English clubs’ disappointing start to the Champions League group stage has increased the chances of the Premier League’s allocation of places being cut from four to three.
Figures published by European governing body Uefa show Italy is only narrowly behind England in the coefficient rankings, which determine how many teams from a given country qualify for the top competition.
Only the top three nations receive four Champions League places. England lie third, after Manchester City, Arsenal and Manchester United all lost their opening group matches.
Were England’s allocation to be cut, it would take effect from 2017-18, meaning that this season would be the last to feature a scramble for the top four; from next term it would be the top three.
Italy will overtake England in the ranking – based on a country’s results in both the Champions League and Europa League over a rolling five-year spell – at the end of the season if they repeat last year’s results.
Their hopes were dented, however, by Lazio’s failure to progress from the qualifying round, leaving them with just two remaining entrants compared to England’s four.
United succeeded where they failed but lost their first group match at PSV Eindhoven. Arsenal slumped at Dinamo Zagreb, while Juventus beat City.
English teams’ performances in the Champions League have dipped dramatically since a peak in the second half of the last decade.
The Premier League boasted two winners, six finalists and 12-semi-finalists in the five seasons from 2004-05 to 2008-09, with the apex coming in 2008 when United beat Chelsea in an all-English final.
In the six years since 2009 English sides have lifted the trophy once, reached the final twice and, most starkly of all, progressed to the semi-finals just three times. No team even made the quarter-finals last season for the second time in three years.
Chelsea’s triumph in 2010-11 was the last by a Premier League club but that success is no longer factored into England’s ranking, as it falls outside of the five-year period.
Spain, the first nation to have five teams in the Champions League due to new rules granting access to Europa League winners, have already strengthened their position at the top of the coefficient rankings.
CURRENT COEFFICIENT RANKINGS