x Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 26 July 2017

Indifference shown towards Europa League will hurt Serie A

Italian football clubs will do well to realise poor outings in Europe's second-tier competition will affect the league's ratings which could affect how many teams can participate in the Champions League.

Napoli will have hurt their European ambitions in the long term. Roberto Salomone / AFP
Napoli will have hurt their European ambitions in the long term. Roberto Salomone / AFP

By the end of Thursday, the last 16 of the Europa League will be known. Italy is not holding its breath.

Serie A's scorn for the competition was notorious even before Napoli fielded a lightweight XI for their first leg last week against the Czech side Viktoria Plzen and lost 3-0 at home.

Napoli are prioritising the league, and a top-three finish that would return them to the Uefa Champions League they so enjoyed in 2011/12.

But a dismissive attitude to the continent's secondary club competition has implications for future ambitions in the more glamorous tournament.

Success in the Europa League, like in the Champions League, gives points to a country's overall Uefa coefficient, the mechanism by which the number of places in future Champions Leagues are granted. At present Serie A is fourth in the rankings. Until 2010, it was third, ahead of Germany's Bundesliga.

Yet the distance between Italy and Germany now, in terms of coefficient points, is greater than the distance between Italy and Ukraine, ranked seventh: the hierarchy is fluid, and shifts in it sneak up on a country. Slip below sixth in the Uefa table, and your league gets only two teams a season in the Champions League.

So for the sake of all Serie A, it is to be hoped that Lazio, who take a 3-3 first-leg score to Borussia Monchengladbach, and Inter Milan, who go to Romania with a 2-0 lead over Cluj, show a more positive approach than Napoli in the Europa League.

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