oliphant notes that if United lose to Leicester today but Chelsea lose to Wolves, Leicester would finish third and United fourth.

Chelsea and Wolves, in fifth and sixth, could both then win their respective UEFA tournaments.

The Blues, in particular, will find that difficult as it will require them to overcome a 3-0 first leg deficit to Bayern Munich before going on to progress through three more rounds to win the Champions League.

The true facts of today’s situation (ignoring Oliphant’s highly improbable scenario) are that if the Red Devils avoid defeat they will qualify regardless of what Chelsea do, and if they lose they will still qualify if Chelsea also lose.

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