Last summer UEFA changed the rules regarding qualification to both the UEFA Champions League and UEFA Europa League competitions.
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That included handing the winner of the 2014-15 Europa League competition a spot in next seasons Champions League, but in the small print there was another significant change.
In years gone by if the winner of the FA Cup in England had already qualified for Europe through their league position int he Premier League then the FA Cup runner up was handed their spot in the Europe League.That situation has arisen in six of the past 10 seasons, but a subtle change means that if Arsenal — who have all but secured a top four finish in the Premier League — beats Aston Villa (shock semifinal victors over Liverpool on Sunday) at Wembley on May 30 then instead of Villa qualifying for the Europa League, the open European spot will instead go to the seventh placed team in the Premier League, currently Southampton.
Still with me? Okay, here’s where it gets even more interesting.
Arsenal’s bitter rivals Tottenham Hotspur are currently in the running for a top six finish but if Spurs were to finish seventh, previously they may have thought they would not qualify for the Europa League next season which would be music to Mauricio Pochettino’s ears as Spurs’ boss isn’t exactly a fan of the competition and would rather focus on mounting a top four challenge in the PL in 2015-16. In the last four seasons Spurs have qualified for the European soccer’s second-tier club competition and its not only stretched their squad to the limits but its also had a negative impact on their final position in the PL standings.
It seems as if Arsenal, who are heavy favorites to defend their FA Cup trophy against Villa next month at Wembley, will not only be able to brag about another trophy in the cabinet compared to their north London neighbors if they prevail but they may also be able to condemn their rivals to more Europa League action. If Spurs finish in seventh place after the PL season finishes on May 24, they will be waiting on an Arsenal win to see if they are in the Europa League.
Of course, Spurs will take the Europa League seriously next season if they do qualify but they must have been hoping for a season away from the competition so they can regroup, have less games and mount a top four challenge. Having no Thursday night trips to far-flung corners of Europe on a Thursday night worked wonders for Liverpool last season as they surged to second. However, it is looking increasing likely that Spurs, once again, will be in the Europa League next season.
All thank to the success of their neighbors.