City on course for UEFA spot

Manchester City are in pole position to claim a place in next year's UEFA Cup after the Football Association was awarded an extra place in next season's competition.

European football's governing body today revealed that English teams had topped their Fair Play competition, meaning an extra place in the first qualifying round of the 2008-09 UEFA Cup.



The FA has confirmed the berth will be awarded to the highest-ranked side in the Premier League fair play table that has not qualified for Europe by other means.



City currently stand fifth in the fair play table, behind Tottenham, Arsenal, Manchester United and Liverpool - who are all already guaranteed a place in continental competition.



That means Sven-Goran Eriksson's team, with only a single league game remaining, stand on the brink of an unexpected European spot.



In the 162 European matches featuring English clubs that were watched by UEFA delegates between May 1 last year and April 30, 2008, Premier League sides achieved a Fair Play coefficient of 8.143.

The statistic is determined based on criteria such as positive play, respect of the opponent, respect of the referee, behaviour of the crowd and of the team officials, plus cautions and dismissals.



The seven other associations who achieved a coefficient above eight - Norway, Denmark, Sweden, Finland, Germany, Spain and France - will be entered into a draw for a further spot which will take place at the City of Manchester Stadium on May 13.

The news that City could be playing in European competition next season leaves Eriksson in an even stronger position amid constant speculation that he is to be forced out of Eastlands this summer.

The Manchester club face a final match at Middlesbrough on Sunday and with the game effectively meaningless for both sides, they appear well placed to maintain or better their position in the domestic fair play league.



Intriguingly, Everton are just a place behind City in sixth, and need to make up only a 0.5-point margin.



With up to 10 points per match awarded purely for yellow and red cards, and four other factors also coming into play - positive play, respect towards the opponent, respect towards the referee and behaviour of officials - that could clearly be achieved during the final round of matches.



Unlike City, however, the Merseyside club face a crucial game this weekend as they attempt to claim the point from Newcastle that would guarantee UEFA Cup football via a fifth-place finish in the Premier League.



Should Everton lose and be overtaken by Aston Villa, who need to win at West Ham to take fifth, the fair play league now offers the hope of salvation.



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