Sunday, April 1, 2012

2012/13 Europa League Contenders - Part 1

Terry provides an update as to who are the likely qualifiers (willing or otherwise) for the 2012/13 Europa League. In Part 1 he looks at Germany, England and Italy. Warning: contains permutations.

Qualification spots: 3 (Fifth and sixth from the Bundesliga and one for the German Cup winner)

There is a right old scrap taking place in the Bundesliga as five clubs compete for a probable three places into the competition via the league. The German Cup final will be between Borussia Dortmund and Bayern Munich who are almost certain to qualify for the Champions League. This means that the Europa League slot awarded to the cup winners will be applied to the seventh place team in the Bundesliga.

Hannover 96 currently have the upper hand in the league as they are in fifth place on 41 points after beating fourth placed Borussia Monchengladbach. It is not out of the question that ‘Gladbach, currently in a Champions League slot could get dragged into the Europa League equation but the gap is ten points.

Directly under Hannover are four clubs on 40 points: Stuttgart (who draw 4-4 with Champions Dortmund last Friday), Bayer Leverkusen (who lost to lowly Freiburg and sacked their coach Robin Dutt as a consequence), Werder Bremen and Wolfsburg.

Qualification spots: 3 (Fifth in the Premier League, one for the FA Cup winner and one for the League Cup winner) 

As we all know, the Europa League is a much maligned competition in England with a number of high profile club coaches complaining about the scheduling of the competition. The English fans chant of “Thursday night on Channel 5” (to be changed to “ITV4” from next season) is meant as a derogatory term to imply that Europa League participants are somewhat small time. Consequently, qualification is seen as something as a poisoned chalice to some Premier League clubs with lofty ambitions.

However, it is worth pointing out that most club supporters from the middle to lower end of the Premier League would love to be in Europe. This season, the contenders range from the reluctant Chelsea in fith who are looking to catch Tottenham Hotspur in the fourth Champions League spot. Also in danger of dropping out of the top four and into the one Europa League slot are Arsenal in third.

Newcastle United in sixth can definitely qualify for either the Champions League or Europa League. The Magpies have 53 points (the same as Chelsea) after beating Liverpool at the weekend. Liverpool are the first confirmed qualifiers for the Europa League after winning the League Cup in February. The final spot goes to the FA Cup winner which is at the semi-final stage. The final four teams are Liverpool, Everton, Tottenham and Chelsea. If the winner qualifies for the Champions League then the Europa League spot goes to the runner up. If the runner up has also qualified for the Champions League then the Europa League spot goes to the sixth placed team in the league.

Qualification spots: 4 (Fourth and fifth place in Serie A, one for the Coppa Italia winner) 

The top two teams in the Italian top flight are pretty much over the horizon so any team from third down to eighth are in contention for the four Europa League spots. Historically, like the English, some of the bigger Serie A clubs generally tend not to take the competition very seriously.

You would imagine that Roma, Lazio, Napoli, Inter and possibly Udinese would feel that they have bigger fish to fry. However, in all likelihood, two of these teams may find themselves battling for those all important coefficient points that are so important for getting that fourth Champions League spot back off the Germans that they lost, this season.

Also in the mix, somewhat, are eighth place Catania who have only lost three times in 2012 in the league. The Sicilian club have never finished higher the eighth in Serie A so face a mighty task to overcome the big beast of Italian football above them. The prospect of a maiden season in Europe is not out of the question, however.

The Coppa Italia Final will be contested between Juventus and Napoli. If Juve win then Napoli will be awarded the Europa League spot that comes with winning the Cup. If Napoli qualify for Europe via their position in Serie A then, in all likelihood, that slot will be awarded to whoever finishes sixth.

In Part 2 we look at Spain, France, Holland and Belgium.

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