Champions League football is the aspiration for the big boys of English football and there are six real contenders for the four available qualifying places. In recent years the so called big four have monopolised the qualifying positions, until last season that was, when Spurs gatecrashed the party. Liverpool were the big four side who missed out last year and it appears they are going to miss out again this time, with Manchester City looking favourites to take 4th spot. After their sensational Champions League campaign this season it seems only the prospect of Champions League football appeals to Harry Redknapp. He has been quoted as saying how the Champions League takes its toll on teams, but the Europa League takes a bigger toll and how it’s a competition that teams get in and try to get out of. I wonder how the Tottenham and Liverpool fans feel about the competition though.
Of course the fans of these two clubs would rather be watching their team in Champions League action and for their team to end up in the Europa League will be seen as a disappointment. However, isn’t European football supposed to be a reward for finishing in a decent league position, not the poisoned chalice it seems to be labelled as? Dedicated fans who follow their teams all over Europe would surely rather be going to watch them in European action, than not!
It is a challenging schedule though, and as the Champions League proved to be this year to Spurs, a long run in the competition is likely to have an effect on league form. To win the Europa League a team must play a total of seventeen matches across the continent on Thursday evenings, which then leads to playing Premiership games on the Sunday. However, surely this presents a great opportunity for managers to blood young talent and play fringe players, keeping important first teamers fresh for league games.
I’m sure the Europa League would have more of a lure if there was a pot of gold at the end of the rainbow. Unfortunately the financial rewards for Europa League matches are pitiful when compared to its big brother, the Champions League. Teams get considerably more money for just qualifying for the Champions League than the eventual winners of the Europa League do. This is a major influencing factor in why a team such as Tottenham would rather put all their efforts into qualifying for the forthcoming Champions League than winning the Europa League. Unless something changes, top English sides are unlikely to put all their resources into winning the Europa League and it almost becomes a more expansive version of the League Cup for them.
Nevertheless, the players of Liverpool and Tottenham will want to play in Europe next season and if it’s not to be the Champions League then the Europa League is the next best thing. When clubs drop out of the Champions League and enter the competition there are likely to be some cracking fixtures for the players and supporters. European football could be vital to Tottenham in ensuring they keep hold of some of their big names. Yes Harry has played down the value of the competition, but he will still be doing all he can to ensure Spurs finish as high as possible in the Premiership table.
I have no doubt the opinions of the fans will differ on whether Europa League qualification is worth it or not. Whether you feel it’s a great chance to win a trophy, or whether it is merely a second rate tournament fit for channel 5.