Liverpool face high noon decision over Europe

Liverpool will know by midday whether they will be allowed to defend their Champions' League title next season but were warned last night that a vote in their favour is not a foregone conclusion.

"It is not an easy decision and some of the public statements from members of the executive committee who will decide suggests there is not unanimous approval," William Gaillard, Uefa's communications director, said.

Uefa's executive committee will make a decision this morning following a teleconference chaired by the organisation's president, Lennart Johansson, who has already given his influential backing to Liverpool.

His support alone has lifted Liverpool's hopes that they will be playing in the Champions' League as opposed to the Uefa Cup, where the current rules dictate they should be heading.

But the committee will not be taking a straight vote on Liverpool's entry. Instead, they will vote on three "hurdle questions" - Should the champions always be allowed to defend their title?; Can any national association have more than four clubs in the competition?; and Should the rules be changed despite the fact that all next season's places have been allocated?

"Only if there is a majority or consensus of 'yes' to each of those three questions will Liverpool have a chance," Gaillard said. "And if the verdict is yes, the committee will explore the logistics of which stage of the competition Liverpool can enter."

If Liverpool are allowed in, they are likely to start in the qualifying rounds, the draw for which takes place a week today.

l Dietmar Hamann has agreed a new one-year contract with Liverpool. The 31-year-old German had been expected to leave the club for Bolton or Hamburg.

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