It’s not quite Leicester City winning the Premier League, but Burnley’s incredible run toward the UEFA Europa League is simply amazing.
[ RECAP: Burnley 2-1 Leicester ]
It wasn’t too long along that Burnley returned to the top flight, trumpeted as the “smallest town to ever have its own Premier League team.”
Now, Turf Moor will see Europa League football if it nurses a healthy leads on eighth-place Leicester over the season’s final five matches and Southampton fails to win the FA Cup.
With respect to Saints, fighting for their Premier League lives and needing cup wins over Chelsea and either Manchester United or Spurs, it’s looking very likely.
We can just see hard-boiled manager Sean Dyche heading into the chairman’s office ahead of a UEL campaign, demanding “11 more players who will put their face through a plate of glass for me.”
“It shows a lot about our character,” said Chris Wood, the record signing who scored Saturday’s opener in a 2-1 win over the Foxes.
“Hopefully there’s a lot more to come. Europa League is definitely not sorted. We still have five games to come so we’ll be looking to prepare for those just the same and hopefully.”
It’s not insane to think Burnley could climb into sixth and get an automatic space in the UEL, either.
Arsenal has a two-point lead on the Clarets with a match-in-hand and vastly superior goal differential, but the Gunners also face Europa League schedule congestion and awful fixtures the rest of the way.
One of those will be a six-pointer versus the Clarets. Say both sides lose their toughest remaining fixtures (Burnley vs. Chelsea, Arsenal at Man Utd): May 6 looms large.
Sunday: Newcastle (A)
4/22: West Ham (H)
4/26: Atletico Madrid (H)
4/29: Manchester United (A)
5/3: Atletico Madrid (A)
5/6: Burnley (H)
5/9: Leicester City (A)
5/13: Huddersfield Town (A)
Thursday: Chelsea (H)
4/22: Stoke City (A)
4/28: Brighton and Hove Albion (H)
5/6: Arsenal (A)
5/13: Bournemouth (H)
Just consider the tests Burnley have passed since beating Chelsea away on Aug. 12. There are draws away to Spurs, Manchester United, Manchester City, and Liverpool (though they’ve also lost at home to all of those teams and Arsenal).
Now after holding off Leicester at Turf Moor, UEL is really and truly within their sights.
“In five and a half years there has been a lot of work done here,” said manager Sean Dyche. “We have had some tough times and some very good times. Who knows what it will bring but we will just wait and see.”
Dyche should be in consideration for Manager of the Year, and would win it in a world without Manchester City. Maybe he should anyway, and full marks to Burnley for holding onto their man — and Dyche staying put — despite relegation.
Leicester boss Claude Puel stands impressed with the Turf Moor squad, admitting that his Foxes won’t catch the Clarets.
“It is difficult because we lose our run for the Europa League cup but congratulations to Burnley,” he said. “They deserve it. They have been consistent in their play. There were a lot of battles in the beginning of the match. It was close but after the two goals it was surprising.”