Following the draw for the semi-finals of the FA Cup, there was news for the likes of Manchester United, Everton and Tottenham Hotspur.
Whether it was good news or bad news depended on your point of view. But the simple fact is, the draw means there will not be a Europa League place for the side that finishes seventh in the Premier League this season.
Following Manchester City’s League Cup victory, a sixth-place finish suddenly granted entry to Europe’s second competition.
But with Hull City or Sheffield United now guaranteed a place in the final, it means either the winners or the runners-up will be granted a place in Europe ahead of the side that finishes seventh in the top flight.
At the moment, that means Everton, although they have a game-in-hand over United and have played two less than Tottenham.
But as some Spurs fans will testify, featuring in Europe’s lesser-celebrated tournament is not necessarily a good thing.
In fact, I would go so far as to say that whichever club out of United, Spurs and Everton finish seventh will actually be in a far better position going into the new campaign.
Considering the need to qualify, the Thursday night games if you make it, and the numerous matches just to reach the last-32, why would any side wish to endure that schedule when their league form will almost inevitably suffer as a result?
All three clubs could realistically break into the top-four next season. But that is far less likely to happen if they have to play so many extra games in a tournament that – rightly or wrongly – is not held in the same (or even similar) regard as its big and considerably glitzier brother.
There has already been talk of United arranging a series of money-spinning friendlies around the world if they do not qualify for Europe next season. But given that they could, in essence, arrange their own fixture calendar, surely that is a far better option than succumbing to the rigours of a long and potentially fruitless Europa League campaign.
That said, for now all three sides will simply be focusing on finishing as high as possible, knowing that fourth place is not beyond them. But when that top four is filled, of those directly below them it could be the side in seventh who enjoy a far more succesful overall campaign next time round.
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