Manchester City and Manchester United are battling it out for the Premier League title this season, but if one of them was to drop down to fourth place, there could be a loophole that has an impact.
Leicester City are in third after they capitalised on Liverpool’s 1-0 defeat to Brighton & Hove Albion on Wednesday evening.
Both Manchester sides are still fighting in Europe, with City into the Round of 16 in the Champions League whilst United were demoted to the Europa League knockouts.
Ole Gunnar Solskjaer‘s side were knocked out of their Champions League group and will now face Real Sociedad in the Round of 32 of the Europa League.
Both sides will be doing everything in their powers to ensure they’ll be playing in Europe’s most prestigious competition next season.
That does seem very likely, especially at the moment, with both Manchester clubs flying in the Premier League.
City are on a 13-match winning streak in all competitions and United have just beaten Southampton by scoring nine goals without reply.
However, if an unlikely drop-off does occur, then there is a loophole that has emerged that could have a big impact on either side.
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Manchester United smashed nine goals past Southampton on Tuesday night as they bounced back from disappointing results against Sheffield United and Arsenal in emphatic fashion.
The game was effectively over as a contest inside the first two minutes as Southampton were reduced to 10 men, but United still had to find the goals and they did exactly that, with Aaron Wan-Bissaka, Marcus Rashford, Edinson Cavani, Anthony Martial (two), Scott McTominay, Bruno Fernandes and Daniel James all getting on the scoresheet.
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The UEFA rules state that a maximum of five teams from any given country can play in the Champions League.
Finishing inside the top four gets you a place in the European tournament, but there are other avenues.
If United were to win the Europa League this season, then they would automatically qualify regardless of their final league position.
In the rare – and what seems unlikely, but not impossible – circumstance that two teams from the Premier League, who both finish outside of the top four, win both European competitions, then fourth place would have to concede its spot.
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Manchester City blew yet another team away this week, dispatching Burnley 2-0 away from home.
Now, they face one of their biggest tests – Liverpool on Sunday.
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As it stands, there are a lot of things that need to happen in order for this loophole to come into action, but there is a genuine option that the fourth-place team will not qualify for the Champions League next season.
City and United are both in action this weekend, as the former go to Anfield to face Liverpool on Sunday, while the latter host Everton in the Manchester vs Merseyside round of fixtures.