Following the conclusion of the 2023 Champions League final, the curtain has officially fallen on this past season. In a campaign mainly filled with disappointment and frustration, Liverpool supporters can finally look ahead to next year. The offseason got off to an excellent start with Brighton’s Alexis Mac Allister officially putting pen to paper. This is hopefully the first of many more signings on the way. However, as we progress through summer and preseason, one critical aspect of next year’s campaign is on everyone’s mind. How will Jurgen Klopp and Liverpool FC treat the Europa League?
Now at first glance, it seems like a no-brainer. We should be going for it as for all its detractors remains a prestigious and highly coveted European trophy. However, many factors may come into play once the competition begins. Liverpool’s (for now) thin bench, prioritization of the league, the “perceived value” of the Europa League trophy, and of course, the idea of keeping our ran-ragged players as fresh as possible over another grueling campaign.
Europa League ≠Champions League
Getting the obvious out of the way, the Europa League isn’t on par with the UEFA Champions League. The level of competition, especially at the group stage level, remains a considerable step down. While it pains me to see the likes of Mo, Alisson, and Virgil wearing the Europa League patch on their sleeves, this is where they must reside themselves to being after a tumultuous season.
The knockout stages, however, assuming Liverpool advances, present a more significant challenge and spectacle. Don’t you remember those United and Dortmund ties during the early days of Klopp’s tenure? Those games were more intense than some Champions League ties the club has been involved in recently. With the caliber of teams dropping down from the UCL, similar opposition and drama could be in the cards.
A Silver Lining
On the subject of the group stages, a rare positive can be taken from the fact that Jurgen can almost have his hand forced into rotation. Using unheralded players against so-called “lesser” opposition could keep players in line for big league fixtures as well as give these youngsters and fringe contributors chances to shine.
While it may be well and good for the club’s development, the Europa League will be quite detrimental to the bottom line. As reported by AS, reaching the Champions League group stage nets a club around $17m. UEFA’s second-tier competition nets their participants a measly $3.98m at the group stage level, in comparison. Winning the Europa League doesn’t even get you Round of 16 Champions League money! This is not ideal for a club like Liverpool who are looking to remain in the company of football’s elite.
Wait And See
Overall, my stance on LFC’s participation in the Europa League is a bit of a mixed bag. Despite our finish this past year, I firmly believe we are too good to be in this tournament. Nevertheless, we must make do with the hand we are dealt. A good UEL run represents a chance to re-establish ourselves among Europe’s upper echelon and add another trophy to the cabinet. Rival fans may snicker and jeer, but a European trophy is a European trophy. Ask a West Ham United fan how much the Conference League win meant to them. We should 100% try and win the Europa League this coming year!