Zola wants a knockout

IF WEST HAM were to qualify for next season s revamped Europa League competition, they would have to play a staggering 21 games to win it! – writes DAVE EVANS. That is the scenario facing the Hammers if they can grab seventh place in the Premier League th

IF WEST HAM were to qualify for next season's revamped Europa League competition, they would have to play a staggering 21 games to win it! - writes DAVE EVANS.

That is the scenario facing the Hammers if they can grab seventh place in the Premier League this season, and though manager Gianfranco Zola is keen to do just that, it is not a system he is in favour of.

"It excites me, because I realise just how important it is to play in Europe," said Zola.

"What disappoints the managers is the format. It is wrong to have to play a league system - you should just play one tie and have straight knock-outs.


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"That would make the competition more competitive and more interesting for everybody."

The new Europa League, brought in to replace the unpopular UEFA Cup, looks to be a very similar format.

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If things go their way and seventh place is enough for a spot in the competition, West Ham are likely to come in at the second qualifying round stage.

Then they will have to play three two-legged qualifiers to make the group stage of the competition.

There, 12 groups of four teams will play each other on a home and away basis, with two qualifiers to go through with the eight third-placed teams from the Champions League groups to make a knockout round of 32.

It may be a huge competition and it may well have an adverse affect on their league prospects, as it has been for many other teams in the past, but Zola is nevertheless keen to experience it first-hand.

"If we qualified for Europe, it would be a very nice problem to have and I wish that I can have that problem next season," said the West Ham manager.

"As far as I'm concerned, playing in Europe is always a great thing. We will be trying everything we can this year to achieve that.

"It would be a massive achievement for the players. You only see them on Saturday, but I see them every day and they deserve to get their rewards because the way they work is unbelievable.

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