The UEFA Champions League and the UEFA Europa League are two competitions that allow clubs from all over Europe to compete in a hair raising atmosphere. The Champions League contains the most elite clubs in Europe while the Europa League gives chances to the growing ones to represent their club in Europe.
The Europa League has not traditionally been any manager’s objective as it has more downfalls than advantages. The Thursday night fixtures always gives clubs less time to prepare for their weekend encounter especially after the huge long trips to different parts of the continent. This fixture list has also at times created injury problems to sides leading into the business end of the tournament.
This is the reason why many managers in the recent times have played relatively weaker sides in the competition. Exiting the competition early might end chances of European glory but it does give the club enough time between matches to concentrate fully on the domestic form. All this had led to a vast drop in the popularity of the Europa League.
The only real prize for the viewers and the club is a direct entry into the Champions League for the winner of this tournament, a rule that was introduced just a couple of years ago. This has somewhat given certain clubs a chance at playing the Champions League thus fighting harder in the competition.
However, this season, the Europa League has become all the more interesting after the group stage with clubs who finished third in the Champions League also joining the Europa League. 8 top flight clubs will play in the Europa League Round of 32 and this year, these fixtures are sure to be intriguing.
The 24 teams that qualified for the next round and will join the 8 teams that slipped out of the Champions League by finishing third in their group. The 32 team are drawn in two pool, one consisting of sides which finished top of their table and the top four ranked sides who finished third in their Champions League group. These teams will be drawn against the teams that were finished second in their group and the bottom 4 ranked teams that finished 3rd in the Champions League group stage.
The two pools for this year’s Europa League are:
Bayer Leverkusen, Man United, Olympiakos, Porto, Molde, Krasnodar, Napoli, Rapid Vienna, Braga, Lazio, Basel, Lokomotiv Moscow, Tottenham, Schalke, Athletico Bilbao, Liverpool.
Valencia, Galatasaray, Shakhtar Donetsk, Sevilla, Saint-Etienne, Fenerbahce, FC Sion, Borussia Dortmund, FC Midtjylland, Villarreal, Marseille, Anderlecht, Sparta Prague, Sporting Lisbon, Fiorentina, Augsburg.
Teams from the same group in the Europa League cannot be drawn against each other. The first leg will be played on Thursday the 18th of February, 2016. THe return leg on the 25th of the same month.
This pooling system can give the viewers some mouth watering clashes when the teams are back into action in February. If the fixtures permit, the round of 16 and the quarter finals can produce some quality matches with great European pedigree. It will be important for the managers and players to take this competition seriously as it can provide them with the easiest route to the Champions League next season. It may hamper their domestic form but strong squad will surely look to go as far as possible in the Europa League.
Leave your opinion on whether the Europe League is more exciting than it was in the previous years.