By Joe Harker
At the beginning of the season Burnley manager Sean Dyche had no idea that his team would be in contention for the Europa League, but a stunning Premier League campaign sees them in seventh place and looking likely to compete in Europe next season.
If they can hold onto their current position and Southampton doesn't defy the odds to win the FA Cup then Burnley will be in the Europa League.
The fifth placed team takes a spot in the competition, as do the League Cup and FA Cup winners. Manchester City's League Cup win means the sixth place qualifies for the Europa League and if one of Manchester United, Tottenham Hotspur or Chelsea wins the FA Cup then the seventh placed team qualifies as the trio will almost certainly finish in the top six. That would be Burnley's way into the competition barring some sort of collapse from a team above.
Rather that pushing up the table it appears that Burnley will have to hold off the chasing pack and hope the likes of Leicester and Everton do not catch up. There are only a handful of games to go and Burnley are in the driving seat meaning their rivals will have to do their part to fight for a better place.
If they did make it into the Europa League it would present an entirely new challenge. Not only would the onus be on Sean Dyche and his players to replicate the excellent performances of the current season, they would also have to balance that with the traveling and extra games that come with a European competition.
Writing in his Tackle Keown column, former Arsenal defender Martin Keown believes a Europa League campaign would drain Burnley and hamper their efforts in the Premier League. He points towards other English teams that have struggled, both with the increased number of games and poor results draining confidence from the squad. Burnley have used the second fewest amount of players in the Premier League and a competition that adds a midweek fixture could cause problems, forcing squad rotation that Sean Dyche is unused to or tiring out his key players.
However, Dyche backs his players to cope with the increased workload if they make it to Europe. He said: "We'll see - we're not there yet - but we've adapted to most things that have been thrown at us."
If Burnley do make it then they are entering what Sachin Nakrani believes is "more than ever a competition to savour". The Europa League has been attracting more attention this season and it might result in a change in attitudes from English clubs. Manchester United are the current holders of the competition, using it to get back into the Champions League, and Arsenal are discovering the benefits that winning it might bring. Perhaps the competition's reputation is on the rise and Burnley could compete at the right time.