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Last Updated: Friday, 6 May, 2005, 07:26 GMT 08:26 UK
Reds suffer Champions League blow
Everton manager David Moyes (left) and Liverpool boss Rafael Benitez
David Moyes and Rafael Benitez are vying for fourth place
The Football Association has confirmed the Premiership's top four will qualify for next season's Champions League.

That means Liverpool could win the competition this season and not be able to defend their trophy.

Everton are currently fourth, three points ahead of the Reds with a game in hand, but Bolton also have an outside chance of claiming that spot.

But the FA says it will lobby Uefa for a fifth Champions League place if the Reds beat AC Milan in the 25 May final.

The FA's professional game board had recommended on Thursday and it has been endorsed by the main body of English football's governing body.

A statement on the FA website said: "This will not be changed whatever the outcome of Liverpool's Champions League Final in Istanbul on 25 May.

"However, the FA also believes that if Liverpool win in Istanbul and do not finish in the top four in the Premiership, an extra place should be allocated to them in the Champions League next season.

"This is ultimately a matter for Uefa, but the FA will continue to make representations on this issue at the highest level."

Last season the FA stated on its website that if such a scenario cropped up the fourth-placed team would play in the Uefa Cup, but Soho Square officials insisted that was not an official policy.

Everton chief executive Keith Wyness was happy with the decision, although he was quick to stress that they still had work to do to secure the final Champions League spot.

He told the club's website: "Whilst we welcome the announcement from the FA regarding clarification on the fourth place qualification issue, we are still operating in a hypothetical situation with regards to Everton's position."

Uefa regulations stipulate that a maximum of four sides from any one country can take part in the Champions League and European football's rulers say it would not allow five English clubs to take part, although they will look into changing the rule in future.

"You cannot change the rule at this late stage of the season," insisted Uefa spokesman William Gaillard.

"For future seasons, say from 2006-2007, the executive committee may look to change the rule. But for next season the rule stays at it is.

"The English Premiership has four places and it would be unfair to tell another national association that they have lost one of theirs."

Real Madrid finished fifth in La Liga when they won the Champions League in 2000 but they were allowed to defend their title after a ruling by the Spanish FA.

The inclusion of the Bernabeu club came at the expense of Real Zaragoza who finished fourth at the end of the 1999/2000 season.


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