First off, I have to apologise to all you EPL fans out there. I have been favouring the NHL a little too much recently but there has been a lot going on. If you are intrigued about the NHL but you don't know where to start, then head over to NHL.com and check it out. Right now is the best time to have a look as we near the business end of the season!
Ok back to football.
For many teams who cannot hope to compete for the Premier League title or a Champion's League spot, the prize at the end of the season is a position that will qualify them for entry into the Europa League.
The battle for a Europa League qualification spot is quite exciting to watch as it tends to concern around 10 teams in the League. Only a maximum of 4 teams can qualify for the Europa league and only one of those teams is guaranteed entry. More rules on the qualification process can be found here: Europe League Qualification.
Basically 5th place is guaranteed a spot in the Europa League. Whoever finishes 6th usually qualifies also with 7th and 8th being circumstantial.
Now, who is currently in the race to play against some of Europe's best teams next year? Well, we have Chelsea, who are favourites to finish 5th with 45 points, then we have Liverpool (39pts), Sunderland (37pts), Bolton Wanderers (36pts), Newcastle United (35pts) and Stoke City (33pts) all within six points of each other. On the outside looking in we have Blackburn Rovers, Blackpool and Fulham. Arguably even Everton, Birmingham City and Aston Villa still have a long shot at getting in as they are only nine points behind 6th place Liverpool.
The race for qualification is very tight this year but I think Liverpool have to be considered the favourites for 6th and Sunderland favourites for 7th. As a Toon fan that is a very difficult thing to say but after looking at the facts and the rosters it is clear that Liverpool and Sunderland have the most complete teams.
|Liverpool are favourites for 6th place.|
Newcastle are capable but they have a very small squad and will be too weak to challenge if they suffer anymore injuries. Bolton are very solid and tough to beat but they don't have the quality that Sunderland and Liverpool possess. Stoke are much the same as Bolton insofar as they are a solid side that can win if they stick to their formula, but don't have the quality to change things when their formula isn't working. Because of that I don't see Stoke qualifying either.
There is a possible fourth Europa League spot and if the Premier League does get it this year (see Europe League Qualification) then I would fancy Newcastle to qualify in 8th.
Playing in the Europa League gives teams a chance to play against some of the biggest teams in the world and gives them a shot at winning one of the most coveted trophies in football. It also means more money, which can lead to better players and more success...
Who do you think will qualify this year?