10 reasons why the Europa League is actually brilliant
6) Other countries love it
Chelsea's 2013 triumph in the competition was barely celebrated. And while that may have been partly down to the fact that it was achieved under an unpopular Rafael Benitez, the Europa League's low estimations contributed to most of the ignorance – not least when you're a side that's been eliminated from the Champions League. In England, the Europa League is a tournament for the kids... a tournament you desperately try to avoid qualifying for.
But elsewhere on the continent, it's seen as a prestigious competition in its own right. Try telling the players and fans of Sevilla that the trophy isn’t one worthy of celebrating.
Thousands of supporters turned out to congratulate last year’s winners, who partied in style with an open-top bus and parade through the city – some fiesta for an irrelevant and unimportant competition. Perhaps it's time for English outfits and supporters to take it a little more seriously.
7) It’s home to an array of talent
The Europa League offers players the perfect platform to impress. While they may be struggling domestically at the moment, there is no doubting that Inter Milan currently boast a squad of developing young individuals, most notably Mateo Kovacic and Mauro Icardi, both of whom have been linked with a host of big clubs. Bayern's Xherdan Shaqiri was snapped up in the transfer window. Then there's Wolfsburg’s Kevin De Bruyne, currently dominating the Bundesliga alongside Andre Schurrle.
Then there's those who aren't quite household names yet. The competition’s leading goalscorer, the excellently-named Alan, scored eight goals in five appearances for Red Bull Salzburg in the group stage. Unfortunately for the Austrians, he joined China's Guangzhou Evergrande for €11.1 million last month.
Lest we forget, it is also the tournament which brought us Harry Kane, whose performances in the Europa League forced him into the reckoning at Tottenham. Having previously helped elevate the likes of Radamel Falcao, Edinson Cavani and Luis Suarez, it is evident that this is a competition packed with exciting talent.
8) ...and those players you'd forgotten
Hands up who's been wondering what Colin Kazim Richards is doing these days. You have? Well, wonder no more. Those of you who want to reacquaint yourself with the former Bury and Brighton star can do so when Feyenoord take on Roma in the last 32. The forward has been in good form on the continent and currently leads the assist charts, laying on five goals for his team-mates.
And he's not the only familiar face, with strawberry-syrup loving Demba Ba hoping to benefit from another Steven Gerrard slip when his Besiktas side meet Liverpool in the knockout stages.
The list of players well-known to English viewers is relatively lengthy, and also includes former Chelsea player Yuri Zhirkov and Arsenal legend Nicklas Bendtner (in his mind at least), both of whom will be hoping to help their sides through to the latter stages of the tournament.
9) The shock factor
As has been previously touched upon, the Europa League has a tendency to surprise much more frequently than its older brother. The Champions League is usually predictable until the quarter-finals, but the success stories of Fulham and Middlesbrough, who both reached finals against the odds in 2006 and 2010 respectively, demonstrate the Europa's wild history. Rangers and Celtic have both also made it all the way to the final in the last 12 years (although some of these were during the UEFA Cup era).
In the Champions League knockout rounds, teams are often set on not losing, which can sometimes result in relatively dull and underwhelming affairs. The Europa League's attacking nature generally leads to goals and more shocks, which should make the knockout stages exciting this time around.
10) Unbelievable goals
...Taison van Basten (that's not his real name) for Metalist Kharkiv against Rosenborg…
...and more recently, this extraordinary effort from Spurs' Erik Lamela.