Nigel Reo-Coker captained his squad last night in the Champions League Final.
Anything is possible in football, after all.
Well, kind of. That’s the CONCACAF Champions League, and he captained Montreal Impact.
But still, considering the Impact are one of Major League Soccer’s worst teams, it’s still an impressively interesting thing for them to have reached.
Tonight, Dnipro Dnipropetrovsk and Club Brugge will play the second leg of their Europa League quarter-final tie. One of those clubs will reach the semi-final.
Neither of those clubs are extremely good.
We hear a lot these days about clubs not wanting to qualify for the Europa League — Tottenham Hotspur come to mind as the club that want absolutely nothing to do about it — and truth be told, I’ve heard it from a lot of Villa fans too.
Quite frankly? I don’t get it.
Sure, a Villa run to the title would be unlikely, but so is the run Villa are on now to the FA Cup Final.
People will bang on and on about the League struggles of Everton and Newcastle the year of their Europa League participation — both had extremely frustrating and underwhelming seasons — but it’s a risk I’m alright taking.
Fundamentally, I think this is the last relegation battle Villa are involved in for quite a bit of time. There’s talent here and when you look back at our fixtures this year, it’s pretty clear we should be a lot higher up the table than we are now.
And yeah, there’s the concern about Villa’s squad depth.
But if Villa win the FA Cup and qualify for the Europa League, at the group stage no less, it makes the club just a little bit more attractive to potential players Sherwood might want to sign.
If the Claret and Blues are up against, say, Stoke City for a player, Sherwood can dangle six glorious European nights over a player’s head as an example of why he should sign for us over them.
For me, I’d much rather have a 13th-place finish in the Premier League and a final-16 spot in the Europa League than, say, a meaningless 9th-place finish in the Premier League. But to each his/her own.
Also: There’s the big elephant in the room, and his name is Christian Benteke.
Benteke is leaving Aston Villa at some point in time. He has to. He’s too damn good for us.
And he’s why I want to win the FA Cup so badly this year. I don’t want one of our club’s most-talented players probably… ever to walk away with just three 15th-place finishes to show for it. It‘d be frustrating.
But I’d also love to see what he could do in Claret and Blue on those Thursday nights when nobody’s really watching. And I think qualifying for Europe would go a long, long way toward keeping him around for one more year. Another chance to make a run in the league with him at the helm.
Sport should be fun. And that’s what a European excursion would be to me: Something fun to take our minds off the repetitive nature of the Premier League.
New opponents, new chances and a chance to see how far our magic could go.
I mean, we’re probably losing the FA Cup Final and it’ll be a moot point but, no, Villa shouldn’t be scared of the Europa League.
If we get the chance, let’s see what we can make of it. Put that unpredictability of football to a test, eh?
I’m curious to hear y’all’s thoughts on the Europa League, just as a whole. Drop ’em in the comments, and I’ll try my best to respond.