Yet another season is coming to an end and Tottenham Hotspur is short of points to make it to the much coveted Champions League spot. Nevertheless in consolation they will have the Europa League spot to contend for. Is that a reason to celebrate?
Tuesdays and Wednesday holds no special meaning to people around the world, it is the middle of the week, no parties to attend, no relaxing weekend to follow. But elsewhere hordes of football fans rise and eagerly await one of the greatest competitions of football to take place, UEFA Champions League. A portrayal of passion sense of belonging overcomes the person when he slips into his jersey to support his team. However this experience is a rarity when it comes to the North London loyalists. Going through the same routine on Thursday (Europa League) has been somewhat of a practice to be ashamed of. Except the 2010-2011 seasons, Tottenham have failed to give their fans the excitement of Champions League nights. They did qualify for the 2011-2012 season but were unfortunately knocked out as 5th placed Chelsea won the title to qualify. The years since and before that, Tottenham have been confined to the so called second division of the Champions League.
Another gripping season is coming to an end and Tottenham are struggling in 6th place after barely scraping a draw against West Bromwich Albion and four points below bitter Rivals Arsenal. This draw has shattered all hopes of Finishing in the Top four which seemed like a possibility had they not succumbed to thrashings by the likes of Liverpool which apart from tactical errors are a result of shabby defensive performances. The only joy Tottenham have left to extract from the remainder of the season is to secure victories in all their remaining games and hope that Arsenal slip up in three games and they finish above them. However a dilemma has suddenly arisen among fans, should Tottenham really fight and finish as high as they can and go through another grueling season of UEFA Europa League or should they hope they finish lower save themselves from another tournament that might give them a chance to regroup. Let us analyze the two schools of thought and see reasons behind each opinion.
Merseyside Red Revival
Liverpool after their immense performances in Champions League and a generally paramount performance in the Premier League suddenly went into a slump after their second place finish in the 2008-09 season. Under the manager-ship Rafael Benitez who they had won the Champions League and FA cup Liverpool descended to 7th place. Soon he was sacked and two managers and four seasons later we might witness their first Barclays Premier League Title as they seem stronger and stronger with every passing game. After defeating the threatening Manchester City they stand in pole position with points and having scored 93 goals.
In the 2012 – 2013 season, they hired Brendan Rodgers as their new manager from Swansea City. The season seemed the same as the previous years as they finished 7th again. However what was not noticed was that BR was on a revival mission. With a few new players and a more apt managing style Liverpool have bounced back and answered all question of whether Liverpool will be back to the top four. One major attribute to this sudden surge of excellence is the lack of additional distractions such as a late week European Competition. The Liverpool squad has had time to plan their games and enough rest to regroup as they have had only their usual three competitions to take part in the Premier League, the FA Cup and the League Cup.
The benefit of not playing the Europa league is twofold. One, due to lesser number of games the squad is less prone to injuries. Two, as they do not have to travel to far off exotic locations to play their away games the squad is less lethargic and the manager has more of a choice to concentrate on the tournaments that matter.
The poorer Madrid having spent a fraction of the money their counter parts have spent, yet this season are ahead of them in the league and face an equally dangerous opposition in the Champions League Semi-final. How did they suddenly become so lethal? One fact is that they have a tactical wizard of a Manager in Diego Simeone and another they have always had the fortune of nurturing some of the best Striking talents in the world. This Season the two Diego’s (Costa and Simeone) have been partially responsible for the fairy tale run.
One other reason they have done so well is because they have gained immense experience by playing Thursday night European Football. Having won two of the last five Europa League competitions they are certain to have positive feedback of participating in the competition. Tottenham too have done considerably well in the last two Europa league runs. Their gathering of experience and the fact that participating in the competition gives the manager an ally to explore the new and younger talents in their squad. One might even argue if Tottenham cannot handle even the Europa League how can you expect them to handle the Champions League which is a lot tougher than the latter.
The New Incentive
The dilemma to play or not to play has just become a tougher choice to make as UEFA has announced that from the next season onward the winners of the Europa League will qualify for the Champions League. In a bid to increase viewership and boost the interest of participating teams UEFA has introduced this incentive so there are now three ways one can qualify for the Champions League.
Tottenham now are three points ahead of Manchester United who yet have a game in hand and a better goal difference. A victory for United would ensure Tottenham are kicked out of the UEFA Europa League spot too. Their fate now lies not only in their hands but in the success of their rivals too. Is the fact that they might miss the Europa League this season a blessing in disguise or an opportunity missed?