Champions League playoffs: Encouraging competition is good

Tired of the same old teams making it to the Champions League every year? Long for a bit more competition? Do you want to see Wenger and Benitez sweat a bit more?
The EPL’s proposal to introduce playoffs with the fourth to the seventh placed team fighting for the fourth and final spot to the CL has far more merit than the ill conceived 39th match. Not just in match revenue for the smaller clubs but to break the logjam at the top. Its no wonder the big four are crying foul.
The Premiership has been particularly closed to the smaller club representation in the CL. Since the European Cup changed to its present avatar in 1992, the Premiership representation has been restricted to eight clubs.The big four have been joined by Blackburn, Newcastle, Everton, and Leeds. In comparison, the Liga and Bundesliga have been more egalitarian with 12 and 10 clubs respectively, making it to the big dance.
It has been particularly hard for clubs like Aston Villa which won the European championship in 1982. In the 1992 inaugural season of the Premiership, they were runners up to Man Utd. In the present format that would have guaranteed them a spot in the CL but then the pool of English teams allowed were much smaller with only the winner going through. The runners up went to the UEFA Cup, the precursor to the Europa League. Villa again missed out in 1995 when they finished fourth in the standings. Since then their CL challenge and those of others have been virtually snuffed out.
By 2003-2004 the familiar nucleus of Man Utd, Chelsea, Arsenal, and Liverpool established their choke hold on the increased CL spots with only Everton breaking up the monotony in 2004-2005. This year, the race for the fourth place is wide open with Liverpool, Spurs, Man City, and Aston Villa all clamoring for the fourth spot. As big clubs continue to stumble against the smaller ones it has led to the widest open Premiership in years. With the additional impetus of playoffs, this can only foster even more intense competition amongst the upper echelons of the Premiership. Would Wenger dare to lower the bar for the Gunners with his recent statements which border on complacence?
We get to see the Didier Drogba’s, Wayne Rooney’s and Cesc Fabregas’s but it seems a travesty that players like Ashley Young, Jermain Defoe, and the recent reincarnation of Louis Saha, in great form against Chelsea could be missed in Europe’s top competition as they make do with lower tier opposition. Surely they would love to test their mettle as the Premiership spoilers.

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