Football

Burnley close in on Europa League qualification spot

Burnley manager Sean Dyche is buoyed by the prospect of the Lancashire club featuring in the Europa League next season.

The Clarets have not played in Europe for 51 years and returned to the English Premier League only last season, but a 2-1 win over Leicester City on Saturday gave them a stranglehold on seventh place which could bring Europa League qualification.

"It can't be a negative, how can that be a negative? Five-and-a-half years ago, (we were) 16th in the Championship, impossible to be a negative, impossible," said Dyche whose side got a fifth straight win with goals by Chris Wood and Kevin Long.

Burnley, who have 52 points, hold a nine-point lead over eighth-placed Leicester with five games to play.

Seventh place will be enough to qualify for the Europa League unless Southampton win the FA Cup. The Saints face Chelsea in the semi-finals this Sunday, with Manchester United meeting Tottenham Hotspur in the other semi-final.

Many clubs find the Europa League a burden due to the number of matches they have to play, the distances they must travel and the scheduling of matches before they return to domestic action, but Dyche is a fan.

"For us, Burnley Football Club, even being spoken about (for European football) it is a long, long way from where we were at the end of last season," he said.

"You get 40 points (in the EPL) with two (games) to go and it is a big sigh of relief.

"This season, (we) achieved 40 and then had the mentality to carry on after that, fantastic, we will see where it goes."

Burnley last played in European football in 1966-67 season, when they reached the quarter-finals of the Inter-Cities Fairs Cup, losing to Germany's Eintracht Frankfurt 3-2 on aggregate.

The Clarets reached the European Cup quarter-finals in 1961. Dyche suggested it would be hard for a small-town club like them to improve on seventh place in the future.

"It is unlikely it can get so powerful financially where you become one of the top six, which probably all of us think are going to be in the top six or around, certainly not in relegation trouble," he added.- REUTERS

Football