|The right noise...Edy Reja|
Oh wait, did you forget? Yes, the Europa League is happening right now. This week, the Europa League theoretically had the European limelight to itself since the Champions League, its richer, better looking, more popular cousin, was off until a reappearance next week. And yet, earlier this week, there was scarcely any mention in the Italian media of the two matches that Udinese and Lazio had to play. Most of the focus, perhaps somewhat justifiably, was on Napoli's game against Juventus on Tuesday.
For the future of Italian football, the Europa League is solemnly significant. As I have written previously, it is not only that Italy have dropped behind the Bundesliga that is the concern, but also that France and Portugal are making inroads on the fourth spot in the UEFA coefficient ranking, a spot currently held by an increasingly nervous looking Serie A. Well, at least, you would like to think the league is nervous, and not fatally complacent.
"When it comes to the Europa League, our clubs rest players," said the typical harbinger of doom and gloom, Milan vice-president Adriano Galliani, earlier this season. "This is why we're behind Cyprus this year."
|Europa League Group D standings taken from uefa.com|
|Europa League Group I standings taken from uefa.com|
Yet, when Guidolin was asked whether he would stop rotating players if Udinese made it out of their group, he remained non-committal, responding with a "we will see."
As thrilling as they can be, victories like the one Napoli claimed over Manchester City in the Champions League will not solely decide where Italian football sits in a few years. There is a fight for prominence going on, away from the glare and riches of the Champions League, and it counts. That fight is in the Europa League--in the back-alley and by the dockside. Serie A better be ready for it.