Graham Potter’s top four demands at Chelsea might be shortlived as requirements to qualify for Europe’s elite club competition change in the coming seasons.
Currently, the battle is on to finish in the top four of the league every season to secure Champions League qualification, whilst winning the tournament outright or winning the Europa League also secures a team’s progression to the group stages.
Manchester City and Liverpool won the last five league titles between them and doing so comfortably in front of a chasing pack that didn’t put up much of a race for the top two spots at all. This has left a group of teams competing for coveted final two places. Chelsea have managed, just about, to get themselves ahead of Arsenal, Tottenham and Manchester United in each of the past four years, only missing out on qualification in 2018.
The battle for these places may not be as important as it seems in the long term though. With a new tournament structure coming into place in 2024/25, immediate qualification for that is going to hinge on not just the table in 2023/24, but also taking on-board results from this season too.
Outstanding to UEFA’s club coefficient ranking, which grants clubs points based on European results across five seasons, being ditched and now granting places based on country coefficients, two of the extra four spots in the competition, with the total number of teams rising from 32 to 36, would go to nations whose clubs perform best.
Putting up with last season’s results as an example, England and Netherlands would have been granted an extra place. Chelsea had already qualified anywayadding in the fifth spot is still a key change.
How does this all benefit Chelsea? It gives them a way to qualify that reduces the strain on finishing in the top four. Although that is still the goal, especially with a plan in place to progress with Graham Potter in charge, it is a way out if things were to go wrong, and it may well act as a saving grace in a season that could potentially have been a failure previously, depending on how important individuals rank qualifions alongside being competitive in the league.
In the current UEFA club coefficient, Chelsea sits fourth, behind Manchester City, Liverpool, and Bayern Munich, whereas fellow top four contenders Tottenham and Arsenal are 18th and 23rd respectively. Manchester United are 10th.
Due to the dominance of English teams, with five finalists in five years and two champions, there is almost a guarantee of an extra spot being available in 2024/25. On top of that, the current rankings offer an easier route to the group stages – though that is more of a boost for lesser ranked teams as the top three teams in England go straight into the groups – and also impact prize money.