Wednesday 21 August 2019

'Race' for Europa League spots is English football's funeral cortege

Liverpool’s current form ranks them 12th in the top flight (Nick Potts/PA Wire)
Liverpool’s current form ranks them 12th in the top flight (Nick Potts/PA Wire)
Vincent Hogan

Vincent Hogan

You'd have to admit that the clamour to get into the Europa League brings to mind a play-school line-up for a vaccination jab.

The contenders give the impression, not so much of dragging their heels, but of hyperventilating like horses being dragged towards a burning barn. Even though there's the ultimate prize of a Champions League spot for the winners, it can seem as far away as the moons of Jupiter when you're starting out on that Thursday night safari.

So, in a week that holders, Sevilla, and Dnipro of the Ukraine secured their places in this year's final, it's slightly bemusing - as colleague Aidan O'Hara alluded to on Monday - to behold the Premier League's perspective on Europe's second competition. Liverpool have certainly been trying in recent weeks in the faint hope of roping in Manchester United but failure to prise a victory from visits to West Brom and Hull recently has essentially condemned them to a schedule next season that they palpably already dread. Now, personally, I have never quite understood the distinction between a Wednesday to Saturday rest period and a Thursday to Sunday one in the mind of a professional footballer, but we're led to believe it's pretty profound.

So, as Swansea close up on the rails with a late run for inclusion, the Premier League form-guide (points secured from your last six games) suggests that the contenders are being all but dragged to the stocks here.

Liverpool's current form ranks them 12th in the top flight; Tottenham's makes them 16th and Southampton's a pitiful 19th. That is crisis form if translated to an entire season.

Stewards' room anyone?

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