Sheffield United had their chances of qualifying for the Europa League next season increased over the weekend without even playing.
That is because Manchester City won a third successive League Cup trophy on Sunday. They beat Aston Villa 2-1 in the final at Wembley to secure the first domestic silverware of the campaign.
City became only the second team ever to win the competition three times in a row, matching Liverpool’s feat of the 1980s.
The victory also means that only Sir Alex Ferguson, Brian Clough and Jose Mourinho have now won the tournament more than Pep Guardiola.
Yet from the Blades’ point-of-view, it was the best outcome in terms of their hopes of European qualification.
How City’s win helped Sheffield United qualify for Europa League
United would have been playing Villa in the Premier League this weekend. This was obviously postponed due to their involvement in the final.
As a result, Chris Wilder’s side dropped to eighth in the table, with Wolverhampton Wanderers leapfrogging them. Wolves won 3-2 at Tottenham Hotspur, meaning no side above the Blades at the start of the day won at the weekend.
Leaders Liverpool suffered their first league defeat of 2019/20, surprisingly losing 3-0 at Watford. Leicester City also lost, while Chelsea and Manchester United both drew.
It means that, as things stand, if the Blades were to win their game in hand they would rise to fifth.
Yet what Man City’s Carabao Cup triumph means is that Europa League qualification now drops as low as seventh. That is because the qualification for the competition is given to fifth place and the winners of the two domestic cups – unless those winners have already qualified with their league finish.
City are currently second and almost certain to end up in the Champions League qualification places. But they have also been handed a two-year ban from European club competition by UEFA.
Therefore fifth will now become a Champions League place, making sixth for the Europa League. The win for Guardiola’s men against the Villans means that seventh is now also a qualifying position.
If a team already in Europe goes onto lift the FA Cup, eighth could still be added.