The Bolton Wanderers manager, Sam Allardyce, fears his season will be a disaster if the club fails to qualify for Europe.
Three successive defeats in the Premiership in 10 days have left Bolton in seventh place. At present, the top six are guaranteed European football next season - leaving Bolton with the prospect of competing in the Intertoto Cup.
With Liverpool next up, at Anfield tomorrow, and a Reebok Stadium meeting with Chelsea to follow, Bolton's Uefa Cup hopes are fading, and after savouring the competition for the first time this season Allardyce and his players are hungry for more.
"Becoming mediocre is a big concern, and the season would look mediocre if we don't get into Europe," said Allardyce.
"They are the standards we have set, and the expectations I believe we are capable of achieving. When you get to a level with your players, your demands on them get greater, so I demand that is where we need to be finishing.
"We have proved we are capable of it all season, that is why I don't want us to slip up. After what we have been through this season, it would be a shame for me and the rest of the players to suffer that disappointment. The players are determined it doesn't happen, but after the last three defeats we've only ourselves to blame at this moment in time."
Although the revamped Intertoto Cup is not as demanding as in previous seasons, it still ensures a short summer break for the players.
That has always been frustrating, yet Allardyce believes that a lack of European football next season could create other problems for the club.
"The experience of Europe was so great, we have to taste it again," he insisted. "Without it, it could be a problem motivating the players again for the Premiership. That's what I don't want to be facing.
"If in the end we fail to achieve our ultimate goal, then we will have to go via the Intertoto. It is in the back of our mind right now. It's not how we want to get into Europe. We want to do it on merit, and by our own efforts.
"So if we can kick on and finish the season well then we can beat last season's points total, which I feel we're going to have to do to get into the Uefa Cup.
"I think more points are going to be needed because of the teams around us, and the points tallies they are accumulating."
Allardyce must first end Bolton's miserable run at Liverpool. Not since 1954 have they won at Anfield in the League.
Ivan Campo and Matt Jansen both come into Bolton's squad after comebacks in the reserves in midweek following two-month lay-offs with a broken foot and a knee injury respectively. Ricardo Gardner and Gary Speed have shaken off viruses and are in contention to start.Reuse content