Rightly or wrongly, the Europa League has an awfully bad reputation in England. The something of nothing trophy that ruins seasons with some ridiculous Thursday – Sunday scheduling that is seemingly so mind boggling no one has realised that it really isn’t that different from playing Wednesday to Saturday games.
Any issues with the Europa League is an incredibly English concern. Since it’s re-brand and re-boot in time for the 2009-10 season, the two English clubs to progress to the final were Fulham, who gallantly made it to the final in its inaugural year beating the likes of Juventus on their way to defeat in the final against Atletico Madrid, and Chelsea who won the competition during their own Benitez revival. Two countries who tend to seize the Europa League as a chance for European silverware are Portugal and Spain.
Since the 09-10 season Portugal have had 4 finalists, including one all Portuguese final in 2011. Spain on the other hand have contributed 5 finalists, resulting in winning the competition 3 times and in Sevilla have the reigning Europa League champions for the last 2 seasons. The Europa League doesn’t present itself as a burden, more of a chance to deliver success on the European stage and as a means of reinforcing co-efficiency points, crucial to any club outside of Barcelona and Real Madrid in Spain and the Top 2 in Portugal.
This year though the knock out phases of the Europa League has brought us some incredible draws. Napoli vs. Villarreal, Tottenham vs. Fiorentina, Marseille vs. Athletic Bilbao, Lazio vs. Galatasaray and Borussia Dortmund vs. Porto. These are all potential Champions League ties. They aren’t some watered down affair of minnows and obscure teams that some perceive to be endemic of the Europa League. Continue reading “The night the Europa League finally took hold in England”