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Football | Barclays Premier League

Chelsea, Arsenal could face Euro play-off



Premier League chiefs will draw up contingency plans this week for a possible Champions League play-off between Chelsea and Arsenal.

In the unlikely scenario that the London rivals finish the season level on points, goal difference and goals scored, a one-off match will be necessary to decide third place and the final automatic Champions League qualification spot.

Chelsea are currently in third, while Arsenal, two points behind in fourth, hope to finish above fifth-placed Tottenham, who currently trail their north London rivals by one point.

The top three teams in the Premier League go straight into the lucrative group stages of the Champions League, while the club that finishes fourth has to enter a two-legged play-off round early next season.

A play-off for third place would only be required if Arsenal win 2-1 at Newcastle and Chelsea draw 0-0 at home to Everton, or any scoreline where Chelsea draw and Arsenal score two more goals than them and win by the odd goal.

Premier League rule C14 states: "If at the end of the season... the question of qualification for other competitions cannot be determined because two or more clubs are equal on points, goal difference and goals scored, the clubs concerned shall play off one or more deciding league matches on neutral grounds, the format, timing and venue of which shall be determined by the board."

The problem for the Premier League would be where and when to play the match and officials will start planning for such an event, while hoping the results on Sunday do not present them with the headache.

The league carried out similar contingency planning back in 1996 when Manchester United and Newcastle had very similar points and goals totals going into the last few matches of the season, and even booked Wembley and printed some tickets for a possible title play-off.

In the event, United went on to win the title by four points.

This time, the demands on Wembley means fitting in a play-off may prove impossible - the Champions League final and Football League play-off finals are already booked there, plus England's friendly against the Republic of Ireland on May 29.

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