Eyebrows were raised around the Premier League last week when it was confirmed that Everton would be deducted ten of their Premier League points after being found guilty of breaching Financial Fair Play rules. The Toffees, then sitting in 14th with 14 points, are now 19th, in the relegation zone and have the same number of points as bottom club Burnley, but an appeal is expected.

Attention is now fixed elsewhere. If Everton can be on the receiving end of a deduction of this significance, what might be in store for the likes of Manchester City and Chelsea if they are found to have broken rules, too? There'll be a keen interest taken in the situation by competing clubs - including Aston Villa and the likes of Liverpool, Arsenal and Tottenham when it comes to the race for a place in the top four come the end of the season.

Villa, of course, have had problems of their own before now, but after NSWE swooped in 2018 to steer the club away from financial ruin they've since moved from strength to strength and are now very much players in the Champions League qualification battle, sitting just three points behind leaders City. Here is a breakdown of what we know so far...

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City under investigation

It was confirmed more than four years ago that City were being investigated, something commissioned by the Premier League itself, as well as UEFA, although the club managed to overturn the proposed two-year European ban from the latter when they appealed to the Court of Arbitration for Sport.

The Premier League-commissioned investigation found they had allegedly breached rules on 115 occasions between 2009 and 2018 - having won the Premier League three times in that period. An outcome of that probe is still awaited. City themselves have already denied the charges.

Potential Premier League punishments

  • Suspend a club from playing league matches;
  • Points deductions;
  • Expulsion from the League;
  • Recommend to the board that league matches be replayed;
  • Recommend to the board that the league expels the respondent club;
  • Order compensation;
  • Cancel or refuse registration of players;
  • Conditional punishment;
  • Order the club to pay costs;
  • Make such other order as it thinks fit.

Investigation timeline

There is no deadline for this process - as much as City boss Pep Guardiola would like there to be. Speaking earlier this year, he said: "I will stay next season. I will stay. When 100 breaches from the Premier League against us, don't worry, we will be there. What I would like is for the Premier League, or the judges, to make [a decision] as soon as possible.

"Maybe we did something wrong, everyone will know it, and if we are like we believe we are, like we have done as a club for many years in the right way, then the people stop talking about that. We would love it tomorrow.

"Hopefully they are not so busy, and judges can see it and listen to both sides, and at the end decide what is the best because, in the end, I know firmly that what we won on the pitch we deserve it, I don't have any doubts."

It means that City would be, in the event they breached any Premier League rules, likely deducted points in any season in which this process concludes - be it this year, or next season, and so on.

The independent panel

It was confirmed earlier this year that the Premier League had referred the case to an independent panel. The members will be selected by Murray Rosen KC, the chair of the Premier League's judicial panel. The panel can include any of the 15 members of the judicial panel, as well as non-members.

JMW head of sports law Stephen Taylor Heath told Sky Sports News back in February: "The commission will have a legal representative on the panel, and you'd expect that representative to be a pretty heavyweight King's Counsel. Manchester City have had an obligation to comply with the Premier League's investigation and they now have an obligation to comply with the commission's procedure.

"If they don't comply then a dim view will be taken. If the charges relate to administrative errors then the sanctions will be a slap on the wrist. You would think, if the Premier League have taken it this far, they either think there is a case to answer or they've simply got to the point where they haven't been given the answers, and they're now putting it to a commission to get those answers."

Everton's points deduction hint

Worryingly for City and Chelsea - and to the benefit of Villa - the judgement in Everton's case clearly hints at what might lie in store should they be found guilty too. The independent commission's reasons for docking Everton points read: "We have no doubt that the circumstances of this case are such that only a sporting sanction in the form of a points deduction would be appropriate.

"A financial penalty for a club that enjoys the support of a wealthy owner is not a sufficient penalty. We agree with the Premier League that the requirements of punishment, deterrence, vindication of compliant clubs, and the protection of the integrity of the sport demand a sporting sanction in the form of a points deduction. The issue is not the form of sanction, but its extent."

Chelsea could be trouble, too

The claims against Chelsea, meanwhile, relate to the previous regime when Roman Abramovich was their owner. The Guardian reported last week that leaked files included hidden payments to individuals surrounding transfer deals. It remains to be seen, though, whether City or Chelsea will be found guilty of breaching financial rules and consequently be punished. As of yet, however, Chelsea have no charges to answer.

How it impacts Villa

Clearly, the Lions have made significant strides in recent seasons. Whereas before this wouldn't have necessarily impacted their own league status or ambitions, now there'll be more of an interest in the goings on at elite sides elsewhere - especially if they're to have been found guilty of breaching rules.

Villa under Unai Emery have soared in the last 12 months from a side who were looking over their shoulder to an outfit playing Europa Conference League football and with the financial wherewithal and aspiration of playing at an even higher level on the continent in the seasons to come.

Should City - currently top of the league - and Chelsea - who appear to be a work in progress under Mauricio Pochettino but who you'd expect to challenge for European football of some sort by the end of the season - suffer deductions anytime soon, that'd only improve Villa's own chances and hopes of returning to European football's top table - though with the likes of Liverpool, Arsenal, Tottenham, Manchester United, Newcastle and Brighton, clearly the competition remains intense.

Where do you think Villa will finish in the Premier League this season?