The Europa League seems to be seen as the illegitimate brother of the Champions League at times by English clubs.
English clubs often do not take it seriously, because quite frankly it does not involve the same sorts of finance of the Champions League.
Liverpool, Manchester United and Tottenham’s results on Thursday night in the competition were in the main poor in truth.
Liverpool drew 0-0 with German side Augsburg, while United suffered a 2-1 defeat at Danish champions Midtjylland. However, Spurs picked-up a creditable 1-1 draw against Fiorentina.
Taking it seriously
With the incentive of a Champions League place on offer for the winner of the competition, the English clubs were taking the last-32 of the Europa League seriously, which they do not always do.
However, for different reasons the Premier League teams failed to register a win between them. Manchester United named a relatively strong line-up, but were hamstrung by an injury crisis, that has seen both ‘keeper David de Gea and captain Wayne Rooney sidelined in recent days.
In fact the Red Devils were without 13 senior players through injury for their trip to Denmark, but the starting line-up named was relatively strong. Their performance was poor though.
Liverpool also named a strong team in Germany against Augsburg, but could only manage a goalless draw against the relegation-threatened Bundesliga side. Tottenham’s 1-1 draw at Fiorentina was a more credible result, as the Viola are challenging for a Champions League spot in Serie A.
Spurs boss Mauricio Pochettino rotated his squad slightly, by leaving the likes of Harry Kane and Eric Dier on the substitutes bench, but emerged from Florence with an away goal and a decent chance of making it to the last-16 of the competition.
The importance of the Europa League
In all honesty the Europa League has different importance to different clubs. For Liverpool, winning the competition is the Reds last remaining chance to get in the Champions League for next season, as they are light years away from challenging for a top four spot in the Premier League.
Liverpool fans would be clutching at straws if they are hoping for their team to win the competition though, as there are a lot of good teams with the same aim this season.
Manchester United are also struggling to make the top four of the Premier League this season, so another route into the Champions League next season could prove to be very useful. However the way the Red Devils are playing they look unlikely to win the trophy this season.
Tottenham are in a completely different category. Mauricio Pochettino’s men are title challengers in the English top-flight and the Europa League could prove to be a distraction for the north London team. Throw in the FA Cup and they have a lot of games to play before the end of the campaign.
It was ironic that Spurs picked-up the best result of the three English teams involved in the Europa League, when the competition probably means the least to Spurs in the grand scheme of things.
Outsiders for the trophy
All three of England representatives will be considered as relative outsiders for the trophy this season. United and Liverpool are experiencing inconsistent campaigns, while Tottenham will be making the Premier League title their priority this season.
The favourites to win the Europa League this season are Jurgen Klopp’s former-club Dortmund, who are odds of 9/2, while Spanish side Sevilla are second favourites to win the trophy at odds of 9/2.
Liverpool are quite high in the betting, but the Reds are just too unpredictable to make a realistic judgement on their chances. On their day Klopp’s team can give anybody a game. Unfortunately that day does not come very often.
United’s problem has been the opposite. They have been too predictable this season, predictably disappointing. Dutch boss Louis van Gaal seems to be living on borrowed time at Old Trafford and it seems that the veteran is unlikely to have any silverware to show for hit two years in charge in Manchester.
English clubs have flattered to deceive in European competition of late and it seems that Premier League clubs are still not good enough to compete with their European counterparts, even if the Europa League is only considered a secondary competition by most English clubs.
Are any of the English clubs realistic challengers for the Europa League?