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Could England Lose its Fourth Spot in the Champions League?

So far this season, English teams have not been performing at their best which has led to new speculation as to whether they may lose their fourth Champions League place to Serie A in the 2017/18 season.

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In the eight Champions League games played so far, England have lost five times out of eight, adding to the current win rate of English clubs in the Champions League group games which is a very low 37.5%.

Newitts takes a look below at England's future chances of retaining four spots in the Champions League 2017/18 season.

The current situation

The premiership is set to have four teams in the 2016/17 Champions League - this cannot change.

At present, based on the performances in both the Champions League and the Europa League the top three ranked European countries (Spain/Germany/England) gain 4 Champions League places each while fourth, fifth and sixth-placed nations (Italy/France/Portugal) receive 3 spots.

Last season, no club in the Premier League reached the quarter-final  of the Champions League or the Europa League which has weakened their coefficient ranking. At the same time, progress made in the Italian sides at the latter stages strengthened, meaning they could potentially surpass England in the future.

What is the coefficient and how does it work?

UEFA's coefficient rankings calculate the performance of each and every European associations' club's in European competitions. It is used to determine seedings in draws as well as deciding how many sides from each country appear in the Champions and Europa Leagues.

How is this coefficient score calculated?

The coefficient is calculated by working out an average score for each country. To do this, the number of 'points' obtained by a team is divided by the total number of clubs representing a country. The resulting number is then added to results from the previous four seasons to calculate the coefficient, making a five-year run. The total of those five years is the decisive number.

The points system explained

To gain points teams must win or draw in the Champions League and Europa League. Clubs that reach the quarter finals and above gain an extra point. In addition, four points are awarded for participation in the group stage of the Champions League and four points for qualifying for the last 16.

Can Italy overtake England?

For Italy to get ahead of England and receive four spots in the 2017/18 Champions League, they need to beat England's coefficient score by 3.095 points this season. At present, England are 0.959 ahead, but this could all easily change. Currently, England's coefficient for this season is 3.625, and Italy's is 2.666.

If we look back at both team's performances in Europe in 2014/15, England finished with a coefficient of 13.571 as opposed to Italy's score of 19, their highest since 2003 when the coefficient began.

If England performed to a similar standard in the 2015/16 season, they would fall 2.334 points behind Italy in the coefficients and would lose their 2017/18 spot. This deficit would be difficult for England to recover from, particularly given that the 2011/12 season when England scored 3.893 points more than Italy, will soon drop off.

The future for England in the Champions League

In2005, the Premier League's position in the Champion's League was strong. Liverpool beat AC Milan on penalties in Istanbul and England were on a high, but since then things have gone downhill. The Premier League has since been overtaken by not just the biggest La Liga teams such as Real Madrid and Barcelona, but also by teams such as Bayern Munich and more.

In 2013 and 2015 there was no Premier League presence in the last eight and as such, the League has become less of a threat over the years. This has led to the question, can England still attract world-class players? And from recent performances, many would say no.

What does England need to do to stay ahead?

If both England and Italy gain the same points this season, their 2017-18 spot will be safe, but the Premier League will need to outperform Serie A next year to avoid losing their fourth spot.

However, the Premier League does currently have an advantage of Italy this season given that it has six English clubs remaining in Europe as opposed to Italy's five, so there is more chance to gain precious points. 

Furthermore, last term remains an extremely unusual occurrence. It is only the second time Italy has outperformed England in Europe, and while the last time Serie A had two teams in the Champions League quarter-finals was 2006/07, England have managed that feat six times in the past 9 years since then

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