By Lawrence Prince-Wright
The crucial last 16 leg of the Europa League has dawned upon us, promising both intense football and nerve-racking tension for football lovers around the world. This seasons last 16 teams have it all, from lowly clubs desperately trying to make a name for themselves in Europe to the European giants who won’t stop at much to get their hands on the silverware. Personally I believe this seasons Europa League gives the teams who have lagged way behind in their domestic campaigns (cough, cough Liverpool) a chance to convey to frustrated fans that they’ve still got that fighting spirit; although there won’t be any titles won at home there still is a chance of winning one abroad. Realistically speaking mangers must and, well don’t have much choice other than to only focus on one achievement.
That being said, there are of course exceptions to this rule and (surprise, surprise) Sir Alex is one of them. If you happen to be blessed by the likes of the ‘White Pele’ or Drogba by all means aim to achieve a vast number of targets but for the majority of football managers, I’m talking about the ones which haven’t been lucky enough to stumble upon a prodigy, one attainable task to show off to fans is enough and, well to be honest, keeps you from getting sacked! This, therefore, highlights the importance of the last 16 leg of the Europa League; it gives teams that don’t go for much domestically a chance to prove their might abroad. It’s in Liverpool’s best interest to progress in this competition, well, unless they want to end their 2009-10 season on a very low note. Likewise, the same can be said for Lille, Standard Liege, and Atlético Madrid. On the contrary however, teams like Panathinaikos, Benfica and Olympique de Marseille do have a shot at something other than the Europa League; Panathinaikos for example do have a realistic chance of winning the Super League this season consequently putting an end to Olympiacos’ champion regime.