West Ham United’s hopes of Champions League football very much rest in Manchester United’s hands this week.
David Moyes is hoping for a huge favour from his old club as they face West Ham’s top four rivals Leicester and Liverpool in a hectic 48 hours.
If Man United beat both – and West Ham win at Brighton on Saturday – suddenly the Hammers are right back in the hunt for fourth spot.
But Moyes must prepare his players to deal with the natural disappointment of potentially missing out.
Still hope for Champions League spot but some fans unsure over much-criticised Europa League
And what better way to do that than to refocus the minds of West Ham’s players on securing a spot in the new and improved Europa League.
Some still look down on the Europa League as a hindrance to a club’s Premier League hopes.
The long format with 48 teams in the group stages has in the past made for a gruelling campaign.
But some – like West Ham in previous seasons – have had to start the season early to take part in qualifying.
Well West Ham fans unsure over participating in the Europa League should know that from next season it is very much new and improved.
New and improved competition would still be a massive achievement for Hammers after big revamp
For the first time since West Ham won the Intertoto Cup back in the 1998/99 season, there will be three UEFA competitions running from next season.
As a result there are major changes to the format of the Europa League. Namely that the number of teams in the group stage has been significantly reduced from 48 to 32 teams. And the number of teams participating in qualifying are also reduced significantly.
The first round of the knockout phase also now involves only the group stage runners-up and the Champions League third-placed teams, with the group winners directly advancing to the round of 16.
It means a lot less games for teams involved and better reward for good group stage performance.
Indeed if West Ham were to make the Europa and top their group they would be just three two-legged ties away from the final.
And that match brings its own reward for the winner as the Europa League retains its grand prize of automatic qualification for the following season’s Champions League.
But West Ham must try to avoid Conference league geared towards minnows
As a result of the changes it promises to be full of better quality teams – with the lesser European minnows demoted to the new UEFA Conference League.
There has been much debate among West Ham fans over the woefully named new Conference League.
And it seems a competition best avoided for a club like West Ham. It will have 184 teams from the start and will be whittled down to 40.
There will be more games and the competition is very much geared towards the lesser UEFA nations.
For example the top leagues such as the Premier League only have one place.
But minnow nations such as Luxembourg, Malta, North Macedonia, Wales, Northern Ireland, Armenia and Latvia – to name just a few from more than 50 – will have THREE teams involved.