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Last Updated: Monday, 30 May, 2005, 12:05 GMT 13:05 UK
Johansson boosts Liverpool hopes
Jamie Carragher and Steven Gerrard celebrate the Champions League win
Liverpool must wait to see if they can defend their crown
Uefa president Lennart Johansson has given Liverpool's hopes of defending their Champions League title a boost.

The Swede said that football's European ruling body must make a decision as a "matter of a real urgency".

"The winner should have a chance to defend the title," Johansson told the Sunday Times.

"We must sit down to see if there is a way to make it happen. If there is a rule that harms the tournament, we have to discuss changing the rule."

Following Liverpool's sensational victory over AC Milan in Istanbul, a decision was set to be made when Uefa's executive committee meet in Manchester on 17 June.

It won't be the same if the champions are missing
Franz Beckenbauer

However, there is growing sympathy for the Merseyside club's plight and Johansson added that he wanted the matter resolved within the next 10 days.

Uefa chief executive Lars-Christer Olsson confirmed that talks may take place ahead of next month's meeting.

He said: "We will arrange a telephone conference because the urgency of the situation is too important to wait until we could get the full committee together."

The Football Association maintains the clubs that finished in the top four of the Premiership - Chelsea, Arsenal, Manchester United and Everton - were their nominees.

And it was revealed earlier this month that the FA had submitted a written request to Uefa asking for an additional Champions League place if Liverpool won the final, which they then did on penalties.

However, Johansson was critical of the FA's stance, describing the organisation as "not helping find a solution".

But it looks increasibly likely that Rafael Benitez's side will be given a berth in the tournament at the expense of Fenerbahce, who will have to drop into the qualifying competition.

Liverpool will not be asked to pre-qualify, partly because that process clashes with Uefa's showpiece date for the Super Cup match between the Champions League winners and the Uefa victors, CSKA Moscow, in Monaco on 26 August.

Former Liverpool manager Gerard Houllier, who is now in charge of Lyon, wants to see the club admitted - not least because potentially he could end up taking his new club to Anfield.

"I was so pleased that Liverpool won the Champions League, for the fans, the players and the club," the Frenchman said.

"I'd be gutted if they are not in it next season. Common sense should prevail and the winners should be the first ones to defend it."

Franz Beckenbauer, who is tipped to be the next Uefa president, has given his support to Liverpool's cause.

"Anyone who was in Istanbul knows they saw one of the greatest matches in European Cup history," said the German.

"The champions must always defend their crown. Any problems must be overcome. There is great support for their case.

"If I am asked I will tell Uefa Liverpool should be part of the competition next season.

"How can we turn our backs on them and say 'No, you are not welcome'. It won't be the same if the champions are missing."

Interview: FA chief executive Brian Barwick



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