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Liverpool set for title after Uefa insist 'void' option to be avoided

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Mo Salah with Alisson Becker. Photo: Michael Regan/Getty Images

Mo Salah with Alisson Becker. Photo: Michael Regan/Getty Images

Getty Images

Mo Salah with Alisson Becker. Photo: Michael Regan/Getty Images

Liverpool appear set to be the 2019-'20 Premier League champions whether the campaign is finished or not after Uefa ruled out the English top-flight season being declared 'void'.

In a statement, European football's governing body insisted that domestic campaigns would be settled on "sporting merit" meaning the results so far will help to decide the final placings.

The Uefa decision is likely to mean the Champions League places will be concluded on a points-per-game basis if the remaining Premier League matches cannot be played.

Alternatively, the Premier League could explore a play-off or mini-tournament format to decide who qualifies for European competition. However, this is not believed to be favoured by the clubs who regard points-per-game as the fairest method.

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Even if it did happen, Liverpool, given their commanding lead, could expect to be spared that process. They have 82 points and are 37 points ahead of fifth-placed Manchester United with just nine games to go.

If the season is curtailed - and Uefa insisted that its strong recommendation was to try and finish the campaign if possible in the major European leagues - and a points-per-game formula is adopted then Liverpool, Manchester City, Leicester City and Chelsea would qualify for the Champions League. However, as things stand, City are banned from European competition for the next two seasons due to financial fair play breaches, meaning United would take their place.

Uefa said that its announcement also covered cup competitions, but if the FA Cup cannot be played to a conclusion then another of the Europa League berths may go on Premier League placings.

Wolves and Sheffield United would qualify for the Europa League and, if points-per-game is used, Arsenal would go above Tottenham Hotspur for the final place as they have a game in hand and are only a point behind their north London rivals.

Aggrieved

Nevertheless, that game is away to Manchester City, while Sheffield United, who have also played a match fewer, would feel aggrieved as they are due to play Aston Villa, who are in the bottom three, and would go above United and theoretically qualify for the Champions League if they won.

Uefa's ruling only covers qualification for its European competition and does not relate to the arguably even thornier issue of relegation and promotion as that is a domestic matter.

However, whichever approach the Premier League chooses will have an effect on those issues also.

An intriguing alternative is to explore whether there is football's equivalent of cricket's 'Duckworth-Lewis-Stern' system to try and predict outcomes based on the trajectory of a season. This would be highly contentious given it would involve assessing the strengths of remaining opponents and whether games were home or away.

Uefa want the individual leagues themselves to decide the best formula to use, but it also has to be one that convinces it there is not a "public perception of unfairness".

Interestingly, Uefa has categorically ruled out using so-called 'co-efficients' which would see European places awarded on past performances. It is understood this idea was pushed by Atletico Madrid, who are sixth in La Liga and so would miss out, but have a strong Champions League record. It would have potentially also meant Arsenal qualifying for the Champions League but was not discussed by Uefa's executive.

The Premier League has stressed it is committed to completing the season and has, some time ago, taken the option of declaring the season void off the table.

Instead, it has asked its clubs to only refer to the season not being finished as "curtailment" largely to try and protect itself from the broadcasters asking for full rebates on the £762million (€872m) in revenue they are theoretically due for the final 92 games not being played.

At present, the Premier League is still hoping to finish its games behind closed doors with, subject to the UK Government easing restrictions, June 8 pencilled in as a date for the season to recommence with matches played between a minimum of five weeks and a maximum of an eight-week period. It is hoped that the 2020-'21 season will then start on August 22.

Uefa want domestic seasons to be completed by mid-August so it can hold mini-tournaments for both the Europa League and Champions League in Gdansk and Istanbul. (© Daily Telegraph, London)

Telegraph.co.uk