Saturday, December 15, 2018

The Europa League is not the Champions League ugly sister

David Nugent in Editorial, UEFA Europa League 12 Sep 2017

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Some big clubs seem to treat certain competitions with a level of contempt. Two such competitions are the League Cup and the Europa League. However, the latter does have a lot to offer English clubs looking to win silverware or find a route into the Champions League.

Obviously, the Champions League is more lucrative than the Europa League, thus is more important to the big clubs. Europe’s elite competition also offers a certain level of prestige. The importance of the Europa League to some clubs cannot be underestimated.

The Europa League is not the Champions League’s ugly sister, more like its wallflower younger cousin who lacks the same self-importance as the older relative.

English clubs should take it seriously

I was thinking about Arsenal yesterday and some Gunners fans are deriding the Europa League to a certain degree. The fans of the north London club are undoubtedly disappointed at missing out on the Champions League places last season.

It is understandable, as exiting the Champions League at the last-16 stage become an annual tradition for Arsene Wenger’s team. However, the Europa League offers the Gunners a fantastic chance of actually getting back into the Champions League.

It also offers the club another chance to win silverware this season. The Gunners are one of the favourites to win the competition. Looking at the other teams in the competition it is a very realistic goal.

Considering that Arsenal’s European trophy haul consists of an Inter-Cities Fairs Cup win in 1970 and a Cup Winners Cup triumph in 1994, the Europa League could give them a chance to expand their European trophy collection, too.

Another team that should be aiming high in the Europa League is Everton. As an Evertonian, European football is special, no matter whether it is the Europa League or the Champions League. The club has wasted too many years in the doldrums.

The Toffees have not made a great start to the campaign. However, the Europa League could be a fruitful competition for the Merseysiders if they can negotiate a tricky group.

Many fancy Everton to do well in the competition this season. In fact, at odds of 25/1, Ronald Koeman’s side are joint-third favourites to win the competition, with only Italian giants AC Milan and Arsenal shorter odds.

No doubt, the Blues will have to put in better performances than of late. However, if they can then there is no reason why they cannot go deep into the competition this season.

Manchester United are the perfect example

English clubs do not have to look far to see the benefits of doing well in European Football’s secondary competition, as compatriots Manchester United won the Europa League last season.

When the Red Devils started last season in the Europa League, United boss Jose Mourinho was slightly dismissive of the competition.

However, as the competition wore on, the Portuguese boss must have realised that the opponents they were facing were very beatable.

The experienced former Chelsea boss saw the opportunity to grab a Champions League spot in the latter stages of the competition and prioritised winning the trophy. If that is not a lesson to the English clubs involved in this season’s competition then nothing will be.

Bosses will rotate their squads

For me, both Arsenal’s Arsene Wenger and Everton’s Ronald Koeman should field relatively strong teams on Thursday night. Arsenal host German side Koln at the Emirates Stadium, while Everton travels to Italian to face Atalanta, who were a surprise package in Serie A last season.

However, I believe that both bosses will rotate their squads on Thursday, as Arsenal visit London rivals Chelsea on Sunday before Everton travel to Manchester United later in the day.

Neither boss will be willing to risk their preferred starting eleven in the Europa League with such big weekend Premier League games. The way Everton played at the weekend, most Evertonian’s will be relieved to see some fresh faces starting in blue shirts against Atalanta anyway.

The Europa League may not be a priority for some teams and as previously stated bosses are likely to rotate their teams in the competition. I just hope that the two English teams in the competition take it seriously, as neither can afford to turn their nose up at any opportunity to win silverware.

Will English clubs take the Europa League seriously this season?


David Nugent

David is a freelance football writer with nearly a decade of experience writing about the beautiful game. The experienced writer has written for over a dozen websites and also an international soccer magazine offline.
Arguably his best work has come as an editorial writer for Soccernews, sharing his good, bad and ugly opinions on the world’s favourite sport. During David’s writing career he has written editorials, betting previews, match previews, banter, news and opinion pieces.



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