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.
Despite improvement, Everton should not rekindle Thomas Vermaelen interest
The Belgian defender has been in better form for Barcelona this season.
Rumours have emerged today suggesting Everton could be back in for Belgian defender Thomas Vermaelen.
Catalan newspaper Sport has reported that the 32-year-old could be offered a new deal by Barcelona, with a team from the Premier League interested in signing him.
Sport Witness has openly hypothesised that Everton could be that team. Whilst there is no confirmation or substantiated report that is the case, the boot certainly fits.
Last summer Everton tried to sign Vermaelen.
As reported by the Liverpool Echo, at the time Barcelona vetoed a loan move to Everton as they felt the defender could be a useful asset.
The Belgian certainly has. After struggling with injuries and form throughout most of his Barcelona tenure the former Arsenal man has enjoyed a good season.
The 32-year-old has been a genuine asset to the Catalans, despite still being used sparingly, and such form has even seen him win back a place in Roberto Martinez’s national selection for Belgium.
If it is Everton interested in Vermaelen it is easy to see why. Centre-back has been a major problem for the club this season.
However, Vermaelen, or a player of his ilk, is not the answer to the Toffees’ woes.
The Belgian is obviously a talented player with plenty of experience, but Everton need to freshen up their back-line.
Ashley Williams and Phil Jagielka’s age has shown in recent months.
The pair have been, at the best, inconsistent for the past 18 months and Everton need fresh young talent in the heart of defence if they are to succeed.
Vermaelen is not only 32 but also immensely injury prone. Everton need reliable figures to plug their leaky defences and the Belgian can simply not be relied upon.
Whilst on paper it seems a good deal, and one Everton could certainly turn to their benefit.
The truth is supporters of the Goodison Park outfit will hope they are not the club reportedly keen on bringing Vermaelen back to the Premier League.
Matty Foulds has not fulfilled two-year Everton promise
The one time ‘next John Stones’ has not lived up to his potential.
In November 2015, Everton agreed a deal to sign teenage defender Matty Foulds from Bury.
The then-17-year-old agreed to join Everton in January 2016 and was immediately hotly tipped for a bright future at Goodison Park.
As reported by the Liverpool Echo, the deal cost Everton £225,000 and the club expected him to be playing first-team football within the next two years.
Such high praise and expectation soon saw him earning the moniker of ‘next John Stones’, considering the England international’s rise from the Football League.
So, it is now over two years since Foulds joined Everton and, as of yet, the first-team has not been calling.
The now 20-year-old defender has not yet made his first-team debut or even a matchday squad.
Foulds, who played just four times in Everton’s triumphant Premier League 2 Division One win last season, has not made the progress many at the club thought he might.
This season, he has established himself as a more regular feature, playing 11 times, mostly as a left-back, despite originally arriving as a ball-playing centre-half.
Foulds, whose current deal expires in the summer of 2019, has clearly not lived up to expectation just yet.
It could be he has fallen victim to the change of management at Everton. Roberto Martinez spoke highly of Foulds when signing him.
The Spaniard would have had a vision of him playing first-team football for Everton, but Ronald Koeman and Sam Allardyce may not share such expectancy.
Foulds also has plenty of competition at Goodison Park.
Last season he could not get past the likes of Antonee Robinson, Callum Connolly, Morgan Feeney and first-team regulars Matthew Pennington and Mason Holgate.
This campaign he has been a regular but has not featured in the club’s last four under-23 ties.
Lewis Gibson has been preferred at left-back with Foulds also struggling with injury.
It certainly appears as though Foulds has not lived up to the expectations Everton had for him when he first arrived.
Next season, contractually, is his last at Finch Farm and Foulds will need to massively improve if he is to have any long-term future at Goodison Park.
Everton must secure Frank Fabra signing before World Cup
The Colombian is set to star at the World Cup with his nation.
Everton are currently being linked with a move for Colombian left-back Frank Fabra. According to Argentine radio station El Crack Deportivo, the 27-year-old is being considered as the left-back option Everton need.
Everton have been lacking in the department this season. With Leighton Baines suffering injury trouble throughout the campaign, natural right-back Cuco Martina has done his best in the role. Everton thoroughly need a new left-back and Fabra is an impressive option.
The Boca Juniors defender was linked with Manchester United and Chelsea by Sky Italia’s Gianluca Di Marzio in 2016. A powerful full-back, he has all it takes to be a star in European football.
Everton are, therefore right, to be targeting the Boca star. However, the Toffees must try to wrap up any potential deal before the World Cup in Russia this summer.
Fabra is looking increasingly likely to be Colombia’s first-choice at the competition. Pablo Armero has had his day and Fabra is the popular choice to play the role of left-back or left wing-back.
Colombia, who are in Group H with Japan, Poland and Senegal, have high hopes of going far in the competition. Four years ago they suffered a narrow quarter-final exit at the hands of Brazil.
Fabra will no doubt be key to any success that Colombia have in the competition and therefore will catch the eye.
Everton will be fully aware what a top World Cup performance can do to a player’s value. If the Toffees want to bring in Fabra doing so before the Russia World Cup could end up being a worthwhile cost-cutting exercise.
Regardless, Everton fans will just be pleased to hear that the club are starting to identify potential options to strengthen one of their weakest positions on the field, even if it is not a household name.
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