EPL

Europa League Places at a Premium in EPL

The English Premier League continues to grow in strength throughout their table. Where a few seasons ago any light follower of the EPL could predict places 1-7 as soon as the first ball was kicked in the season, the EPL now has the talent pool and the coaching talent to provide shocks, surprises, and quality play from top to bottom. With the way the EPL is growing, will the battle for Europa League spots become as heated as making the top-four once was?

This year, if we have a situation like last season where top four clubs win the continental club cups, the Europa League spots will be fought over by six to seven clubs. Although either Tottenham or Arsenal will probably end up in the top four when the final game is over, the teams that will be in the hunt for the Europa spots include Everton, Liverpool, Swansea, West Brom, and Stoke City. Considering teams like West Brom and Swansea have rarely ever been in a situation to be involved in European competition, this is making for a fascinating race.

European competition adds serious money to any team’s coffers. Although you will only be making a fraction that the Champions League provides, entry into the Europa League still provides your squad with a definite addition to your bankroll. Teams like Everton and Liverpool would prefer to be in the Champions League, but their coaches and players will start to look towards the Europa league once they realize that CL qualification is out of their reach.

Swansea is definitely a club that would be great to see in European competition. Their nickname of Swansea-lona is very apt and their passing would provide some fantastic football for the entirety of Europe to enjoy. Swansea may also find their qualification route through winning the League Cup, so they definitely have the most likely pathway of the smaller clubs.

West Brom has started to fall off their early season hot-streak that saw them sitting in the top four for a large portion of the season, and a fixture against Liverpool will definitely define the direction that the rest of their season will be heading in. Steve Clarke has done wonders with the club, and Europa qualification would be a dream-realized for a club the size of West Brom.

Liverpool and Everton will both want Europa qualification merely so that they can hold it over the head of their rival. Although Everton have been consistent this season, they are experiencing a similar situation to West Brom and the nagging injury that star-man Fellaini continues to play with may end up costing them in the long run. Liverpool, however, have shown that they are coming back to prominence by collecting draws against Arsenal and Manchester City.

Although this will definitely take a better shape in the next few weeks, the depth of the EPL is providing excitement across the entirety of the table. For all we know, the battle for Europa qualification may soon become something that clubs start to target at the beginning of a campaign. All I know is, I am loving this!

Written by: Andrew McCole, soccerprose.com

Roberto Mancini

Can the Premier League title race be reignited this weekend?

Earlier this week, we posted about the possibility of Manchester United having already secured the Premier League title. With a nine-point lead and the fact United has not lost since Nov. 17, United seem to be cruising. However, Manchester City’s manager does not think the title is locked up and neither does United striker Wayne Rooney.

“They have nine points more than us because they did better than us. But in three months, everything can change like last year. If we can recover eight points in six games, I think to cover nine points in 13 games will be easy,” Mancini said according to ESPNFC.

“Results are the most important thing now. Look at Manchester City against QPR. They should have got the win, had a lot of chances but ended up dropping points,” Rooney said according to ESPNFC. “Once it comes down to the last four or five games, then we will see what position we are in and work out what we have to do.”

If City is looking for a chance to get back into the title race, this weekend is the perfect opportunity. Everton head to Manchester United this weekend while Manchester City head to Southampton.

In the two clubs first match of the season, Everton beat Manchester United 1-0 at home. This second matchup could have huge ramifications for each team depending on the result. Manchester United are trying to maintain their nine point lead atop the table and Everton is currently three points behind Tottenham for the final Champions League qualifying spot. Everton has not been on quite the same run of form as United, however, Everton has not lost a game in the Premier League since Dec. 30.

Manchester City, on the other hand, will not have as difficult of a game this weekend as league leaders United. Southampton is currently in 16th in the Premier League, only three points above the relegation zone. Even though Southampton has been struggling to get points, they have been a hard team to beat at home. This season, they have won three games, drew five and lost only four games playing at St. Mary’s Stadium. In their past four matches, Southampton has tied Chelsea, Everton and Wigan and only lost to Manchester United 2-1. When these two clubs met earlier in the season, Manchester City won narrowly 3-2.

Even though the quality of opponent is much lower for Manchester City than Manchester United this weekend, neither game will be easy for the teams from Manchester to win. However, for City, if United is to lose this weekend, you cant get a better opponent than Southampton to try and pick up points against. With a United loss and City win, the lead at the top of the table will be cut to six and make the title race exciting once again.

Written By: Eric Stoyanov, Contributing Writer, soccerprose.com