Inverness into groups? How Europe race is shaping up-News

Hearts played in the Conference League with runners-up Fiorentina earlier this season

Inverness Caledonian Thistle are one win away from European club football. Yes, you read that correctly.

An unlikely victory at Hampden next month against treble-chasing Celtic will not only secure the Scottish Cup for the second time, but also book a place in the Europa League or Conference League in the second tier.

But what does this mean for the rest of Scotland’s European hopes? What about the Premiership’s participants in next season’s Champions League? BBC Scotland has a feature…

Caley Thistle is… what?

We’re not trying to blow any bubbles, but it will be a tough job for the Highlanders.

Billy Dodds’ side must have been the most disappointing in Scottish Cup final history to deny Celtic. But, hey, it’s possible. One game and that’s all.

A win at Hampden against Ange Postecoglou’s juggernaut would be a surprise, but adding guaranteed European club football would be something else for a club that missed out on the Championship.

Just imagine. Team Tottenham Hotspur, Roma, Wolfsburg … and Caley Thistle. Interesting.

Scottish Cup promotion gives access to the Europa League qualifiers. Win it, you ahead of the teams. Losing, you fall into the safety net of the Conference League regions.

Celtic’s victory on 3 June changes the situation as the Champions League places are closed. The cup winners’ prize is then awarded to whoever finishes third in the Premiership.

Hearts can benefit from this again, as they did last time, but Aberdeen are in the driver’s seat, two points ahead with two games in hand.

Extra space, anyone?

A Celtic cup win would also benefit the clubs who finished the season in fourth and fifth.

Meanwhile, third place guarantees a place in the qualifiers for the third round of the Conference League. The fourth-placed team in the Premier League entered the competition already in their current form. A strong performance by Celtic would ensure that everything goes smoothly.

The fourth enters the Conference League competition at the third level and the fifth is given a pass back into the previous round.

Hibernian are currently fifth, with St Mirren nipping at their heels.

Clear enough? Beloved.

Inverness v Astra
Inverness Caley Thistle last played in the European final in 2015 against Romanian side Astra Giurgiu.

Finally, what about the Champions League?

Celtic will enter the group stage for the second year running.

Rangers are also in the third round of the qualifiers, meaning they have to negotiate two.

If the Ibrox side lose the two-legged tie, they will go into the Europa League.

It will all be here before you say ‘Super Caley go ballistic’.

Passing the BBC signUnder the BBC

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