Will Liverpool and Tottenham's form be disrupted by the Europa League?
Last Updated: 19/02/15 9:24am
After getting their top-four challenges back on track, Liverpool and Tottenham may be fearing the return of the Europa League...
The return of the Europa League on Thursday poses a potential headache for Brendan Rodgers and Mauricio Pochettino as they divide their attention between the race for the Premier League top four and pursuit of European glory.
The two managers may be encouraged by the fact that this year's Europa League winners will automatically qualify for next season's Champions League but, after overseeing impressive upturns in form in recent weeks, Rodgers and Pochettino will be reluctant to lose momentum.
There has been a remarkable improvement to Liverpool and Tottenham's results since their last European ties on December 11 and 12.
After crashing out of the Champions League at the first hurdle, Liverpool have lost only two of their last 17 matches in all competitions - away to Manchester United in the league and Chelsea, in extra-time, in the Capital One Cup.
Rodgers' switch to a three-man defence has been crucial, with Liverpool displaying an attacking fluency similar to last season while also keeping more clean sheets in fewer games in the Premier League. Only four were recorded in the first 15 matches of the campaign compared to five since the end of their Champions League adventure.
Tottenham also appear to have turned a corner since mid-December, with confidence-boosting victories against Chelsea and Arsenal at White Hart Lane as well as reaching the Capital One Cup final.
Pochettino's careful use of Harry Kane has been essential, with the England hopeful gradually eased into the starting line-up, and he has thrived with 12 goals in 15 games since the break from the Europa League.
The question now for both managers is how they juggle a return to Thursday night action with revitalised top-four challenges.
The distractions of Liverpool's test against Besiktas this week and Tottenham's clash with Fiorentina should tell us a great deal about the two teams' ability to handle the pressure, and whether recent revivals will be short-lived.