With the likes of Manchester City outperforming their Premier League counterparts this season, new regulations made to the Champions League qualification process are welcomed by the likes of Tottenham Hotspur, Liverpool, and Chelsea.
These clubs will proclaim, year-in-year-out, that cementing themselves within the top four is the central aim for the season. However, finishing fourth has become even more valuable as a result of these changes.
— UEFA Champions League (@ChampionsLeague) April 16, 2018
Traditionally, the side that secured fourth place in the Premier League, La Liga, Serie A or the Bundesliga would then have to contend play-off matches to secure a spot in the Champions League group stage. However, following the restructuring of this process, according to a report published by the Liverpool Echo, a 4th place finish will now guarantee entry into the competition without having to undergo a playoff period. Winning the Champions League tournament, or the Europa League will similarly guarantee a spot in the final 32.
Another restructure to the tournament sees that the traditional kick-off time of 7.45pm will be replaced with two new times: a 5.55pm kick-off and an 8 pm kick-off.
So altogether, for the 2018/19 campaign, there will be 26 teams who qualify automatically. This benefits teams like Spurs not just because it guarantees entrance but it also means that key players can conserve the energy that would have been used in these playoff matches for League games or domestic cup runs. The modern game means that teams are playing so much football every season. 38 Premier League games plus a potential cup run in three different competitions takes its toll on a first-team squad. Not to mention, this year many Spurs players will head to Russia to compete in the biggest football competition on the planet.
Spurs currently occupy that coveted 4th place spot with seven points breathing space between themselves and London rivals Chelsea. Reflecting on Tottenham Hotspur’s loss to Man City on the weekend, Dele Alli stressed the importance of continuous improvement under Mauricio Pochettino to be able to compete with the rising quality of the top teams in the Premier League,
“It’s been a tough year this year, a lot of teams have improved, and the Premier League is never easy. We have to keep fighting… We’re heading in the right direction, as players we need to make sure we’re ready”
— Dele (@dele_official) April 2, 2018
It’s not only Man City that we’ve seen a marked improvement from. Mohammed Salah has injected a breath of fresh air into the Liverpool squad – and of course, with Jose Mourinho at the helm of the Man Utd squad, the Red Devils will also be a ferocious competitor for the top spot.
Excitement stirs in North London and the Mauricio Pochettino project continues to grow with success, excite and intrigue their loyal following. If Spurs were able to both finish top four, perhaps even top two or three this season, as well as win the FA Cup, then they can safely argue that the top spot of the Premier League is a realistic goal for them in the foreseeable future.