English clubs have held onto their fourth Champions League place for another year after Italy’s hopes of snatching it were undone by the dramatic elimination of Juventus last night.
The Serie A champions looked on course to cause an upset against Bayern Munich when they raced into a 2-0 lead on the night through midfielder Paul Pogba and on-loan Chelsea winger Juan Cuadrado.
But Bayern hit back late through forwards Robert Lewandowski and Thomas Muller to force extra time, and substitutes Thiago Alcantara and Kingsley Coman – the latter on loan from Juve – sealed a 6-4 aggregate win.
Premier League clubs had been at risk of seeing their allocation trimmed to three spots for the 2017-18 season, but results so far this term have now guaranteed that they will retain the maximum four – alongside Spain and Germany – for at least the next two years.
Italian teams needed a repeat of last season, in which they outperformed Premier League sides, in order to overtake England in the coefficient rankings which determine allocations for future seasons.
But Juve’s exit means Italy has no representatives left in the Champions League and just one – Lazio – in the Europa League. England has Manchester City left in the Champions League and is guaranteed at least one team – Liverpool or Manchester United, who meet tonight – in the Europa League quarter-finals. Tottenham could join them but must overturn a 3-0 first leg deficit against Borussia Dortmund.
English teams still face a fight to hold off the Italian challenge in future seasons, however. They effectively need to outperform them in Europe over the course of this term and next, although next season England’s hopes look likely to rest in part on less experienced campaigners such as Leicester City and West Ham.