The Europa League is taking one more step towards becoming a “serious” Competition
This is the time of year when football gets serious with the games coming thick and fast, the Champions League is back and so is Thursday night action from the Europa League. From this level of the competition, there are no more Champions League failures that will drop in to distort the balance of the competition, and the terribly tedious group stage is finally over. There are now just 32 teams left in the tournament and in just over a week there will be only 16, and so on, all the way to the final. The Europa League has stopped being complicated and arduous, and can now be followed as a complementary side dish to the Champions League itself. Which is just as well, because the big change this year is that the Europa winners gain a place at the UEFA top table next season with automatic qualification into the Champions League.
There are some conditions which one should be aware of and those are the following: should a team win the Champions League and fail to finish in a qualifying position they will take the automatic place and the Europa League winners will have to be content with a play-off round, but in most seasons from now on the Europa League winners can expect a place in the Champions League group stage the following season. A top football Tipster has suggested that it wont be long before one of the major leagues could have a five-team representation in the Champions League. Tottenham, Liverpool or Everton, for example, could qualify for next season’s Champions League by winning this season’s Europa, even if they finish outside the top four.
What has been happening in recent seasons is that some teams have been forced to make a choice between going all out to win the Europa League and giving themselves the best chance of finishing in a Champions League position in their domestic league and the Europa League has often ended up the loser in that trade-off. This is nothing new to an extent as come the end of the season leading teams are always going to have to juggle priorities between cup, league and Europe, and anything that adds extra interest will be welcomed. The Champions League has already totally eclipsed the magic of the FA Cup and has resulted in a Premier League where the same coterie dominates each year. If football is not quite as open and exciting as it used to be, if your team has not won anything for years and now counts mere top-tier survival as success in itself, that is the Champions League’s fault or is it Mr Wenger?