Newcastle United’s possible Champions League opponents as top four race intensifies

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There are some familiar faces vying for a place in next season’s Champions League.

Newcastle United are closing in on a return to European competition and Thursday night’s 4-1 win at Everton has handed a significant boost to their hopes of claiming a place in the Champions League.

That will evoke memories of trips to the San Siro, Camp Nou and De Kuip Stadium for United supporters as they hope to see Eddie Howe’s side end the club’s 20-year absence from European football’s elite. With just six games remaining in the Premier League season, thoughts are turning towards who the Magpies could face in European competition next season.

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So here is the rundown on what is happening in Europe’s top leagues ahead of the weekend fixtures.

Spain

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Despite their widely-reported financial issues, Barcelona are rapidly closing in on claiming their first La Liga title since 2019 and their first under the management of club legend Xavi. Ahead of Saturday night’s home game with Real Betis, Barca stand 11 points clear of the arch rivals Real Madrid with just seven games remaining in the season.

Both Real and cross-city rivals Atletico Madrid look all but certain to secure second and third place and a place in next season’s Champions League. Real Sociedad, former club of Alexander Isak, sit in the fourth and final Champions League place with a four-point over Villarreal.

Italy

Giacomo Raspadori’s late goal saw Napoli beat Juventus - but Juve are still 15 points better off than they were a week ago.Giacomo Raspadori’s late goal saw Napoli beat Juventus - but Juve are still 15 points better off than they were a week ago.
Giacomo Raspadori’s late goal saw Napoli beat Juventus - but Juve are still 15 points better off than they were a week ago. | AFP via Getty Images

Napoli have all but secured the Serie A title and could actually become champions of Italy for the first time since the days of Diego Maradona this weekend. The current runaway leaders will host Salernitana on Sunday and know a win, coupled with a second placed Lazio dropping points at Inter would see Napoli declared as champions.

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Lazio look pretty safe in a Champions League spot and have a five point lead over Jose Mourinho’s fifth placed Roma, with Juventus and AC Milan sat in between the two Rome-based clubs. However, the race for the top four also includes Inter and Atalanta, who sit within striking distance of those above them.

Germany

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Borussia Dortmund and Bayern Munich currently lead to the race for the Bundesliga title and it seems things will go down for the wire with just a point separating them with five games remaining.

Union Berlin lie four points behind Bayern ahead of the weekend fixtures, with Freiburg a further two points back in the fourth and final Champions League spot. Other contenders for a top four place include RB Leipzig and Bayer Leverkusen, who United faced in the Champions League in 2003.

France

Guendouzi has faced some of the world’s best players in Ligue 1, including Paris Saint-Germain forward Kylian Mbappe.Guendouzi has faced some of the world’s best players in Ligue 1, including Paris Saint-Germain forward Kylian Mbappe.
Guendouzi has faced some of the world’s best players in Ligue 1, including Paris Saint-Germain forward Kylian Mbappe. | AFP via Getty Images

To the surprise of absolutely nobody, Paris Saint-Germain lead the Ligue 1 table and have an eight-point advantage on second placed Marseille with six games remaining.

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United’s former UEFA Cup semi-final opponents may well be falling short in the title push, but they look to be well on their way to securing a Champions League place as both they and third placed Lens sit comfortably in the top three. Monaco have a five point deficit to make up on the latter of that duo and are awaiting a slip-up with the season entering its final stages.

Portugal

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Two familar names are engaged in a title battle in Portugal with Benfica currently holding a four-point lead over Porto ahead of the weekend. However, Braga are also in with an outside chance of securing their first ever top tier title as they sit six points behind the leaders.

That trio look all but settled in the top three and that would leave United’s former UEFA Cup opponents Sporting Lisbon to contemplate a season in the Europa League, rather than another push at the Champions League.

Holland

Former Netherlands international Wim Kieft has urged Feyenoord midfielder Orkun Kökçü to join Brighton & Hove Albion this summer amid rumours linking the 22-year-old with a move to Manchester United. Picture by Dean Mouhtaropoulos/Getty ImagesFormer Netherlands international Wim Kieft has urged Feyenoord midfielder Orkun Kökçü to join Brighton & Hove Albion this summer amid rumours linking the 22-year-old with a move to Manchester United. Picture by Dean Mouhtaropoulos/Getty Images
Former Netherlands international Wim Kieft has urged Feyenoord midfielder Orkun Kökçü to join Brighton & Hove Albion this summer amid rumours linking the 22-year-old with a move to Manchester United. Picture by Dean Mouhtaropoulos/Getty Images

Now there are some fond memories conjured up for Newcastle supporters as Feyenoord can secure the Eredivise title this weekend if they beat Excelsior and PSV Eindhoven fail to pick up points at Sparta Rotterdam.

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Even if that scenario does not translate into the real world, it seems likely the title will go to Feyenoord and both they and PSV will enter next season’s Champions League. Ajax sit in the third and final Champions League place, but they are under heavy pressure from AZ Alkmaar, who sit just two points behind the Amsterdam giants.

Elsewhere in Europe

Champions Genk and one of either Union Saint-Gilloise and Royal Antwerp will be Belgium’s Champions League entrants for next season with Galatasaray leading the Turkish Super Lig. They have a six-point lead over Fenerbache, who will have to hold off the challenge of Besiktas to secure a return to European football’s elite. Unsurprisingly, champions elect Celtic and Old Firm rivals Rangers are almost inevitably going to enter from the Scottish Premiership. Other former Magpies European opponents in with a chance of securing qualification for next season’s Champions League include CSKA Sofia and Ferencvaros.

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