…or at least easier to keep track of.
Let me get this out of the way: I am not a fan of the system that puts teams that crashed out of the Champions League Group Stage into the knockout rounds of the Europa League – a competition they haven’t played in and which many clubs have no serious interest in pursuing.
That said, the Europa League becomes more interesting to me now that it’s involving 32 teams instead of 48! Also, this seems to be the part of the competition when most of the teams – at least the ones involved from the beginning – realize, “Hey, there’s an actual trophy at stake here!” and start playing accordingly. When the competition resumes in February, these teams will be competing to get to the round of 16:
AZ Alkmaar, FC Basel 1893*, SL Benfica*, Eintracht Frankfurt, ACF Fiorentina, KRC Genk, PFC Ludogorets Razgrad, Olympique Lyonnais, SSC Napoli*, FC Rubin Kazan, FC Salzburg, Sevilla FC, FC Shakhtar Donetsk*, Tottenham Hotspur FC, Trabzonspor AŞ, Valencia CF.
AFC Ajax*, FC Anji Makhachkala, Real Betis Balompié, FC Chornomorets Odesa, FC Dnipro Dnipropetrovsk, FC Dynamo Kyiv, Esbjerg fB, Juventus*, SS Lazio, Maccabi Tel-Aviv FC, NK Maribor, PAOK FC, FC Porto*, FC Slovan Liberec, Swansea City AFC, FC Viktoria Plzeň*.
As previously noted, for me, at this stage, Europa League becomes the more entertaining of the two major European competitions. That’s probably because I have little rooting interest and so enjoy seeing less well-known teams getting to the latter stages.
In any event, I’m looking forward to the round of 32 draw on December 16 almost as much as I’m cursing the numerous ways Uefa will drag out the ceremony.
*denotes teams transferred from the Champions League