Liverpool could hand Manchester United major Champions League boost after UEFA rule change
Liverpool could have a major say on how Manchester United’s season ends.
Jurgen Klopp ending his Liverpool managerial career by winning the Europa League is an achievement that may end up being celebrated even by Manchester United supporters, should it happen.
The Reds will take part in the Europa League Round of 16 next month and have hopes of progressing to the showpiece fixture in Dublin on May 22. This competition is the one piece of silverware Klopp has failed to claim during his near nine-year tenure on Merseyside and would be a fitting end to his glorious Anfield reign.
While the majority of the trophies claimed by the German have been met with groans from those of a United following, the same may not apply if Klopp goes on to secure Europa League glory. The reason for this relates to the fact the side that finishes fifth in the Premier League this season could end up in next year’s Champions League.
It was decided by UEFA to change the format of Europe’s elite competition from 2024/25, which will see the number of teams involved jump from 32 to 36 and therefore ensures four extra spaces are up for grabs. Two of these spots will go to teams from countries whose clubs collectively perform the best in UEFA competitions during the previous season. Therefore, if a Premier League side experiences success in the Champions League, Europa League or Conference League this season, it will have positive consequences for fellow clubs in England.
Had this rule come into effect for the current campaign, the Reds’ fifth-placed finish in May would have seen them back in the Champions League due to Manchester City winning the Champions League and West Ham United lifting the Conference League. The other team who have benefitted is Atalanta, who came fifth in Serie A, after Inter Milan reached the Champions League final while AS Roma and Fiorentina reached the last stage of the Europa League and Conference League respectively.
United will therefore be paying close attention to Liverpool’s run in Europe this season as relying on the performance of other clubs could be the most realistic chance Erik ten Hag’s side have of earning Champions League football The Red Devils are currently sixth in the Premier League and eight points adrift of Aston Villa in fourth.
Italy and Germany are the two countries leading the way for the extra Champions League space at present, with their coefficient scores of 14 and 13.64 narrowly edging out England (13.63). This could all change when the knockout rounds of the three UEFA competitions take place, with additional points up for grabs depending on performance. Every win is worth two coefficient points, a draw earns you one and defeats result in no change to your tally. There are bonus points on offer for reaching various stages of each tournament, with total scores added up and divided by the number of clubs each country has in Europe this season to provide a coefficient average.
As a result, Liverpool going deep into the Europa League will have the unwanted knock-on effect of boosting United or Tottenham Hotspur’s hopes of Champions League football for the 2024/25 season, ahead of the revamped competition format next year.
The 2024/25 ‘Swiss Model’ will see the end of the Champions League’s traditional group stage, with all 36 teams instead being put into one league table. Each of the qualifying sides will contest in eight games, equally split home and away, and those that finish between first and eighth will automatically qualify for the round of 16. The knockout stage will follow the current system. Sides that finish between ninth and 24th will contest a two-legged play-off, resulting in the eight victors also progressing to the last 16.
An increase in competitors will also have a profound impact on the already-bloated football calendar. Indeed, there will now be a total of 189 Champions League matches from 2024/25, compared to the existing total of 125.