It’s that time of year again when teams once excited about being in the Champions League see their hopes of more Great European Nights™ swiftly dashed (So long, Liverpool. Fare thee well, Atletic Bilbao.) This is also the time of year when I tend to get philosophical about the Champions League and its much maligned sibling, the Europa League. Because this week’s match reports will invariably talk about how a team’s elimination means it’s been “relegated” to the Europa League. Often peppered in are references to the horror of having to play on (gasp!) Thursday nights.
What is with this belittling of the Europa League?
As I’ve written before, the Europa League – particularly in the knockout stages – can feature genuinely competitive matches played by teams who are truly hungry to show their quality on the European stage. I love the Champions League as much as the next fan, but let’s face it – the UCL increasingly features only a handful of teams who can hope to genuinely compete for the title, making the Europa League a far more attainable goal for the vast majority of European football clubs.
So, why denigrate it?
There are certainly aspects of the competition that can – and, IMO, should- be tweaked (For instance, teams exiting the Champions League at the Group Stage shouldn’t be allowed to join the Europa League) But it’s still a worthy competition and shouldn’t be diminished in an attempt to mock teams that have failed in the Champions League.
*steps off soapbox*
Anyway, draw day for both competitions is a few days away. I’d look forward to it more if I didn’t know Uefa was going to find new, dumb ways to drag out the draw ceremony.