It’s not my favourite tournament and it’s never going to be, but the news today that we’re likely to be a Pot 2 team in the Europa League draw is as welcome as it is unexpected.
We badly need to make a good show of it in that competition, both for the purposes of reaching the latter stages – which gives us a financial shot in the arm – and because our prestige and reputation needs saving after a series of self-inflicted wounds.
It means that one possible glamour tie will be sacrificed; so what? Are we really ready for a team from Spain, Germany, Italy, France or England at the moment?
We’ll almost certainly have to play one game against such a side; we could do without having to play two. This makes the path somewhat easier, but that doesn’t mean it will be easy.
Indeed, some of our worst results in recent years have come against teams that, on paper, it’s pretty clear that we should have beat. Cluj are only one of them.
This time we have to do better.
We need those co-efficient points or this miserable routine of playing four qualifiers just to get a sniff of the Champions League Groups will go on and on.
Whilst wanting at least some excitement in the games, we’ll get plenty of that with the top seeded teams likely to include Manchester United and Arsenal. God help us if we end up playing one of those two, and I’d sooner avoid Sevilla and Ajax as well.
Lazio would be … interesting.
They are a fascistic club and the atmosphere would be intense.
But Pot 1 aside, it would be nice to get something straightforward and simple, something that will test us but not prove insurmountable to navigate. Also, nowhere too far afield. You want games where you don’t need to travel for 14 hours.
We’re at the wrong party of course; this is the lesser event, and if we make it we’ll have to carry the crippling knowledge that we had a ticket to the red carpet show instead.
But we really would have been out of our depth in the Champions League and those kind of ritual humiliations – which would have been virtually certain – can rock morale in all kinds of ways.
This is the level our ambition deserves … it’s probably also the one for which we’re currently built.
Our Pot 2 seeding reflects what remains of our European standing … it imperative that we do nothing further to endanger it.
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