The Race for a Place In the Champions League 2011/12

Who will make it?

England: It looks likely that it will be Manchester United, Chelsea and Arsenal to pick up the automatic qualification to the Group Stage and Manchester City to enter at the Play-off Round. Tottenham will need to close the three point gap but still have to play an in-form Chelsea side. Man City’s toughest game will be away to Everton but you can never be sure with this City side, they seem capable of losing points against anyone. However the most crucial game could again be at Eastlands when City host Spurs on the 10th of May.

Spain: Barcelona and Real Madrid have already secured the top two spots in Spain. Below them from third to fifth are separated by 12 points. Valencia look likely to take third, with Espanyol providing their hardest game who currently sit in eighth. It seems likely then that Villarreal will take 4th spot and enter at the Play-off Round, as it will be tough for Bilbao to gain over 6 points on El Submarino Maranillo as if they draw level on points, Villarreal would qualify by virtue of a better head to head performance.

Italy: AC Milan have secured one of the qualifying spots to the Group Stage but below them things remain fairly tight. It looks like Inter Milan and Napoli will take the other two spots. Battling for fourth are Lazio and Udinese who still must face each other. The team from Rome must also play Genoa and Juve in their last four games so will have to play at the top of their game to secure fourth spot. However, Udinese’s run in is no picnic either, they must also face Fiorentina and then Milan on the final day. Poor results for these teams could leave the door open for Roma or Juventus, but the Bianconeri may find that they have left it too late.

Germany: Borussia Dortmund have all but secured Champions League football as they will almost definitely finish in the top two. Leverkusen look set to follow them, taking the last Group Stage qualification slot. Third spot grants qualification to the Play-off Round which is being fought for between Hannover and Bayern Munich. Bayern sit a point behind in fourth place and must face Stuttgart and Schalke in their last three games. These are teams that have underperformed domestically this season, which could be argued is the same for Bayern, who have been extremely inconsistent. They will need some big results in order to qualify.

France: With six games to go anything could happen in France. Lille lost their lead at the top of the Ligue 1 table to Marseille who win their game in hand this week. Below them Lyon, PSG and Rennes will all hope to get the final spot for the Play-off Round and my money is on Lyon to be consistent enough to secure the spot in next seasons competition.

Russia: The season that provides the teams for next seasons Champions League is over and so we know that Zenit St. Petersburg and CSKA Moscow will make the group stages, with Rubin Kazan entering in the Play-off Round.

Ukraine: Shakhtar look set to win another Ukrainian Title and therefore enter automatically and Dynamo Kiev look set to enter the competition at the Third Qualifying Round unless Metallist Kharkiv can close the 6 point gap in the remaining 4 games.

Romania: It’s all still up for grabs in Romania with 6 games left this season. Timisoara who currently sit second, have to play 1st placed Otelul, 3rd team Vaslui and 4th placed Dinamo Bucharest. Vaslui look like the best placed team to get one of the spots with the easiest run in, but Timisoara could also run away with the league if they win the big games previously mentioned. I would also expect Dinamo to put in a late charge.

Portugal: FC Porto have already won the league and thus will enter at the Group Stage, Benfica have secured second spot and will therefore enter at the Third Qualifying Round.

Netherlands: With two games to go just three points separate the top three; Twente, Ajax, and PSV Eindhoven. Ajax and FC Twente play on the 15th in a match that could well decide the title, but could also allow PSV to move up to second and take the final Champions League spot and enter at the Third Qualifying Round. Anything could happen in Holland, Nether say Nether.

Turkey: Fenerbahce and Trabzonspor will qualify for next years competition but they are both currently on 70 points with four games left. Fenerbahce have a slightly easier run in so should take the title and therefore a spot in the Group Stage, with Trabzonspor entering at the Third Qualifying Round.

Greece: Olympiakos won the League and therefore return to the Champions League Group Stages again. Panathinaikos will enter at the Third Qualifying Round.

Switzerland: The Champion of Switzerland will only enter the Group Stage automatically if the Winner of this season’s competition qualifies through domestic performance. This will occur unless Schalke manage to win the Tournament. Should Zurich win their game in hand against Neuchatel Xamax, they will be just one point behind leaders Basel. They still have 6 games left to play and the top two meet in Zurich on the 11th of May which will play a big part in deciding the title. I would expect Basel to qualify under the leadership of Alex Frei.

As Champions from the remaining countries will enter in the Qualifying Rounds of the Tournament I feel it is not wholly worth looking at as they will no definitely take part in the Tournament. Who do you think will be lucky enough to gain automatic qualification to the Group Stage?

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