Do the Hammers hold the key to Europe for Aston Villa? In the last Blog Leader, I spoke about how I believed Aston Villa is a midtable side. So why am I now talking about Europe. Well, believe it or not, it is possible for a midtable side to qualify for the Europa Cup. I really should define what I mean by midtable. For me, midtable is finishing anywhere from 7th to 14th in the league table next May. And I am certain that Aston Villa will finish between 7th and 14th.
The winners of the domestic cups will determine how may places in the PL table will qualify for the Europa. In summary, if the winner of a cup qualifies for Europe via their league position then an extra Europa qualification spot is allocated to the league. Basically, we want Man City or Liverpool to win the domestic cup double and as such there will be 2 extra Europa spots up for grabs from the league position. This will mean the teams that finish first through fourth will qualify for the Champions League and the teams that finish 5th through 7th will qualify for the Europa Cup.
With 7th potentially giving a Europa spot that means a midtable club will possibly grab a European spot. As Aston Villa is a midtable side we are therefore challenging for Europe this season. There can be lots of debate as to which teams fall into midtable etc so I have put together my thoughts, see below. This is not intended to show final league positions, although I think it will be damn close, it is just to show which group each club belongs to.
Midtable Mini-League Battle
Our battle this season is against the other 7 teams in our midtable mini-league battle. Just a quick look at midtable and we can see some serious competition. Arsenal and Everton are two teams I do not like having to go head to head with over the course of 38 games. The other teams don’t worry me as much. The ‘better’ of the other teams: Wolves, Southampton and Leeds are having injury problems and can’t appear to put a decent run together. The Hammers are overperforming this year IMO, maybe there is still a little life in the old dinosaur. They have to be seen as a real threat to our final position. The table below shows the relative positions of the teams in our mini-league.
Some Are More Equal Than Others
If George Orwell was a football fan I think he would say ‘All points are equal but some are more equal than others‘. If we win against any of the teams in our mini-league then we not only gain 3 points but we also stop our direct competition from gaining any points. These games are critical in determining our final finishing position and whether we qualify for the Europa Cup or just have a very satisfactory midtable finish.
Tonight’s game is a huge game. It is 1st against 3rd in the mini-league. This is a real 6 pointer as Villa will go top of our mini-league with 2 games in hand over The Hammers with a win. Points won against The Hammers are more equal than picking up 3 points against The Baggies or other Championship sides. If we have real aspirations of Europa qualification I think we need to be showing it tonight.
It is not just tonight that is important. Our following fixture is against 4th placed Arsenal. These two games will go a long way to determining if we need to get our passports renewed in time for next season. We will also be playing both Leeds and Wolves in the next month which highlights the fact that we are now entering probably the most important month of this season. Win all four of those games and I believe AVFC will finish 7th and will qualify for Europe.
High Class Problem
I have to admit this is really a high-class problem I am discussing. We already have 32 points. This makes us safe from relegation and we are exactly halfway through the season. I watched Baggies v Sheffield United last night and thought (laughed) at how it must be for their fans. This time last year the discussion was about Villa trying to avoid relegation. It is an absolute pleasure to write about how we are competing for a Europa Cup place.
This is a tougher game than I expected it to be, simply because The Hammers have been on such a good run. They are top of our mini-league and rightly so. They are a big strong side and our players will have to be on song to get the win. We were not great against The Saints but came away with 3 points. We will have to play a lot better tonight than we did on Sunday. That said, I am confident that we will win. We should have won the last time we met and hopefully, we are a little more streetwise now.
Deano needs to make the right calls tonight. We cannot afford to have a tiring Traore or Barkley gifting them opportunities. Trez, El Ghazi and Sanson should come on to provide some fresh legs which helps to take the pressure off the full team. I am going for 2-0 to the Villa
What The Bookies Say…
The bookies are with Villa tonight and have us at 6/5 favourites, the draw is 12/5 and a win for the Dinosaur is 9/4. Villa don’t really do draws so I am thinking the bet to make is 6/5 on a home win