Burnley manager Sean Dyche couldn’t hold back his excitement after the Clarets advanced into the Europa League third qualifying round over Aberdeen in extra time.
“It’s on my CV too, a win in Europe, whatever way you look at it,” Dyche said after the match.
The Clarets hosted a European match at Turf Moor for the first time in 51 years, topping Aberdeen 4-2 on aggregate on a 3-1 victory in extra time. Jack Cork scored the winner in the 101st minute with a header, while Ashley Barnes added one more from the spot in the 114th minute.
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“Our fans literally just wanted to get into Europe so they could have a European tour!” Dyche said. “I’m pleased we achieved that for them.”
Dyche was forced to temper his excitement slightly, however, aware of the pitfalls that could plague this team in the coming months. Mid-table Premier League sides that enter early-season Europa League play have often suffered in Premier League standings as a result of the brutal fixture congestion that can potentially take place. These teams often don’t have the resources to ensure the squad is deep enough to handle so many fronts, and it takes a toll.
“We’ve got to be careful, tonight was weird because we’re drawing and I’m thinking, ‘I’ve still got a Premier League campaign coming’,” said Dyche.
Two years ago, Southampton played Europa League matches early on, and it cost in league play as they lost five of their first six Premier League matches, with just two Premier League wins through December 3. Hull City back in 2014/15 qualified for the tournament and played four early-season matches, but they grabbed just two league wins by December 20 and ended up relegated. The year before that, Swansea City made a huge Europa League run through the playoff round, into the group stage, and beyond into the knockouts, but they suffered in league play finding themselves as far down as 15th in mid-January and eventually finishing just nine points above the drop. Even as far back as the 2011/12, Fulham reached the Europa League on fair play points, and it torpedoed their league season. They ended up playing 14 games in a run from the first qualifying round all the way to the group stage, but had just four Premier League wins by Christmas and were down in the bottom quarter of the table, eventually rebounding once Europe was completed to finish 9th.
Dyche is aware of what’s at stake. “It’s tough because we wanted to win,” he said, “but I can’t lose my players. Whatever happens this is still not as important as the Premier League and I’ve made that clear to everyone. As soon as I found out [Chris Wood] Woody [was struggling] he’s got to come off. Aaron [Lennon] had a tight hamstring and he almost ran back for one, so I’m shouting not to. The bigger picture still has to be there.”