England eye fifth Champions League spot as gap closes on Germany

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Victories for West Ham United and Aston Villa in the Europa League and Conference League respectively could open the door for a fifth English club to qualify for next season’s revamped Champions League.

An expanded Champions League will feature 36 clubs rather than 32 in a re-structured group phase, meaning two extra places for Europe’s best-performing leagues in UEFA competitions.

Ahead of the week’s matches across the three competitions, Italy and Germany were placed first and second in UEFA’s coefficient table with England in third place.

However, West Ham overturned a 1-0 deficit against Bundesliga side Freiburg, hammering the Germans 5-0 to reach the Europa League quarter-finals.

While Aston Villa beat Ajax Amsterdam to reach the quarter-finals of the Conference League.

England remain just behind Germany but have five teams left in Europe to the three of Germany and will be favourites to move ahead of them in UEFA’s table.

This means the team finishing fifth in the English Premier League will likely qualify for Champions League.

Usually only the top four qualify with the team in fifth spot playing in the Europa League.

Villa, who face seventh-placed West Ham on Sunday, are currently in fourth place although Tottenham Hotspur would move above them if they beat Fulham on Saturday.

Manchester United are in sixth place but are only six points behind Tottenham and despite a mediocre season could yet find a backdoor route in to the Champions League next season.

“I’m pleased if the country can get another Champions League opportunity.

“The Champions League is a great competition and brings in a lot more finances to the Premier League.

“I don’t know if it’ll be great that we’re the ones that have helped somebody else if it’s not us being fifth and I’m not totally sure about the coefficient situation overall,” West Ham manager, David Moyes, said on Friday.

Asked whether West Ham could finish fifth, Moyes said: “Probably not realistic that we can get fifth but we have to keep believing there’s an outside chance we can do it.”

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