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Hughes - 'No Europe a blessing'

In this article on the official site, Mark Hughes talked about the fact we are not competing in Europe this season could well turn out to be a positive over the course of the season:

"There was a disappointment at the end of last season
because we weren’t able to qualify for Europe, but it could have been a blessing
in disguise. We had an intense week last week, but we came through that with
flying colours.
"If we had had to face a European tie on the Thursday that
could have compromised us going into the Villa game, but we haven’t.
"The
positives are that we are fresh, we were able to give the guys a little bit of
time off to recover from their exertions on Monday and we are in good shape.
We’re pleased with the rest from that point of view."
Whilst the squad we have this season is far and better shaped to deal with the extra demands of the Europa League, there aren't many who would suggest Hughes is wrong on this.

The Europa League for the 2009/10 season is even more enlarged than during 2008/09, but it is not simply just a case of the additional games you are faced with that is an issue.

The relentless nature brings with a constant grind that has a knock on in terms of preparation, something that Stephen Ireland readily acknowledged in an interview earlier this season. With a vastly changed squad this time last year, he believed that the UEFA Cup campaign impacted on the changes Hughes was trying to implement at the club.

Similarly, with an overhauled squad again this summer, playing a dozen or more games in Europe my well have had a detrimental effect , and we may well not have enjoyed the start to the season we have made, or even more importantly, the chance to build on it over the remainder of the season which will hopefully see a return to European football, when, a further twelve months down the line the squad will be in a far stronger position to deal with it.