With Birmingham City already securing one of the Europa League places and another going to either Bolton Wanderers or Stoke City, finishing 5th place in the Premier League is the only remaining method to bag yourself a place in Europe this season.
After Liverpool’s 3-0 win over Manchester City on Monday night, it would seem they have made a late surge for this position. However, would it do Liverpool any harm if they fail to qualify?
With the current lack of depth to Liverpool’s squad, do they really need an additional 18 games? Is one transfer window enough to strengthen a squad that could be capable of challenging for a Champions League spot whilst having a successful run in the Europa League?
WIthout having to trek to old Soviet countries and through Eastern Europe, it would certainly allow Dalglish, the potential full-time Liverpool Manager, the capacity to field his strongest and fittest starting eleven every week.
This season’s Europa League campaign saw Liverpool travel to Rabotnički (Macedonia), Trabzonspor (Turkey), Napoli (Italy) , Steaua Bucureşti (Romania), Utrecht (Holland), Sparta Prague (Czech Republic) and Braga (Portugal). Although various youth players have gained experience, it has taken a toll on the senior players who have had to cope with playing the following weekend. For what it was worth, the stress of travelling and the strain of playing on a Thursday night prior to a weekend fixture has not been beneficial to the squad Liverpool currently has. It has been duly noted that as a consequence of mid-week fixtures, Liverpool have suffered losses such as 3-0 to Manchester City, 3-2 against Manchester United, 1-2 home to Blackpool and 3-1 away to West Ham.
Facing the Reality
Having no European football would be a dent to Liverpool’s pride as it would be the first time they have failed to qualify in Europe since the 1999-2000 season. However besides the added incentive of the financial gain, the Europa League brings no excitement, no prestige and no care. Do Liverpool fans really get excited at the prospect of playing a home tie against Sporting Braga or an away trip to Sparta Prague? Furthermore, since the reform to the Europa League, which is essentially a watered down version of the Champions League, big clubs have lost all their competitive nature for the second rate European competition.
Liverpool need to be playing in the Champions League; for the good of the club and for the good of the country. With Andy Carroll signing for Liverpool, it is essential he grows as a player through the experience provided from the Champions League. He is more than likely to be the future spearhead to England’s attack with Wayne Rooney in the coming years and the best way in ending England’s wait for a second World Cup is to be seeing many homegrown players competing in the Champions League.
The only concern Liverpool should have if they fail to qualify is the future of Pepe Reina. He is arguably the most consistent goalkeeper in the Premiership and with Manchester United on the prowl looking to find a replacement for Van der Saar, if Liverpool are to succeed next season, it is vital that Reina remains their number one. Pepe is an ambitious player. He has dreams of returning to the big stage and there will be only so much he can take of Europa League football.
I’m not advocating that it would be disastrous and pointless for Liverpool if they qualify, I am simply saying it won’t be the end of the world.
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