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Pochettino: beware the Europa League, Manchester United!


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Tottenham Hotspur defeated Monaco 4-1 on Thursday to clinch top spot in their Europa League group. With a daunting away trip to Azerbaijan, and more than decent foes in Anderlecht and Monaco, the achievement is one that the squad should be proud of. The plight of the Europa League has never been the competition itself, it is the drag a 72-hour turnaround does to a player in the ever demanding rigors of the Premier League. Nobody knows this burden more in English football over the past half decade than Spurs. While Tottenham continue to fly high, smashing a legitimate Monaco side with their second team, less so can be said about Manchester United. Above Spurs in points, they haven't been as convincing as the outfit from White Hart Lane in the Premier League and now they have crashed out of the Champions League in an unsanctimonious manner. Their prize; the Europa League. This is what Mauricio Pochettino had to say about United's early exit:

"For sure Manchester United will feel very disappointed after last night because they had the possibility to go into the next round," Pochettino said on Wednesday.

"It is difficult to guess what will happen to them in the future. It is a different competition and you have to change your strategy -- to play Thursday instead of Tuesday or Wednesday. It is true it can affect your game.

"I think it is a big, big difference. When you play Thursday and you play Sunday it affects the mentality.

"Always Thursday night, big travel, you need to play Sunday in the afternoon. Always for the players it affects the psychology because football is Saturday 3 'o clock, or it used to be."

At a minimum teams get an extra 24 hours to recover in the transition from Champions League to Premier League weekend fixtures; in most cases they will get 48 hours. While it is true that the physical demands of the turnaround are significant, and one could point to Spurs young roster as the reason for their tidy success in the competition, it is the mental strain that might weigh heaviest on United. Not only will they fear the demands of the turnaround itself, but the amount of publicity spent on dooming teams on Sunday when they played on Thursday is great. Surely, even if it is in the smallest of ways, it will be a detriment to their performances.

Further, will they even want to play in the competition? The Europa League is certainly a step down in prestige to the Champions League and the majority of United's players are the type of footballers who probably don't view the competition in the fondest of lights. Remember, Redknapp hated the tournament and it took Poche to really prioritize it through public statements and the strong starting 11s that he threw out for the team to embrace it. Regardless, United have at least two – probably four – Premier League games effected by the Europa League's brutal turnaround. In a tight race for the title and top four, this is an interesting variable to watch. Yet Pochettino had more to say about European cups and the English game:

"It is difficult to find the solution," Pochettino said.

"The good thing for the Premier League is the teams at the bottom have the capacity to improve because the Premier League has more money, the teams are in a good financial condition.

"From zero you can improve -- one, two, three, four, five -- but when you're are at the top it is difficult to improve. The step from eight to nine, nine to 10 is more difficult.

"The teams around the bottom, the gap is bigger to improve. If we want a tough competition, and the Premier League is very, very tough, you need to compete.

"It is true competing in the Europa League or the Champions League is not easy.

"A team like Barcelona, or Real Madrid or Paris Saint-Germain in France -- the gap between them and second is maybe 10, 12 points.

"They can rest and prepare for the Champions League in the best condition."

English football is in real danger [Ed: not so much anymore, thanks Arsenal and Chelsea] of losing an extra place in the Champions League and it is because the Premier League is simply so popular and good. The financial gravitas that the league wields is uncanny. It allows relegation contenders to sign high-quality players and breeds a fixture list that does not offer an easy match. PSG can focus on the Champions League when that match is sandwiched between Troyes and Ajaccio. Madrid can do the same when facing Las Palmas or Getafe. Watford is not a giant of world football, but the players they have on the roster, and the funds that they have at their disposal, make them no ordinary newly promoted side. English football is in a tough situation and teams need desperately to advance in the Champions League and Europa League to maintain their rightful spots in Europe. As such, with it impossible to pull for any of the scoundrels remaining, it is quite evident, for the good of English football, that Spurs need to win the whole damn thing.