Who qualifies for the Europa League is always tough to predict as along with their being a few teams competing for these spots, the number of places available changes year after year depending on who makes the domestic cup finals. Therefore I think it best to present to you the teams that I believe will will be challenging for those European spots.
Liverpool. After being so close to lifting the title last season only to falter in the last month, I think Liverpool will find it a lot tougher going this season. Brendan Rodgers will admit that the team overachieved and the demands of the Champions League alongside the Premier League will take its toll. Starman Luis Suarez, who carried the side for some parts of the season, has since departed and his replacement, or should I say replacements, don’t shout out world class quality. The pressure will be on Daniel Sturridge to score the goals but for me his back up Rickie Lambert doesn’t cut the mustard. Adam Lallana is a player I like a lot but I am not sure whether he is quite title chasing standard but I hope for him and England that he can make the step up. On a defensive front there are also concerns over the performances of Glen Johnson and Martin Skrtel, the fitness of Jose Enrique and whether Jon Flanagan can continue his development. I do have to question the fact why hardly any money has been spent to improve a defensive that for a top four side leaked goals last season. Dejan Lovren will add some quality but more improvement is needed. Overall the squad is lacking that world class quality and it will be interesting to see if any of the remaining money received from the sale of Suarez will go on securing a big name like Marco Reus, Edison Cavani or Angel Di Maria who seem to be up for grabs.
Tottenham. Last summer the departure of Gareth Bale and the scatter gun approach towards new signing meant that Spurs were in for a tough season. This summer has seen the arrival of Mauricio Pocchetino as manager who will look to implement his passing style of football that was successful at former club Southampton. On a signings front things have been relatively quiet with Pocchetino sticking to his philosophy of buying young players with room to improve. Goalkeeper Michel Vorm will provide some solid backup to number one Hugo Lloris and his teammate from Swansea Ben Davies has followed to sure up the left back spot which has been lacking some quality for a few years. Although not yet the finished article he definitely has to potential to be a star player with his energy and desire to get forward, much like Luke Shaw. The final two arrivals are Eric Dier and DeAndre Yedlin and as much as they show promise they will probably not go straight into the first team. As for the current crop of players, after having a year to settle in midfielder Christian Eriksen will hopefully produce the form that made him one of the hottest young talents in world football and that he only showed in glimpses last season. Erik Lamela had a year to forget but is hoping a change in manager will a change in fortunes for himself. The concerning area of Tottenham’s squad is the striking options available. Roberto Soldado arrived last summer with big expectations but ultimately he flopped leading to Emmanuel Adebayor, who didn’t seem to have a future at the club, being recalled to the first team. Although the squad contains a lot of creativity, without a proven goalscorer Spurs will not be breaking into the top four once again and will have to settle with competing for a Europa League spot.
Everton. Under Roberto Martinez, Everton have become one of the most exciting teams in the Premier League to watch on a weekly basis. The most important business of the summer has been to complete the permanent signings of not only Romelu Lukaku but also Gareth Barry after both were key players whilst on loan last season. Also joining them at Goodison Park is tough tacking Bosnian midfielder Muhamed Besic and winger Christian Atsu on loan from Chelsea. The Toffees first team contains a whole list of quality players including Coleman, Baines, Barkley, Barry, Lukaku, Mirallas but their squad isn’t the biggest and with Europa League football to contend with too it could lead to Everton having to rely more on their fringe players who although can ‘do a job’ don’t match the quality of their first team counterparts. The defensive is also a slight worry as although Phil Jagielka and Sylvain Distin are both solid, both are lacking in pace and could be exposed on the counter-attack. Most Everton fans would hope to use last season as a springboard to compete for the Champions League spots, but with extra games in the Europa League ( we have seen what they have done to the likes of Newcastle and Swansea in recent seasons) I think Europa League qualification once again is the best that can be hoped for.
Newcastle. You might be a bit startled to see Newcastle thrown into my contenders for the Europa League but I strongly believe that their summer recruitment gives them a great chance. Newcastle struggled for goals last season, especially after they lost the creativity of Yohan Cabaye in January and he wasn’t replaced. With top scorer Loic Remy’s loan also ending Newcastle needed to seriously reinforce this summer and so far they have. Remy Cabella, SIem de Jong and Emmanuel Riviere were all key players in the French and Dutch leagues and will add both creativity and goals to the team alongside Facundo Ferreyra who is on loan from Shakhtar. Dutch international Daryl Janmaat comes in to replace the outgoing Mathieu Debuchy at right back and that move means no quality has been lost in that position. Controversially Jack Colback has moved across the North East to Newcastle from rivals Sunderland and although the move has been slammed by some fans his inclusion in the team provides the midfield with more bite and energy. The big question will be whether or not these players can adapt to English football; they definitely have the quality it just depends if they can settle in and show it on the pitch. The defense does look a little fragile, especially at centre back so another addition in that position would be ideal. Youngsters Rolando Aarons who has had an impressive preseason and Adam Armstrong who scored a mountain of goals for the youth team are both players to watch out for and will hoping to break into the first team. The mix of some impressive recruitment and no Eurpoean distractions means Newcastle have the potential to be the surprise package in the league and fight for European qualification this season