Premiership teams fear the Europa League, which isn’t a good thing

By Hilton Yip Source:Global Times Published: 2015-5-18 22:48:02

As the Premiership season winds down, much of the drama has dissipated. The champions and top-four places have already been settled. But there still remains the question of the Europa League.

Liverpool, Spurs and Southampton are in a tight three-way battle to claim fifth and sixth spots. Or, if recent form suggests, perhaps they are in a battle to avoid those places.

This is because fifth and sixth ­places mean Europa League qualification, which is, unfortunately, not regarded with much respect or affection in England. To many English pundits and fans, Europe's second continental club competition, formerly the UEFA Cup, is considered second-rate and not worth participating in. Critics believe playing in the competition places a serious toll on teams and jeopardizes their domestic league form.

It's true the Europa League does ­require more matches and has a ­longer qualifying and knockout process than the Champions League, due to a larger number of teams. Also, playing on a Thursday means one less day for ­recovery for Premiership teams compared to playing on a Wednesday in the Champions League.

However, other leagues especially Spain's La Liga seem to take it more seriously, with one team Sevilla having won it three times in the past 10 years.

While in England, a strong line of thought is that competing in the Europa League diminishes a team's form, in ­actuality, success in the Europa League has served as a signifier of a team's ascendancy and a springboard for greater success. Europa League winners have done well in both their leagues and Champions League. Porto, for instance, won the UEFA Cup, in 2003 then went on to win the Champions League the next year. Atletico ­Madrid won the ­Europa League in 2010, did it again in 2012 before winning La Liga in 2014.

For teams like Southampton and Spurs, the Europa League provides a better chance of winning a continental cup.

The tournament also provides a chance to test younger players. It seems unthinkable now, but Harry Kane was nowhere near Spurs' first team when the season began. However, he started scoring regularly in the Europa League, helping him gain a starting place in the regular team, and the rest is history.

Instead of seeking to avoid the ­Europa League, Premiership teams should deal with it and make the most of it.

The author is an editor with the Global Times.

Posted in: Extra Time

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