Chris Wilder 'not scared' of Sheffield United qualifying for Europe
If and when the 2019-20 Premier League resumes after the coronavirus suspension, the Blades will be involved in a dash for Europe with the likes of Tottenham Hotspur, Chelsea, Wolverhampton Wanderers and Everton – the four teams due at Bramall Lane if games are played there – amongst the challengers.
Wilder's side are seventh in the table with 10 matches to play, whereas Wolves, Manchester United (another remaining opponent) and Chelsea – the teams directly above – only have nine.
The picture is complicated by a possible Manchester City appeal against their European ban but assuming they are unable to compete in 2020-21, the top seven will qualify for the Europa League, and the rest of the top five for the Champions League. If they have not already qualified, the FA Cup winners will also play in the Europa League, and the Blades have a home quarter-final against Arsenal.
The European competitions are drawn-out affairs which can test the squads of clubs not designed for them, but they hold no fear for Wilder.
“First and foremost for the morale of the country (it's important to) get football back out there, whether it's behind closed doors or hopefully in the near future we're playing in front of crowds,” he said. “It's an unprecedented situation and scenario.
“We'll deal with whatever's in front of us. We're not scared about handling the fixture list if we do manage to gain one of those European spots. I look at Wolverhampton Wanderers and I'm a massive admirer of Nuno (Espirito Santo, their manager) and that football club and his group of players. They adjust from a physical point of view in terms of the recovery and usually play the same team, whether it's Carabao Cup, FA Cup, Premier League or Europa League.
“They're possibly ahead of us in terms of how much they've invested into that football club over the last two or three years but that's a brilliant example that a promoted side can handle the Premier League and their second season has been just as good if not better than their first one.”
Wolves are in their second season in the Premier League, having finished seventh in their first. They took a 1-1 draw from the away leg of their Europa League last-16 tie, and are waiting to see if and when the competition will be resumed.
The Premier League clubs will meet over video conference on Friday to try to further develop ideas for how football can be resumed, although the timescale is dependent on Government advice about when it is safe to resume training, then playing.
At present all Premier League players are training at home because of social distancing regulations.
Proposals for a resumption include playing matches behind closed doors and the possibility of centralising games to make the logistics easier. A 35-day window to complete the games and a June 6 return have been mooted, but no concrete decisions have been made yet.
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