Many Premier League sides are often accused of not taking the Europa League seriously. Qualification is seen as a burden, with clubs being forced to play Thursday in Europe and then Sunday in the league, a sequence that could disrupt their Premier League form.
Most Premier League clubs have fielded weaker teams throughout the competition, failing to take it as seriously as teams from other European leagues. Southampton and West Ham, on two occasions, have both been knocked out by far weaker opposition in the qualifying rounds in recent seasons.
However, for Burnley the competition should be embraced, not least because it is their first time back in Europe for 51 years.
How Burnley defied the odds to qualify for Europe
Rewind twelve months and Burnley were gearing up for the start of their second successive Premier League campaign. The Clarets made some decent, if unspectacular, summer additions, with Chris Wood and Charlie Taylor joining from Leeds, and experienced top-flight players Jack Cork, Johnathan Walters and Phil Bardsley also signing.
Despite these additions many pundits predicted it would be a difficult season for Sean Dyche’s men, often alluding to the dreaded second season syndrome as a potential stumbling block.
There was also a case that Burnley would not be able to replicate their remarkable home form from the previous campaign. This coupled with their poor away record in the Premier League, could see them dragged into relegation trouble.
However, much to the contrary Burnley thrived in the opening months of the season, especially on their travels, beating champions Chelsea at Stamford Bridge on the opening day, as well as holding Tottenham and Liverpool. Further away successes followed at Everton, Southampton and Bournemouth before Christmas, and after a 1-0 victory at home to Stoke in December, Burnley for 24 hours sat in fourth place.
The Clarets then suffered a dip in form, going eleven matches without a win, before finally claiming three points with a second half comeback against Everton. That sparked a run of five wins in a row that assured Burnley of a seventh-place finish and qualification for the Europa League.
Why the Europa League should be embraced by Burnley
Most of Sean Dyche’s current squad have already shown they can handle a heavy fixture schedule, after securing promotion from the Championship playing 46 matches. They are also renowned for being one of the fittest and hardworking sides in the Premier League. For these reasons Burnley are more prepared for the heavy fixture schedule than most Premier League sides.
It will also be a huge opportunity for most of Burnley’s squad to test themselves in European competition. Out of the current squad only Steven Defour, Aaron Lennon, Jonathon Walters and Chris Wood have played in European club competition before.
For Sean Dyche it will be a chance to show that his managerial capabilities extend to being able to be competitive in Europe, as well as in the Premier League. A good showing by his side will only further enhance his ever growing standing in the game.
For generations of supporters it will be the first time they have seen their side competing in Europe. During their 51-year absence from Europe, fans have seen Burnley nearly drop out of the football league all together, before gradually climbing back up through the lower leagues, and becoming a competitive top-flight team once again.
There will be little expectation on Burnley to go far in the competition, getting to Group Stage will be tough enough, with a difficult tie against Aberdeen first, before a potential tie against Istanbul Basaksehir standing in their way. Whatever happens in their European campaign this season, they should embrace the competition and could defy expectation once again.