Due to the Europa League not being Europe’s biggest elite competition, a handful of clubs tend to play a less formidable squad to pursue the cup, however for English sides Liverpool, Tottenham and Everton winning the Europa League this season could be a goal which they need to take increasingly serious.
The winner of the 2014-15 Europa League will gain entry into next seasons’ Champions League, so considering all three currently sit outside of the top four positions in the Premier League, they have an extra route to qualify for the one of the biggest competitions in the world, all they need to do is win the Europa League… How difficult can it be?
Italian giants Napoli, Roma and the slightly weaker Inter Milan all remain in the competition, as well as the German surprise package of the season Wolfsburg who will fear nobody after smashing Bundesliga leaders Bayern Munich in?late January. Current champions Sevilla are still in contention after winning their first leg tie against Borussia Mönchengladbach and also a strong Zenit Saint Petersburg side remains in the quest to win the Europa League.
If either of the English sides wish to overcome some of the excellent opposition that remains in the competition it will certainly not be a walk in the park, in their first leg matches of the last 32 stage, Everton came from behind to secure a comfortable 4-1 victory against Swiss side BSC Young Boys, Liverpool edged to a 1-0 victory against a tough Besiktas side and Tottenham were held to a 1-1 draw by arguably the toughest opposition in Fiorentina.
Everton – Can they win the Europa League for the first time?
Entering the second-legs Everton stand strongest, a poor Premier League season so far has been overlooked?by some thanks to sublime performances in Europe, especially that of £28 million pounds striker Romelu Lukaku who netted a hat-trick in the thrashing against Young Boys. Now Everton host Young Boys in Merseyside which should safely see them through knowing only a real collapse from themselves will see them eliminated, however Roberto Martinez’ men have the experience and capability within their side to see of the opposition and see themselves safely through to the last 16 of the competition.
Everton have never won the Europa League before, the furthest round they’ve reached was the last 16 in the 2007-08 season when they were eliminate on penalties against Fiorentina. If Everton are to win the cup this year their performances will need to improve drastically, yes they topped their group an saw off Young Boys with ease, but how would they perform if they were to draw the likes of Napoli or Roma if all secured places in the last 16?
Everton have an extremely skilful squad and should have no difficulty finding the back of the net with Lukaku, Kevin Mirallas, Ross Barkley, Aaron Lennon or their other attacking options which can create something from nothing. Also united with a solid defence, Everton could easily succeed in this?competition, however to do so they will need to improve their Premier League form to increase morale and form of the squad. In their most recent fixture they only managed a 2-2 draw at home against bottom place Leicester and still sit in the bottom half of the table, so unless Everton can produce a remarkable League comeback an reduce an 18 point?deficit?between themselves and 5th placed Southampton, what seems their only ambitious options is to win the Europa League. However with their squad not producing their full potential the majority of matches, the future for Everton this season seams dull, trophy-less and unlikely to secure a European spot. Realistically Everton will not win the Europa League this year, there are too many talented squads who are displaying more commanding and exceptional football week in, week out who are more deserved and more likely winners.
Liverpool – Can they win the Europa League for a record four times?
After miserable and lacklustre performances in the Champions League, Liverpool were dumped out into the Europa League, why? Because Daniel Sturridge was injured and Mario Balotelli certainly failed to live up to everyone’s expectations.
Now Sturridge is back and Liverpool’s attack is looking sharp with Raheem Sterling, Sturridge, Philippe Coutinho, Jordan Ibe and even Balotelli himself producing the goods for the Reds. Following their most recent 2-0 Premier League victory away at Southampton, Liverpool have gone unbeaten for 10 league games winning seven of those. Liverpool scraped a 1-0 victory against Besiktas thanks to a penalty from Balotelli which showed a sense of disarray throughout the squad as to who was devoted to take the penalty, however winning at Anfield against the tricky Turkish side was vital. Both Tottenham and Arsenal have travelled away from home against Besiktas and failed to score a goal even between the two sides with Spurs suffering a 1-0 defeat and Arsenal held to a goalless draw.
Knowing how hard it is to play away in Turkey, Liverpool’s defence will need to be solid throughout, progression past Besiktas will provide real hope for the Red half of Merseyside that they can win the competition. In the current form table for the Premier League since Christmas, Liverpool would top that League, and at the rate they’re playing, securing a Champions League spot next campaign is back on the cards after a poor start since the departure of Luis Suarez and injury to Sturridge, the prolific modern ‘SAS’, that is of course untill Suarez departed.
The likes of PSV, Sevilla, Wolfsburg and Villarreal shouldn’t pose a massive threat or obstacle to Liverpool’s hopes of winning the Europa League, only the likes of Zenit, Napoli, Roma and Tottenham should be a real threat as Liverpool look to conquer Europe’s second biggest competition. Liverpool still have a world class squad on paper when the team performs and their style of play at the moment is impeccable and anything other than a win in each game is seen as bitter disappointment. The mix of youth and experience in the Liverpool squad is a perfect one which this season has massive potential to go all the way this season and win the Europa League.
Tottenham – Can the Spurs join Juventus, Inter, Liverpool and Sevilla on three titles?
Trophy-less since winning the Carling Cup in 2008 is this the year Tottenham will succeed? Tottenham sit 7th in the Legaue, however just 3 points behind rivals Arsenal, in particular Hugo Lloris, Harry Kane and Christian Eriksen have had majestic seasons so far, essentially keeping Tottenham fans aspiring of a Champions League finish and Europa League success.
However being held to a 1-1 draw at White Hart Lane by Italian side Fiorentina could severely dent their chances of progression into the last 16, a win at the Lane was crucial for Mauricio Pochettino and his men, however they will now travel to the?Stadio Artemio Franchi knowing they need to at least score in the game to keep their hopes alive, after Fiorentina scored an all important away goal at Spurs. Similar to Liverpool, if Spurs can overcome strong opposition away from home in this round then there’s no reason as to why they can’t win the Europa League, again having one of the strongest squads on paper… however the Europa League is certainly not played on paper.
Harry Kane has scored seven European goals this season in the qualifying rounds and group stage, however he will need the rest of the squad to improve their performances if Tottenham want Cup glory. If they are successful against Fiorentina then I believe they will reach the final of the competition, they’ve only failed to score in seven matches out of 43 they’ve played so far this season, showing they have excellent attacking potential, even if it is mainly Kane and Eriksen stealing?the majority of goals, on New Years Day Tottenham hit five past Chelsea, who are host to one of the best defences in modern day football, this accomplishment just shows their attackers thrive against the strongest of clubs.
Winning the Europa League would be an extremely hard task for Spurs due to their first leg result against Fiorentina, however if they win the second leg, they have just as good a chance as anyone to win the competition.