Friday’s news that UEFA have banned Manchester City from European competition for the next two seasons after they were found to have seriously broken Financial Fair Play rules sent a seismic shock across the world of football, and while City are set to challenge the decision with an appeal to the Court of Arbitration for Sport, it seems unlikely that things will be settled by the 2020-21 season. That means that things could change dramatically at the Etihad; as has already been well-documented, star players like Kevin De Bruyne, Raheem Sterling and Bernardo Silva may well look for an exit from the club due to their desire to succeed on the continental stage – and boss Pep Guardiola may well depart, too.
But if City do indeed hit a slide following this ruling, could some of their rivals gain ground in various areas? The answer to that question is almost certainly yes. Here are 4 Premier League clubs who could benefit from Manchester City’s European ban.
The past two seasons have seen Liverpool emerge as Manchester City’s closest challengers in the quest for Premier League glory, and indeed, 2019-20 looks set to be the campaign that sees Jurgen Klopp’s men finally surpass their rivals to lift their first Premier League title. So how could City’s European ban also benefit the Reds hugely?
The fact is that despite their best efforts, the Premier League’s other big clubs – Manchester United, Chelsea, Tottenham and Arsenal – have fallen away somewhat in the title race across the last two seasons, leaving England’s top flight with a two-horse race that could be compared to the famous rivalry between United and Arsenal in the late 1990’s and early 2000’s. Take away the strength of City, though, and who will stand in Liverpool’s way?
The likelihood is that one of those afore-mentioned clubs would probably step up to become the Reds’ closest challengers – although a dark horse side like Leicester could have something to say about that – but given that Liverpool currently have a 24-point lead on City and are a massive 34 points ahead of Chelsea, it seems crazy to think that one of them could really push Klopp’s side next season.
Therefore, if City are unable to avoid their demise as a top-level club, Liverpool could dominate the Premier League like no other club before them – not even the mid/late 90’s version of United.
It seems like only yesterday that Manchester City were light years behind their Manchester rivals United, with legendary Red Devils boss once derogatorily referring to the Citizens as the “noisy neighbours”, but the truth is that for the best part of a decade now, the best team in Manchester has been the side that wear sky blue.
You have to go back to 2012-13 to find the last time United won the Premier League title, and in the years that have followed, City have captured it on 3 occasions while also winning numerous smaller trophies along the way. The gap between the two sides now is almost as big as it was in the other direction in the years before City’s Abu Dhabi takeover, with Pep Guardiola’s men sitting 12 points ahead of Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s Red Devils.
But if City’s European ban causes them to lose all their best players as well as their beloved manager, the likelihood is that they’ll slip down the table in dramatic fashion – perhaps in an even more dramatic way than United did when Ferguson retired. That means that – despite all of their own issues – United would almost by default become Manchester’s most successful club again.
Would it automatically make them title challengers? Right now that doesn’t seem likely, but they’d certainly stand a better chance than their neighbours, as crazy as that sounds right now. And at the current time, that might matter more to the Red Devils and their fans than anything else.
London giants Chelsea and Tottenham Hotspur could both benefit from City’s European ban in the same way; it may well allow a path for both sides to qualify for the Champions League in 2020-21 whereas prior to the announcement, it looked likely that we’d get a straight shootout between the two for the final Premier League spot.
Chelsea currently sit in 4th place in the league table with Spurs right behind them in 5th, and while both sides have been hugely inconsistent this season – they’ve both lost 8 games thus far – the strength of their respective squads suggests that they’ll be better equipped than the likes of Sheffield United and Wolves to cement a top-four spot as the season goes on.
However, it seems impossible that both sides could make the top 4. A week ago finishing in 5th would’ve been a disaster for either side, who rely hugely on the Champions League to keep them at Europe’s top table when it comes to both prestige and finance, but thanks to City’s ban, it looks like a 5th place finish will buy a ticket to Europe’s biggest competition anyway.
Essentially then, that means that both sides are likely to secure a get-out-of-jail-free card for their inconsistent season – and with Champions League qualification secured, they will definitely be expected to strengthen their positions next season. Of all of the beneficiaries of UEFA’s decision, Chelsea and Spurs may be the greatest.