Manchester City may have been squeezed out of the Champions League last night but there are reasons to be positive about entering the Europa League.
First of all this is a competition that is easier to win. Although the calibre of teams that will be playing in the Europa League knock-out stages are strong this term, they are not as good as the Champions League outfits. The likes of Atletico Madrid, Sporting Lisbon and Ajax will be good tests but much easier to beat than the likes of Barcelona, Real Madrid and AC Milan.
City's FA Cup triumph last May was their first trophy for 35 years, so they are not in any position to turn their noses up at any honours that are on offer.
Manager Roberto Mancini confirmed this when he said: "I think that for Manchester City the Europa League is an important trophy, because we need to win more trophies if possible. If we can go to the final then I think for Manchester City it will be good."
A run to the Europa League quarter-finals or beyond would also help to boost City's UEFA coefficient which determines which Pot each club is put into when the draw for the Champions League group stage is made.
Before this season the Blues had only played in the Champions League or European Cup once before, losing in the first round to Fenerbache in 1968 with sporadic qualifications for the UEFA Cup a highlight rather than a given.
This meant that they had little chance to improve their coefficient, were subsequently put in Pot Three, and were drawn in the hardest group in the competition. Obviously drawing one of the best sides in the fourth Pot in Napoli was unfortunate, but venturing into the latter stages of the Europa League, coupled with the ten points they gathered in the group may help City into Pot Two and a more favourable draw when they will, in all likelihood, return to the Champions League next season.
Dropping down to the Europa League may also give Roberto Mancini a chance to rotate his squad on European nights that he would not have had if the Champions League adventure had continued.
City boast an abundance of top quality players which was emphasised when they could afford to leave Mario Balotelli, James Milner and Nigel de Jong amongst others on the bench last night. City are able to make six or seven changes, replace quality with quality and not alter the level of the side too much.
This means key men such as Yaya Toure and David Silva will be able to rest any minor niggles they may have, to be fresh for what will be crucial games to try and preserve City's five point lead in the title race at the weekends.
The fact that City have made their way relatively untroubled to the Carling Cup semi-finals playing a mixture of first-teamers, fringe players and youngsters, bodes well for the Europa League campaign. Blooding promising young players in European club competition will help City in the long run and starlets such as Abdul Razak, Denis Suarez and Karim Rekik can all expect to see action in this competition.
One of the biggest complaints that is often levelled at the Europa League is that playing on Thursday and then Sunday is too short a break for the players to deal with and can have an adverse affect on a clubs' league form.
However a schedule that involves playing on a Wednesday then a Saturday is equally demanding on players and is what the Champions League teams will have to face up to if they continue to progress.
Playing in the Europa League together may also help to prepare City's squad for the Champions League next year. Their time in the competition last year was cut short by Dynamo Kiev in the last sixteen and if City can progress further this year Mancini may find out how best to utilise his squad in European tournaments.
It is probably fair to say that City employed one too many forwards in both games against Napoli and the away fixture against Bayern Munich which left them prone to counter-attacks and subsequently only earned them one point from those three games. It was the Napoli games that ultimately cost City in the Champions League and using the Europa League as a kind of finishing school may be beneficial for Mancini and his players.
Of course, City will not be happy with exiting Europe's best club competition, they have spent over £400 million on players since Sheikh Mansour's takeover, and the owner especially, expects success.
Going into the Europa League is not the end of the world though and City will be back.
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