We use numbers from the Opta supercomputer’s projections to work out whether the Premier League will be granted a fifth place in next season’s UEFA Champions League.

From the start of the 2024-25 season, the Champions League takes on a new format. At this stage you don’t really need to know the ins and outs of that new format, but there is one fairly major implication for the teams battling at the top end of each of the top five leagues.

The number of teams competing in the Champions League will increase from the traditional 32 to 36, meaning four extra spots are up for grabs across Europe. Two of those are given to the associations with the best collective performance in European competition this season.

So, the two countries whose clubs fare best in Europe in 2023-24 will earn an extra spot in the Champions League in 2024-25 – this is calculated via a points system, where points are earned for each association by their clubs progressing through European competitions. (Have a look here for a more detailed look at UEFA coefficients, what they mean for next season’s Champions League, and how the other two extra slots are awarded.)

What that means is, for the first time, there was a possibility that fifth place in the Premier League could have been a route into the Champions League.

Throughout the campaign, we’ve used the Opta supercomputer‘s season projections for each European competition to work out and track the chances of the Premier League’s contingent earning that extra spot. We used these projections to find an expected points (xPts) total for each association in the UEFA coefficients ranking, which then told us how likely it was each nation would earn an additional place in next season’s Champions League.

Unfortunately for the Premier League, things took a rather unexpected turn. After Manchester City and Arsenal’s exits at the Champions League quarter-final stage, English clubs were left relying on West Ham, Liverpool and Aston Villa to go deep into their respective competitions; only one of those remain and the combination of results across the first legs of the Champions League, Europa League and Europa Conference League semi-finals produced a decisive outcome.

3 May

Aston Villa might still be just about alive in the Europa Conference League, but any dwindling hopes of the Premier League getting that extra Champions League ticket have been extinguished.

Villa’s 4-2 home defeat to Olympiakos on Thursday was a surprise but ultimately had little bearing on what was already certain; Borussia Dortmund’s 1-0 win over Paris Saint-Germain in the Champions League a day earlier ensured the Bundesliga became the recipients of the second extra ticket after Serie A clinched the first some time ago.

Champions League extra ticket
Nils Mackay / Guest Author

In a curious quirk of fate, Dortmund’s victory essentially sealed their own return to the Champions League for next season. BVB are fifth in the Bundesliga and cannot finish any lower, meaning regardless of what happens in their final three league games – or the remainder of their European campaign, for that matter – they’ll be back at Europe’s top table in 2024-25.

For the Premier League, however, the Bundesliga wrapping up that additional ticket serves as a damning indictment of English clubs’ performances in Europe this season.

In mid-March, the Premier League secured the extra Champions League spot in 82.5% of the Opta supercomputer’s season simulations, highlighting just how remarkable it is that it’s since been rendered an impossibility despite there still being a match to play in every semi-final in each competition.

Italy and Germany will have five teams each in the 2024-25 Champions League; for England, it’s a case of better luck next season.

19 April

And then there was one.

Aston Villa are the last English club standing in European competition this season. Considering England had eight representatives at the beginning of the campaign, there’s no getting away from the fact it’s been a poor showing.

The quarter-finals stage of the Champions League and Europa League has been devastating for the English clubs. Before the draws for the last eight in those competitions and the Europa Conference League, the Opta supercomputer calculated an 82.5% likelihood of the Premier League getting one of the extra UCL spots.

But then Man City, Arsenal, Liverpool and West Ham all fell. While the loss of the Hammers wasn’t especially surprising considering they were up against a Bayer Leverkusen side that’s cruised to the Bundesliga title and not lost a game in any competition this season, the other three were all deemed favourites for their respective encounters. Liverpool’s 3-1 aggregate defeat to Atalanta in particular was a shock.

Villa got past Lille by the skin of their teeth. Matty Cash’s 87th-minute goal in France on Thursday levelled the score on aggregate and forced extra-time. It ended in a 2-1 defeat, which in turn led to penalties, but luckily for Villa they had the trump card of Emiliano Martínez, who made two saves in the shootout to seal progress to the Europa Conference League semi-finals.

But the sole presence of Villa isn’t enough for English clubs – well, those in with a shot of finishing in the top five – to retain much hope of the extra UCL spot.

UEFA Coefficients - Extra Champions League spot
Nils Mackay / Guest Author

There is just a 1.1% chance of that remaining additional Champions League ticket being given to the Premier League; Italy has already secured one, and Germany has almost clinched the other, with Bayern Munich, Borussia Dortmund and Leverkusen all into the semis of their respective competitions.

Villa are England’s only hope now, though it’s incredibly unlikely they’ll be able to do enough on their own; the Premier League must now hope the Bundesliga clubs fall flat in the semi-finals.

18 April

Boom. Boom.

And just like that, two of England’s biggest clubs – Manchester City and Arsenal – are out of Europe.

On Wednesday night, Pep Guardiola’s defending champions were knocked out on penalties by Real Madrid, while Joshua Kimmich scored the only goal of the game as Bayern Munich earned a hard-fought 1-0 victory over Arsenal at the Allianz Arena after a 2-2 draw in London.

The margins in elite club football are minute. They nonetheless have big consequences.

Coming into this week, City and Arsenal – together with Aston Villa in the Europa Conference League – were the Premier League’s big hopes to earn enough coefficient points to see the league lock in an extra Champions League spot.

Indeed, going into the second leg of the European quarter-finals, England’s top flight had a 57.8% chance of ensuring that fifth place in the Premier League would be enough for Champions League qualification.

But after the Champions League results, those hopes have been decimated. With City and Arsenal out and Borussia Dortmund and Bayern through, the chance that fifth place in the Premier League is a Champions League qualification spot has cratered to just 6.2%.

UEFA Coefficients - Battle for extra UCL spot - April 18

Germany, with two teams in the UCL semi-finals, and Bayer Leverkusen holding a 2-0 advantage over West Ham in the Europa League quarter-finals, now has a huge 93.4% likelihood of ensuring fifth in the Bundesliga takes that precious spot.

With West Ham and Liverpool both in serious danger of being knocked out on Thursday in the Europa League, England’s remaining hope is Aston Villa. Unai Emery’s side hold a slim one-goal advantage over Lille ahead of their Europa Conference League quarter-final second leg. In order for fifth place in the Premier League to be in with a chance of being a Champions League spot, Villa will likely need to win that competition and the German clubs will need to slip up in their respective ties. It’s not looking good for the Premier League.

12 April

The first leg of the quarter-finals in Europe’s three competitions came and went in a frenzied blur this week. So much happened that it’s hard to know where to start, but the headline story is this: it was a very bad week for England in their battle to hold onto one of the two bonus Champions League tickets.

And that’s because Liverpool – strong favourites for the Europa League with both the bookmakers and the Opta supercomputer – suffered a shock 3-0 home defeat against Atalanta. We’ve seen Liverpool do it before in Europe, but they’ll need a minor miracle to avoid being knocked out of the Europa League in Bergamo next week.

In the same competition, West Ham lost 2-0 away at Bundesliga leaders Bayer Leverkusen, and they too will need a massive performance to turn things around in London. Those results mean England will likely lose two of its remaining five teams from European competition this term.

Arsenal also didn’t do England much good with a 2-2 home draw against Bayern Munich. The Gunners were favoured by most to progress from that tie, but were uncharacteristically open at the Emirates Stadium on Tuesday night and are now slight underdogs to progress.

Those results mean that England’s chances of earning an extra Champions League place have crashed from 82.5% to 57.8%, a drop of almost 25%.

Champions League Bonus Ticket - UEFA Coefficients

Italy strengthened their hold on earning one of those bonus spots. With two of Atalanta, Milan and Roma almost guaranteed to make the Europa League semi-finals, and Fiorentina likely to do the same in the Europa Conference League, Italy now have a 99.8% chance of locking in one of those bonus UCL spots.

Germany were the biggest winners from the quarter-final first legs, though. Their odds of landing an extra Champions League place rose dramatically from 19.2% to 41.8%. Germany now sit level with England on the total number of coefficient points won. As well as Leverkusen doing the business against West Ham, both Borussia Dortmund and Bayern Munich are still very much in their ties in the Champions League.

Bayern and Arsenal’s second leg is a huge contest for many reasons, but perhaps the most understated one is that it could be the difference between fifth place in the Premier League counting as an extra Champions League spot, or fifth place in the Bundesliga.

15 March

We are down to the last eight in each of Europe’s three competitions, and after Friday’s draws were completed, we now know exactly how difficult each team’s potential route to glory is.

The identity of the final 24 teams has affected the chances of each association earning an extra spot in next season’s Champions League, but so have the draws. And in quite a significant way.

Before the draw was made on Friday morning, a positive week had seen England’s chances of earning an extra Champions League place shoot up to 82.5% from 64.9% last week.

Germany’s chances had dropped from 29.5% to 19.2% after Freiburg were knocked out of the Europa League by West Ham, while Italy’s chances had dropped slightly from 96.7% last week to 94.9% after Napoli and last season’s finalists, Inter, crashed out of the Champions League.

Then came a tough draw for the Premier League contingent, and England’s hopes of gaining a fifth Champions League spot took a real hit.

With Arsenal drawn against heavyweights Bayern Munich and Manchester City to face European juggernauts Real Madrid, both will need to be at their best to make it through to the semis. Another blow for England’s coefficient hopes is the fact that the winners of those two ties will face each other, so only one of England’s two remaining competitors can make it to the Champions League final.

Liverpool and West Ham were kept apart in the Europa League draw and could in theory meet in the final. However, while Liverpool may be pleased to have been drawn against Atalanta, West Ham face a real test as they were handed a tie with Bayer Leverkusen. Xabi Alonso’s side are, incredibly, still unbeaten across all competitions this season.

Aston Villa were also given a potentially tricky Europa Conference League draw, as they’ll face Lille and then the winners of Olympiacos vs Fenerbahce.

It all means that England’s chances of getting an extra spot in next season’s Champions League dropped to 70.6% after the draw.

battle for Champions League bonus ticket

Italy’s chances crept back up to 96.9% with one of Milan and Roma now guaranteed to be in the semi-final of the Europa League and Fiorentina given a favourable draw in the Conference League. They face Viktoria Plzen in their quarter-final and then could play Club Brugge or PAOK in the semis. For them, avoiding Aston Villa was a big bonus.

Germany’s chances shot back up to 29.1%, with Leverkusen likely to fancy their chances against West Ham, and Borussia Dortmund in with a decent shot of making the Champions League final as they are on the opposite side of the draw to the majority of the big sides. They face Atlético Madrid in the quarters and then potentially the winner of PSG vs Barcelona in the semis.

PSG are now deemed to be the second-likeliest team to win the Champions League after the draw they were given, with France now at 3.5% in terms of chances of earning a fifth spot in next season’s competition.

Spain still have an almost negligible chance according to our model, despite boasting three teams still in the Champions League.

The reason they have such a low chance is that five of their eight competing teams have all been knocked out. Osasuna crashed out of the Conference League in the play-off round, while Sevilla and Real Betis didn’t make it through their respective group-stage campaigns, and Real Sociedad and Villarreal failed to make it through the first knockout round. The average performance of their eight participants has been very poor indeed, and they ‘only’ have teams left in one competition. They need a winner, but winning the Champions League is much easier said than done. Even that is very, very unlikely to be enough.

8 March

This week brought half a round of Champions League football as well as the return of the Europa League and Europa Conference League in full. The headline when it comes to rounding up the race for an extra Champions League spot is simple: it was a bad week for England.

Using our projections for each competition, England’s chances of gaining an extra place plummeted from 81.9% after the last round of fixtures to 64.9% on Friday 8 March.

battle for Champions League bonus ticket

Brighton were as good as eliminated from the Europa League by Roma on Thursday, and that will have played a part in England’s chances dropping so much. After the first leg of their round-of-16 tie ended in a 4-0 defeat in Rome, Brighton need a miracle if they are to progress.

roma 4-0 brighton stats

But there was a 1-0 defeat for West Ham at Freiburg that will have also damaged England’s chances, while Aston Villa’s goalless draw at Ajax leaves that tie in the balance. Meanwhile, positive results for Manchester City, who progressed past FC Copenhagen, and Liverpool, who thrashed Sparta Prague, won’t have been enough to counteract the impact of any poor results for English teams, largely because the supercomputer expected them to win those ties comfortably.

But England’s chances haven’t dropped only because Premier League teams had what was overall a disappointing week in Europe. Italian teams also won four and drew one of their six European ties with Lazio, who fell to defeat to Bayern Munich and crashed out of the Champions League, the only exception.

Italy’s chances of earning a fifth Champions League spot jumped from 91% to 96.7%. The supercomputer essentially thinks it would take a complete capitulation in Europe for Italian teams to fail to get another spot in Europe’s biggest competition next season.

The Bayern and Freiburg results meant it was two wins and a draw (for Bayer Leverkusen) from three European games for German teams. Germany’s chances of getting another Champions League berth therefore rose from 22.1% to 29.5%. With Borussia Dortmund backed to edge past PSV Eindhoven in next week’s Champions League round-of-16 tie, it could be four from four for German teams making it through to the next round of their respective competitions.

It was even a good week for French teams. PSG saw off Real Sociedad in the Champions League, while Marseille (4-0 victors over Villarreal in the Europa League) and Lille (3-0 winners at Sturm Graz in the Europa Conference League) built up what should be unassailable first-leg leads. France went from a 3.1% chance of getting a fifth Champions League place before this week’s fixtures to an 8.8% chance.

The Premier League teams battling it out for fifth place this season will need their English counterparts to improve next week.

23 February

Following the completion of the first legs of the Champions League round of 16 and the draws for the first knockout round in the UEFA Europa League and UEFA Europa Conference League (full draw at the bottom of this page), Italy are in pole position to earn an extra spot.

With seven teams still competing in Europe, Italy is in with a chance of a clean sweep across the three continental competitions. Positive results in the Champions League for Lazio (1-0 victors over Bayern Munich), Inter Milan (who beat Atlético Madrid 1-0) and Napoli (who came from behind to draw 1-1 with Barcelona) will have aided the Italian cause.

Meanwhile, Milan will fancy their chances of seeing off Slavia Prague in the Europa League last 16. Roma, Atalanta and Fiorentina were all given tougher draws, but have every chance of progressing. Italy are given a 91% probability of finishing in the top two and earning an extra Champions League spot for next season.

uefa coefficients race for champions league extra places

Fear not, Premier League fans! England aren’t far behind at all. The Premier League has an 81.9% chance of being one of the two best-performing European nations according to the Opta supercomputer’s projections – even after some disappointment in the Champions League this week.

Manchester City put one foot in the quarter-finals with a 3-1 win at FC Copenhagen, but they had largely been expected to do so, meaning that victory won’t have changed their chances of winning the competition much. Arsenal’s defeat at Porto, however, was rather less foreseen, and England will need them to overturn that deficit in the return leg to keep their position in the standings. With Man Utd and Newcastle already having crashed out in the group stage, there is more pressure on Arsenal to perform.

UEFA Champions League predictions

That said, England boast the favourite to win each of Europe’s three continental competitions in Man City (33.6% chance of winning the Champions League), Liverpool (32.3%, Europa League) and Aston Villa (29.2%, Europa Conference League). As long as those three remain in their respective competitions, England should have a decent chance of earning an extra spot in next season’s Champions League. Villa’s potential banana skin of a draw against Ajax in the Conference League could be one to watch, though.

Germany‘s chances took a big hit with none of their three Champions League hopefuls winning their first leg – including Bayern’s shock defeat to Lazio – while Freiburg got a tough Europa Conference League draw against West Ham. Bundesliga leaders Bayer Leverkusen may carry their biggest European hope, with Xabi Alonso’s impressive side having been drawn against Qarabag in the Europa League last 16. Germany have just a 22.1% chance of earning an extra Champions League spot as things stand.

France (3.1%) are next in the standings, followed by surprise entrants Czechia (1.1%), who still have three teams battling in Europe, Spain (0.6%), for whom Real Madrid appear to be the only hope of success, and Belgium (0.1%).

UEFA Europa League Last-16 Draw

  • Sparta Prague vs Liverpool
  • Marseille vs Villarreal
  • Roma vs Brighton
  • Benfica vs Rangers
  • Freiburg vs West Ham
  • Sporting CP vs Atalanta
  • AC Milan vs Slavia Prague
  • Qarabag vs Bayer Leverkusen
UEFA Europa League predictions

UEFA Europa Conference League Last-16 Draw

  • Servette vs Viktoria Plzen
  • Ajax vs Aston Villa
  • Molde vs Club Brugge
  • Union SG vs Fenerbahçe
  • Dinamo Zagreb vs PAOK
  • Sturm Graz vs LOSC Lille
  • Maccabi Haifa vs Fiorentina
  • Olympiacos vs Maccabi Tel Aviv
UEFA Europa conference league predictions

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