21st May 2017: The Premier League season is done and dusted, Chelsea are deservedly champions. Tottenham Hotspur, Manchester City and Liverpool fill up the other cogs in the Top 4 and make it to next season’s Champions League. Arsenal and Manchester United secure Europa League qualification spots while Everton must play a qualifier to get into next season’s Europa League. But is it so mundane as always for the English teams or is the European campaign England’s best shot at European supremacy since the golden era between 2008-2012?
Europa League Final: Ajax vs Manchester United
Here’s where the upcoming Europa League final comes into perspective. Manchester United are after UCL qualification after having missed out on the conventional route via the Top 4 in the Premier League. Another incentive for the perennial English giants is to add a Europa League to their illustrious history and thereby secure the only missing jigsaw in their trophy cabinet. Moreover, should United win the Europa League, they would join FC Bayern München in the list of teams who have completed the entire set of trophies available for a European team. Keeping all the history aside and returning to the present, Josè Mourinho desperately needs MUFC to win this year’s UEL and secure a spot in next season’s Champions League as this would lay the foundation for a successful transfer window and in turn tick all the boxes for a hopefully successful and enduring campaign next term.
If United, as tournament favourites do win the Europa League final this Wednesday, England for the first time in the last 10 years could have 5 teams playing in next year’s Champions League and in turn could have the best opportunity ever of once again being home to a European super-force after 2012.
Chelsea are Champions under Antonio Conte and the Italian’s 3-4-3 formation and classic Catennachio style play have got the Blues working like a well oiled machine and with a solid defence, enigmatic midfield and forward line with likes of Hazard, Costa and Pedro, they could be a significant European force next season after completely missing out on European football this term.
Tottenham were truly on fire this season, rather unlucky to have missed out on the Premier League title. Golden Boot winning striker Harry Kane has scored 7 goals in the last two games of the season with Spurs boasting an overall goal difference of +60. Their wretched form at The Wembley stadium (where they’d be playing next season) could be the only major concern regarding their progress in the Champions League.
Man City under Pep Guardiola have a young and talented squad and the Spanish maestro has got them playing some delightful football too. However, having said all that, they’ve absolutely NOTHING this season and this is the first season where Pep has finished trophy-less. Lack of consistency and a leaky defence could cost them dearly if this continues into the next season’s campaign.
Liverpool after being ousted by Sevilla in last season’s Europa League final are back in the European mix this season. They’ve played some excellent attacking football under Jürgen Klopp, however the defence is still very much shaky and there are significant concerns over the goalkeeping position. Moreover, with an extra UCL qualifier to play in the next season’s campaign, a relatively favourable draw in qualifying could help them secure a place in next season’s group stage.
Man United, well as Mourinho has reiterated multiple times, EVERYTHING hinges on Wednesday’s final. It has been a season of mixed feelings; a disappointing PL finish in 6th , two trophies already won and a prospective third on offer in the UEL final on Wednesday. If they do manage a win in the final, it’d guarantee some level of progress with the UCL next season. However, if they are to challenge in Europe next season, massive reinforcements are needed in the summer in all aspects of the team. With a big budget under his belt, Mourinho should able to comfortably address these concerns IF United secure Champions League football next season.
Arsenal and Everton having well experienced teams stand an outstanding chance of success in the Europa League next season.
The Premier League is the world’s most competitive league in the world, no doubt, however its seems to be losing it’s grip the BEST league tag to the La Liga and the Serie A with some elite sides like Real Madrid, Barcelona and Juventus displaying an irresistible brand of football even on the European stage. With up to 5 slots on offer for English sides in next year’s UCL, it could be the Premier League’s BEST ever chance to stamp its authority as the BEST and most competitive league in the world.
My Europa League Final Prediction:
Ajax 1-3 Man United