The top four teams in the Premier League qualify for the Champions League, while the FA Cup winners, the Carabao Cup winners and the fifth-placed side in the top flight go into the Europa League. Simple, right?
At BBC Sport we get plenty of messages asking us ‘what happens if this happens?’. To be honest, we did not know all the answers until recently – but after delving deep into Uefa regulations, we have worked it all out.
So here we go…
Who qualifies for Europe normally?
The top four sides in the Premier League qualify for the Champions League group stages – usually (more on that later).
The FA Cup winners and the league’s fifth-placed side go into the Europa League groups, with the Carabao Cup winners entering the second qualifying round.
However, it is often complicated by the FA Cup and/or Carabao Cup winners qualifying for Europe through the league. This season City have won the League Cup – meaning sixth place in the Premier League gets a Europa League spot.
Things are confused further by the fact the Champions League and Europa League winners get into the following season’s Champions League group stages.
Does it matter who wins the FA Cup?
In terms of European qualification, no. But that does not mean Watford are in the Europa League.
If the Hornets beat City in the FA Cup final, then they qualify for Europe no matter what happens elsewhere. But if City win, then seventh place in the Premier League gets the spot.
Until 2015 teams could qualify for Europe by losing the FA Cup final if the winners had booked a Champions League place. Stoke and Hull took advantage of the old rule before it was changed. But you now need to win the final to qualify.
What happens if an English team win the Champions League?
Half of the Champions League quarter-finalists – Manchester City, Manchester United, Tottenham and Liverpool – are English, meaning there is a decent chance of one of them winning the tournament.
If a team become European champions and finish in the top four of the Premier League, then only four English teams go into next season’s Champions League. The ‘extra’ group stage spot would go to the Austrian champions, who otherwise need to go through qualifying as Uefa’s 11th-ranked league.
However, if an English team win the Champions League and finish outside the Premier League’s top four – a real possibility for United and Spurs – then five English teams will go into next season’s group stage.
There is no Champions League spot for the beaten finalists. Liverpool would not have qualified this year had they not finished in the 2017-18 top four.
Uefa changed the rules for qualification last year – starting with this season’s tournaments.
In 2012 Tottenham finished fourth but missed out because Chelsea won the Champions League – but Spurs would have qualified under the current rules.
Until 2005, Champions League winners did not qualify automatically – a rule which was changed when Liverpool won the tournament but did not finish in the top four.
What happens if an English team win the Europa League?
Arsenal and Chelsea are both in the Europa League last eight and are among the favourite to lift the trophy in Baku. If either of them win the tournament, they will qualify for next season’s Champions League group stages.
If the winners finish outside the top four in the Premier League, it will mean five English teams will be in the Champions League.
However if they do finish in the top four, then England will not get an extra spot. The team who finish third in the fifth-ranked league – France – will go into the Champions League group stages instead of the qualifiers.
There is no Champions League spot for the beaten finalists.
What happens if English teams win the Champions League AND Europa League?
There can be a maximum of five teams from one country in the Champions League. So that causes a bit of a mess if an English team win both European competitions – and neither finish in the top four.
In that case the Premier League’s fourth-placed team would not qualify for the Champions League and instead would drop into the Europa League group stages.
This season, it is likely both the tournament winners would finish in the top six – because seventh-placed Leicester City are 14 points adrift. That would mean the top three in the Premier League, plus the two European champions would qualify for the Champions League.
There would only be two Europa League spots – for the team who finish fourth in the Premier League and the FA Cup winners (or the seventh-placed Premier League team if City win the cup).
The following examples are highly unlikely unless Leicester or teams below them catch up 14 or 15 points in the final five or six games…
If a season ever occurred when English teams won the Champions League and Europa League – and neither of them qualified for Europe through the league – there would be NINE Premier League teams in Europe (five in the Champions League and four in the Europa League).
If one of them qualified for Europe and the other did not, then there would be five teams in the Champions League and three in the Europa League.
Got all that? We’re off for a lie down.