Mauricio Pochettino’s insistence that the Europa League can harm the Premier League form of clubs taking part is borne out by the stats.

It is not exactly an overwhelming mountain of evidence, but of the 11 teams to have played in the group stages of the competition since the current format was introduced in 2009/10, seven had a worse top flight finishing position the following with four doing better.

Most of the moves were only odd places either way, the only notable exception being Newcastle whose run to the quarter-finals last season coincided with them slipping from a lofty fifth placed finish to 16th.

However, probably most telling is that the clubs with the bigger resources were generally the ones who did better.

Clubs more comparable to Saints were the ones who struggled when their squads were badly stretched by the competition.

Teams to have done better include the likes Liverpool and Manchester City, whose ambitions are above the Europa League anyway.

Saints have an outside chance of qualifying for the Europa League this season, either via the FA Cup or the league, with the potential that seventh place could bag a place in the competition.

The fifth placed club will qualify for the Europa League automatically.

The sixth placed club will also qualify if Manchester City win the League Cup final and also finish in the top four of the Premier League.

The seventh placed club will qualify if the FA Cup final is between two clubs who finish in the top four.

Saints are currently five points off seventh placed Manchester United.

Therefore, Saints’ best chance of the Europa League is to reach the FA Cup final, either winning it or losing to a team that finishes in the top four of the Premier League.

Speaking in last Friday’s Daily Echo, Pochettino revealed he wasn’t keen on the Europa League, stating it can “kill” clubs.

He explained: “It is a competition that kills you in the sense that there are a lot of mid-table teams that put a lot of effort into the Europa League and then are not able to do anything in the league.

“They are not able to compensate for that bad run of form in the league so it brings them down.

“There are many examples, not just in England, where clubs are suffering from playing in the Europa League.

“We see examples of clubs in Spain and Italy and it causes problems in their league form, as we have seen with Swansea and these other clubs.

“It is a competition that kills you and if you don’t get to the final and win it then you don’t get anything out of it, so it’s a tough competition in that sense.”

Teams that played in group stages 09/10 – Everton 5th to 8th (reached round of 32), Fulham 7th to 12th (final) 10/11 – Liverpool 7th to 6th (last 16), Man City 5th to 3rd (last 16) 11/12 – Tottenham 5th to 4th (group stage), Birmingham 18th and relegated to Championship (group stage), Fulham 8th to 9th (group stage), Stoke 13th to 14th (last 32) 12/13 – Liverpool 8th to 7th (round of 32), Newcastle 5th to 16th (quarter-finals), Tottenham 4th to 5th (quarter-finals)