20 Biggest Clubs That Could Miss out on Champions League Football
The Champions League could have a decidedly different look next season.
A handful of former European champions—some of the most famous sides in Europe—already know they'll be missing out on the continent's most prestigious club competition, and several recent and regular participants are either set to finish out of the Champions League places in their domestic divisions or face a late-schedule struggle to vault themselves back into contention.
The following slideshow will rank the 20 biggest clubs that will likely enter a 2014-15 campaign without Champions League football.
Let's get to it.
20. CFR Cluj
Romanian champions in 2008, 2009 and 2012, CFR Cluj made an impression in the 2008-09 Champions League when they beat AS Roma 2-1 at the Stadio Olimpico and held Premier League giants Chelsea to a scoreless draw.
Presently seventh in Liga 1 with seven matches remaining, the Railwaymen have struggled to score goals this season and are locked into a mid-table finish.
19. Dynamo Kiev
The ongoing political and military crisis in Ukraine has caused the country's Premier League to fall behind schedule going into the spring, and on Thursday Dynamo Kiev's plight worsened when manager Oleg Blokhin resigned his position following a 2-0 defeat to Shakhtar Donetsk.
The loss left Dynamo—26-time champions, most recently in 2009—in third place in the Ukrainian Premier League and seven points adrift of Dnipro Dnipropetrovsk, who currently hold down the division’s second and final Champions League berth.
18. Viktoria Plzen
Reigning Czech Republic champions Viktoria Plzen are 10 points behind leaders Sparta Prague and the division's only Champions League spot with six matches remaining on the schedule.
Champions in two of the last three seasons, Plzen beat CSKA Moscow in the Champions League back in December to seal a Europa League place from Group D, which also included Bayern Munich and Manchester City.
17. FC Copenhagen
Like Viktoria Plzen, FC Copenhagen won their domestic top flight just under a year ago but could miss out on Champions League football in 2014-15.
Presently locked in a tie for second place in the Danish Superliga with Midtjylland, the 10-time champions are only a few months removed from some Champions League success, which included a 1-1 draw with Juventus and 1-0 victory over Galatasaray back in the autumn.
It was only three years ago that Braga were runners-up in the Europa League, and in 2012-13 they posted a memorable 2-0 victory away to Galatasaray in the Champions League group stage.
This season, however, has been a disappointment for Os Minhotos, who find themselves sixth in Portugal’s Primeira Liga with three matches to play.
Reigning Belgian champions (they’ve won the domestic division 32 times), Anderlecht finished third in the initial phase of the Pro League, which was good enough to see them through to the title play-off round.
But after four matches against the biggest sides in the country, they’re currently fourth out of six, although a run of wins would likely propel them back into contention alongside the likes of Club Brugge and Standard Liege, who currently hold down the Champions League positions.
14. Real Sociedad
Following last season’s surprising finish in La Liga, Real Sociedad proceeded to eliminate Lyon from the Champions League play-off round before failing to win a single match in Group A.
And while they lost Asier Illarramendi to Real Madrid during the summer, they have nevertheless managed to keep in touch with the Champions League places in Spain through much of the season.
But Europa League football looks likely for the Basque outfit this time around as they are presently seventh in the Spanish top flight with five matches remaining.
Seven-time Bundesliga winners Hamburg are on their third manager of what has been a disastrous campaign, and with four matches remaining, they are still very much a candidate to be relegated from the German top flight.
This, for a club that became European champions in 1983, is hardly acceptable, and more changes are expected over what should be a formative summer.
12. Tottenham Hotspur
Tottenham Hotspur made a memorable run to the Champions League quarter-finals in 2011 and then finished fourth in the Premier League the following season.
But Chelsea’s surprising win over Bayern Munich in that spring’s final dropped them into the Europa League, and the Champions League has been little more than an ambition ever since.
With four matches remaining on this season's schedule, Spurs find themselves sixth in the standings and seven points off fourth-placed Arsenal.
Sevilla progressed to the Champions League Round of 16 in both 2008 and 2010, and presently they are engaged in the semi-final round of the Europa League.
A late push in La Liga, combined with a drop-off in form from Athletic Bilbao, could see them squeak into the Champions League ahead of next season.
Lyon are coming off an important win at home to Ligue 1 leaders Paris Saint-Germain, but they remain nine points back of Lille and the final Champions League berth with five matches to play in the French top flight.
Their dismal home record is largely to blame for what has been a disappointing season, especially given the successive titles they won between 2002 and 2008 and the memorable Champions League runs they made during those years.
Fiorentina can blame a likely Champions League absence on Serie A’s plummeting UEFA coefficient.
Comfortably fourth in the Italian top flight, La Viola are nevertheless poised to miss out on Europe’s premiere club competition because the continent’s governing body awards only three berths to the division.
Juventus, Roma and Napoli currently have them, and with five matches remaining, Fiorentina’s first point of business will be holding off Inter Milan for fourth.
Marseille go into Sunday’s match at home to Lille on the back of successive wins over Ajaccio and Montpellier in Ligue 1.
Even so, they’re still only sixth in the French top flight and are five points off a Europa League berth, never mind the Champions League places.
The 1993 European champions have lost six matches at home this term and endured a miserable spell of results between October and December.
7. CSKA Moscow
The Russian Premier League got back underway last month, and after 25 rounds, the favourites for Champions League football are leaders Zenit St. Petersburg and second-placed Lokomotiv Moscow.
Reigning champions and 2005 UEFA Cup winners CSKA Moscow are presently third, although they have managed to rattle off five straight victories going into Sunday’s match away to Kuban Krasnodar.
They might still continue their climb up the standings, but it would be a significant upset if Lokomotiv in particular pipped them to a Champions League position.
6. PSV Eindhoven
PSV Eindhoven's season has been as streaky as it has been disappointing.
Just last month it looked as though the 1988 European champions were back on their way up the standings after a run of three successive wins, but they are currently on a three-match losing skid that has left them 10 points off second-placed Feyenoord.
With only two Eredivisie matches remaining, the 21-time Dutch champions are essentially locked into a Europa League play-off place.
5. Bayer Leverkusen
Earlier this season it looked as though Bayer Leverkusen were a safe bet to finish second to Bayern Dortmund in the Bundesliga.
Then the wheels came off.
They won only one of their first nine matches following the winter break, and with four matches remaining in the German top flight, they face a struggle to fend off Wolfsburg for the final Champions League berth.
In 2011-12 Valencia finished third in La Liga (a title in its own right); last season they wound up fifth.
This time around Los Che are fighting just to stay in the top half of the table, and with five matches remaining, even a Europa League spot is likely beyond them.
Their only saving grace is that they are still in Europe’s secondary competition and will face Sevilla in the semi-finals.
3. Inter Milan
Three-time European champions Inter Milan came into the current campaign without continental obligations of any sort, which is why it's particularly surprising that they will miss out on the Champions League for a third season in a row.
Flying high during the first half of their Serie A campaign, Inter failed to win any of their first five matches following the winter break and had posted only five victories from their previous 16 matches.
Once a lock for Europa League football, they suddenly find themselves just five points clear of seventh-placed Torino.
2. AC Milan
AC Milan have rattled off five successive Serie A victories ahead of Saturday’s match at home to Livorno but even their recent success has only taken them to eighth in the Italian top flight with five rounds to play.
Difficult spells in October, November, January and February essentially cost the Rossoneri—seven-time European champions—a place in the Champions League ahead of next season, although on current form they could suddenly rise into the Europa League places.
1. Manchester United
Less than a year ago Manchester United were celebrating an English-record 20th title.
Then long-time manager Sir Alex Ferguson retired, and former Everton boss David Moyes ushered in a period of shocking underachievement.
Played off the pitch by Bayern Munich in this season’s Champions League quarter-finals, the Red Devils will not be part of the tournament next season, and with five matches remaining, they face an uphill battle just to seal a Europa League spot.
United are presently seventh in the Premier League—three points behind Tottenham Hotspur and seven adrift of fifth-placed Everton.