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The Europa League is even more important for English sides this year

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The opening round of fixtures in the Champions League was a worrying one for English football, with only Chelsea managing a win the in the CL group stages. Chelsea ran out 4-0 winners against Israeli side, Maccabi Tel Aviv. 

English teams fared much better this week in the Champions League's second round of group matches on Tuesday. Chelsea failed to win at FC Porto, with whom Jose Mourinho won the Champions League in 2004.

Meanwhile north of the Thames, Arsenal were no better, they encountered their first home defeat of the competition to Greek side, Olympiakos. They lost 3-2 on the back of a 2-1 defeat to Dynamo Zagreb last week which leaves them bottom of Group A.

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Wednesday proved a slightly better day for the English sides as Manchester United managed to overturn a 1-0 deficit against Wolfsburg to win 2-1 at Old Trafford and City came out 2-1 winners away to Borussia Monchengladbach. 

The Turin side's progression to the final of the Champions League last year, where they eventually fell down 3-1 losers in extra-time to Barcelona, could be costly to the Premier League if they were to achieve such success again this year.

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Currently, there are four places on offer to English teams, leading to an enthralling battle between sides to fight their way into this magic ’top four’.

However the Europa League is seen as something of a nuisance by the English teams and is often blamed for poor form in the league. It is notoriously used as a scapegoat by many managers for fatigue in league matches and highlights a lack of quality-in-depth within the squad when injuries occur.

However, English teams mindsets will have to change, or risk losing this fourth place spot to Italy’s Serie A, as a Sky Sports report explains;

"The top three ranked European countries - currently Spain, Germany and England - gain four Champions League places each, while fourth, fifth and sixth-placed nations - currently Italy, France and Portugal - are awarded three spots. These places are awarded based on performances in both the Champions League and Europa League."

This means that if we were to have a repeat of last year's Champions League performances, English teams failed to make it past the last 16 and Italy were to achieve the success that they did, England would lose its fourth place in the 2017/18 season. 

This coefficient is worked out by the performances of each team within European competition and then divided by the number of teams each country has competing. This is then added with the four years previous in the competition.

Therefore, the Europa League plays a huge role in England retaining its fourth spot. Currently England's score is 65.659 and Italy's 61.605, giving a difference of 3.095. Points are awarded per win/draw and for progression from the group stages and each following round there forward. For example, last season Chelsea were knocked out in the the last 16, whereas Juventus made the final, because of this Juventus made four points more than Chelsea did.

The strength of Italy’s campaign wasn’t just based on Juventus making the final. Fiorentina and Napoli also made the semi-finals of the Europa League, something only Chelsea have managed for England, when they went on to win the competition in 2012/13.

A loss of a Champions League place could be detrimental to the power of the league, which has the largest amount of global support from around the world and is the envy of every other nation due its record TV rights deal worth up to £5.1 billion.

Spain's La Liga is trying hard to emulate this deal to bring similar wealth throughout the league, rather than to just the "Galacticos" of Real Madrid and the Catalonian giants, and Champions League holders, Barcelona who currently take home a large slice of the TV revenue.

A fall in revenue for English teams could prove to be unbalancing, with large amounts of money being spent already to compete for those top places. Manchester City and United respectively, spent upwards of £100 million during the most recent transfer window. Including the signing of Monaco teenager Antony Martial for up to £58 million (£36 million was the released original figure).

Manchester City broke the £50 million barrier twice during the window, firstly to secure Liverpool winger Raheem Sterling, and then again, to sign Werder Bremen midfielder Keven DeBruyn.

Teams that have become used to a regular place inside that top four, notably Arsenal, may be first to hit the panic button. Likewise, their North London rivals, Spurs, may have to put down their weapons for the mid-week European clashes, and get behind their rivals, as Arsenal’s failings to progress beyond the group stages could falter their own chances of getting into the competition.

Success in the Europa League could be of double importance for Liverpool and Tottenham, as if either, or both, teams were to progress into the later stages of the competition, it may be enough to keep England ahead of Italy on the coefficient that dictates the tables. Another route into participating in the Champions League is to win the competition, something Sevilla have achieved in the last two seasons.

Spurs are on an impressive run of form currently unbeaten since the opening day of the Premier League where they lost to Manchester United 1-0. Since then, they are unbeaten in 6, including a 4-1 win at home to Manchester City, yet they still sit outside the four. 

Therefore given the potential lack of ways into this prestigious competition, and the fact that continued poor form in Europe could reduce these options even further, surely English teams need to start to give more value to the Europa League?

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Topics:
UEFA Champions League
Premier League
Liverpool
Tottenham Hotspur
Europa League
Football

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