Does anyone really want to play in the Europa League next season?

After an allstar blitzing display against Fulham, Liverpool fans were brought back to earth, and sixth place, when beaten by Europa chasing Spurs.

Going to Craven Cottage is never easy but with a quarter of an hour on the clock Liverpool made a mockery of their hosts good form. Thanks to a Maxi brace and a Kuyt volley Liverpool romped into an early 3-0 lead. Fulham gathered themselves, and kept the rampant Reds at bay until midway through the second half. Maxi claimed his second hat-trick in three games after a Dembele side foot finish for the Cottagers, only for Suarez to restore a four goal advantage and then a Steve Sidwell super strike to complete the goal action.

But it was lacklustre display in front of their home fans that lead to defeat against a strong Spurs outfit. Both clubs have a dilemma of whether to finish fifth and gain the final European spot of have a lighter fixture list and hope to push stronger for a top four finish next season.

Harry Redknapp’s reluctance to play in the Europa League wasn’t reflected by his team on the Anfield turf. Spurs were good value, especially after a poor return of one win from 13 games. Goals either side of half time from Van der Vaart and Modric moved the Lillywhites up to fifth, a point ahead of Liverpool.

With Kenny Dalglish now installed as permanent manager with a three year contract, perhaps those inside Anfield are looking forward to a top four challenge rather than a Europa League run. The lack of depth in the squad may not be able to handle the extra 17 games needed to win the Europa League. The calibre of opposition, for example England’s representatives are Stoke, Fulham and Birmingham, are two cup winners and team qualifying via fair play rules. Hardly heady nights at the Nou Camp.

Paul Tomkins latest article on this issue raises many points and assess the situation Liverpool find themselves in. As usual the Liverpool fans are still discussing what they want for their team next season. It’s a very hot topic and can be seen on http://tomkinstimes.com/2011/05/europa-or-bust/comment-page-1/#comment-131079

It maybe where Liverpool are, but it’s not where they want to be. To alter that then a top four finish is required. Blooding youngsters and gaining European experience is all fine for the team, but at the expense of travelling to Jagiellonia Bialystok in Poland when Old Trafford is on the horizon weakens the tilt at top four.

Since the redesign of the European competitions, the UEFA Cup/Europa League has become almost a white elephant to Europe’s governing body. The focus of the elite competition seems to be money. While other fixtures are arranged around the Champions League to increase tv revenue and the seeding does favour the better teams, there are still great success stories from teams tucked away in hidden Europe. FC Artmedia Bratislava for instance, who beat Celtic in qualifying, beat Porto and held Rangers in the group stages, are testament to this. The money no doubt kept the team alive, even though the name has changed three times in those five years.

But with teams the calibre of Liverpool and Spurs hoping to be win a seat at Europe’s top table, it seems they would rather wait patiently for the Maitre D to let them in next time there’s vacancy, rather than have the unique taste of lower level European feasts.

Spurs are at home this weekend to relegation threatened Birmingham while Liverpool travel to Villa Park to take on Gerard Houllier’s Villains. If Liverpool want fifth, they have to gain a better result than Spurs. But will the Lillywhites be undone by a determined Brum team hoping to stay at England’s top table?

There may not be any conclusive evidence from those two results as to the teams desire for European competition in 2011/12, but without doubt both want a top four finish in 2012/113 for entry into the Champions League.

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