THE PREMIER LEAGUE is closing in on a FIFTH Champions League spot for next season thanks to a shock result in Belgium.
Uefa’s top competition is being extended to 36 teams from 32 for the 2024/25 campaign.
Two of the new four extra places are going to be awarded to the nations who are top of the “country coefficient” chart each season.
The total points that are earned by every country’s clubs – with bonus points for reaching certain stages plus match-related points – are then divided by the number of sides in European competitions.
And in six of the past seven seasons that would have meant an extra Champions League spot for England’s top-flight.
The Premier League was facing competition from a host of other European leagues for the additional place in the big time.
However, Spain’s chances have now taken a huge hit, with the Premier League likely to be battling it out with Italy’s Serie A and Germany’s Bundesliga.
That is due to the fact that LaLiga club Osasuna were dumped out of the Europa Conference League last week in the play-off stage by Belgian side Club Brugge.
Journalist Leonardo Bertozzi explained: “With the elimination of Osasuna, Spain’s chance to win one of the two extra places for the next Champions League is not much greater than that of Belgium or Turkey.”
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He then went on to add that it “should now be between Italy and Germany” to rival favourites England, who were boosted by Manchester City and West Ham’s respective European successes last season.
The current system of eight groups of four clubs in the initial phase is being changed to a more simple “league” format.
Each team will play eight matches in the opening phase that will be against seeded opposition.
It is a system designed to ensure that teams play opponents of similar difficulty.
Then the top eight teams in the “final” table will automatically go through to the last-16 of the knock-out stage.
They will be joined by the eight play-off winners of ties between the sides placed ninth to 24th in the table.
And, despite there being just eight matches in the opening phase, European matches will also be spread over ten midweek slots.
Meanwhile, the Europa League and Conference League will each have a week when matches can be played across Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday as the standalone competition being played.