How Italy Could Have Six Teams in Champions League Next Season After Atalanta’s Europa Win

How Italy Could Have Six Teams in Champions League Next Season After Atalanta’s Europa Win

Martin Moses
updated at May 23, 2024 at 8:36 AM
In this article:
Ademola Lookman logo
A. Lookman
Atalanta logoFNigeria logo
Atalanta logo
AS Roma logo
AS Roma
UEFA Champions League logo
UEFA Champions League
UEFA Europa League logo
UEFA Europa League
UEFA Europa Conference League logo
Bayer Leverkusen logo
Bayer Leverkusen
Benfica logo
  • Atalanta beat Bayer Leverkusen to win their first trophy since 1963
  • Ademola Lookman was the star of the show, scoring thrice in Dublin
  • We explain how the result affects European football spots next season

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Ademola Lookman produced one of the most scintillating individual performances in a cup final, scoring a hat-trick to help Atalanta win the 2024 Europa League at Bayer Leverkusen's expense.

The Nigerian winger was the beaming light in an all-around beautiful display from the Italian side as they brought to a halt Leverkusen's 51-match unbeaten streak.

Ademola Lookman, Atalanta, Champions League, Bayer Leverkusen, Benfica, AS Roma, Fiorentina
Ademola Lookman celebrates with the Europa League trophy on May 22, 2024. Photo by Jean Catuffe.
Source: Getty Images

Xabi Alonso's side have been unplayable this season but were second best for the better part of the night in Dublin as Gian Piero Gasperini bagged his first trophy as manager.

Away from the title celebrations in Bergamo and the despondency in North Rhine-Westphalia, Atalanta's win had ripple effects for European football next season.

Why Italy could have six clubs in the Champions League

For starters, Italy could become the first league ever to produce six teams in the Champions League. As it stands, they are guaranteed five spots after they secured one of the two extra spots in the European performance spots.

As explained on UEFA's website, Italy's clubs averaged better points in European competitions this season and thus were handed the extra spot alongside Germany who came in second. The two spots are part of the four that need to be filled ahead of the revamped Champions League format that will see an increase of teams in the group stage (or league phase) from 32 to 36.

Atalanta are currently the team in fifth place, which qualifies them for the Champions League next season. They have also won the Europa League, which gives one a direct ticket to the 'Big Ears' trophy.

Why AS Roma wants Atalanta to finish fifth

Does this mean that the next-placed team (sixth-place) will also qualify for the Champions League? Yes and no. AS Roma, the club guaranteed (almost) to finish sixth, will have to hope Atalanta finishes in fifth place, not higher, for them to qualify for the Champions League.

If Atalanta finishes fifth, they will take the place of the Europa League title holder in the Champions League, but if they finish fourth or third, they qualify via league position, and thus, the extra spot is not handed to someone else.

It is, therefore, a wait-and-see game for Roma. Gasperini's side have two games left and are two points behind Juventus in fourth who have played a game more.

How Italy could have as much as nine teams in Europe

The Europa League math is also as interesting. Fiorentina, who are in eighth place which is a Conference League spot could qualify for the Europa League if they beat Olympiakos in the Conference League final on May 29.

This would mean that Italy will have Lazio and Fiorentina represent them in the Europa League, which opens up space for another team to take the Conference League qualification spot vacated by Fiorentina.

Torino and Napoli are separated by a point heading into the last game of the season. If the above factors come to fruition, whoever finishes ninth has a good chance of making it to Europe next season.

It is important to note that the game Atalanta and Fiorentina have in hand is against each other. The two meet on June 2, and the result of that game will heavily determine who qualifies for what competition.

Why Benfica is also monitoring Atalanta's result

Also, apart from AS Roma, Benfica will also be waiting with bated breath to see where Atalanta eventually finishes. Unlike Roma, the Portuguese side will want the new Europa League winners to finish in fourth place or third place for them to qualify for the Champions League.

UEFA's laws on clubs winning the Europa League state that;

"If the Europa League winners qualify directly for the league phase of the Champions League via their domestic league, then the club with the best individual coefficient of all the teams in Champions League qualifying (champions path and league path) goes directly through to the league phase."

Benfica are currently the best-ranked team in terms of coefficients in Europe that haven't qualified for the Champions League directly through the domestic path.

Xabi Alonso explains how they lost to Atalanta

Sports Brief has also reported on Alonso's explanation after they lost the Europa League final to Atalanta.

Alonso's quest to win the treble ended in a bitter fashion as the Italian side swept them away 3-0 at the Aviva Stadium in Dublin.

Ademola Lookman scored thrice to win his side their first silverware in over 60 years.

Martin Moses photo
Martin Moses
Martin Moses is a sports journalist with over five years of experience in media. He graduated from Multimedia University of Kenya (Bachelor of Journalism, 2017-2021)