England's four Champions League places look safe - for now

Manchester City's David Silva reacts at the end of their Champions League round of 16 second leg soccer match against Barcelona at Camp Nou stadium in Barcelona March 18, 2015. REUTERS/Albert Gea

LONDON (Reuters) - Despite the absence of any Premier League clubs in the last eight of the Champions League for the second time in three years it is likely to be at least three seasons before England could lose any berths in the competition.

England has been able to enter four clubs -- currently three directly into the group phase and one into the playoff round -- since 2001-02 and there seems little realistic danger of that situation changing until the 2017-18 season at the earliest.

Even then it would need comparable failures in both the Champions League and Europa League over the next two seasons -- and a big improvement by Italian clubs -- to significantly impact on the UEFA coefficient system that ranks clubs and countries and determines their allocation of Champions League and Europa League places.

However, English teams cannot rest on their laurels because Italy is set to close the coefficient points gap by the end of this season.

Currently the top three countries -– Spain (94.713 points), England (80.105) and Germany (77.986) have four Champions League places, while Italy (66.010), Portugal (60.882) and France (51.916) get three.

The system allocates points to countries on the performances of their clubs in both competitions over the previous five seasons.

But at the end of this season England will lose the bonus points they accumulated in 2010-11 when Manchester United reached the Champions League final.

The exits of Liverpool, in the group stage, and Manchester City, Arsenal and Chelsea in the last 16 in the Champions League and the early departures of Tottenham Hotspur, Hull City and Liverpool in the Europa League will mean a lower overall figure for England because this season's tally will be lower than those gained in 2010-11.

England manager Roy Hodgson, asked about this season's European disappointments on Thursday when he named his England squad for the upcoming internationals against Lithuania and Italy, said: "No doubt the Premier League and the top clubs won't want to lose the fourth Champions League place.

"No English team in the last eight is not endemic -- that this time we have teams going out is just one of those things.

"The Premier League is a great league and we have great players but that doesn't give you the right to win matches against teams from other countries."

(Editing by Mitch Phillips)

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