It's early, yes; we don't know what is going to happen in the "Group of Death" over the next couple of rounds. But the discussion among Villarreal fans is already beginning: if we're not going to make it to the CL knockout rounds, should gunning for third, and a place in the Europa League Round of 32, be our goal, or should we be happier to finish bottom, take our money and go home to concentrate on La Liga?
I am sure, knowing Villarreal, the Submarine is not going to give up and accept a fourth place finish in their CL group. That is not our style. We'll fight to get out of the group, and we'll fight to finish third rather than fourth. But, if we do finish third, we might have a very real question as to what sort of team we want to put out to contest the Europa League knockout games.
Of course, we can't know what the league table will look like in early February, which is when the Europa League knockout rounds start. Nor do we know what changes to the team might take place in the next transfer window, what our injury situation will look like, and so on.
We can, however, look at the money that is on offer for teams dropping into the Europa competition from the CL, and it's frankly peanuts, unless you can go on an extended run. The only clubs of the 8 CL clubs parachuted in that earned more than €2mil were Spartak Moskva (eliminated in the quarterfinals) and Braga (€4.5 mil, €2 mil of which was for making the final)
It's difficult to compare across countries, because the TV market pool and the number of clubs competing is so much different. But I expect Atleti to do well in this competition, and Athletic Bilbao should at least make it to the round of 32. That being so, Villarreal isn't going to earn €3 mil + from the Europa League unless they can make it to the final. That's a lot of games in February, March and April for potentially very little reward.
Of course, the games are about more than money, and if we could make it to the final, that would be great. And we do have a deeper team than last year, so presumably we might find it easier to fight a battle on two or three fronts, especially if Angel has recovered fully by the spring and de Guzmán and Zapata have worked effectively into the squad. But if Europa League success comes at the expense of qualifying for Europe again next year....
What do you think? Should we load up the torpedoes and try, again, to win the Europa League if we get there, or do we need to concentrate on the league (and possibly the Copa del Rey), and forget Europe this year?