THE Europa League is back… and we can’t wait.
The second-tier of European football has long been considered the “afterthought”… cruelly dubbed the “Channel 5 Cup” for starters.
However, that’s all changed now with clubs, players and even fans getting more and more into it.
After all, there’s plenty to play for with the dangling carrot of a place in the Champions League – and all the fame and fortune that comes with it – at stake.
But why should the neutrals look forward to the Europa League?
After all, following the prime cut of steak that is two nights of scintillating Champions League action, why settle for the burger of Europe’s second-tier?
Well, we’re here to tell you all about why you should set your alarms for 6pm and join us in front of the TV.
Here’s our seven reasons to get excited for the return of the Europa League…
1. IT’S GUNNER HAPPEN
ARSENAL will kick-off their European season in the continent’s second-tier for the first time since the 1997-98 season… where they fell at the first hurdle.
While the Gunners have arguably the strongest squad in the tournament, it’s more than likely they’ll take it less seriously than the Premier League.
While fans will be demanding victories, Arsene Wenger will likely throw in a little squad rotation, which in turn could bring some “unsavoury” results.
Don’t mind me, I’m just going to load up Arsenal Fan TV, grab a beer and some popcorn… and wait.
2. WILL EVER(TON) END?
EVERTON are back in Europe and that’s something to look forward to.
After all, it’s the chance for some long overdue silverware, with Toffees fans kept waiting since 1995 for a trophy – when they won the FA Cup and the then-called Charity Shield.
In Europe, the 1985 Cup Winners’ Cup remains the ONLY mark on the honours board.
A Europa League title would certainly be the jewel in their continental crown.
3. THE CHAAAMPIONS
IT’S the song every football player – and fan – wants to hear – the Champions League anthem.
But the only way to get there is finish amongst the very top few clubs in the entire nation… or win the Europa League.
Since the rules were changed to grant the second-tier winners Champions League status, teams have been taking it more seriously.
More seriously means better players and more intense on-field action. That’s great for the neutrals and fans alike.
4. STARRY NIGHT
SPEAKING of better players, the stars will be out on show tonight.
Massive European giants including AC Milan, Villerreal and Nice will be taking to the turf on Thursday.
That in turn means we’ll get a glimpse of stars such as Mario Balotelli, Felipe Anderson, Aymeric Laporte, Gianluigi Donnarumma and Dimitri Payet.
How good is that?
5. WHO ARE YA?
WHILE most clubs will unleash the stars on the night sky, Arsenal could be set to break the mould.
With their focus set to be firmly on the Premier League – particularly after their woeful start to 2017-18 – expect some rotation.
Alexis Sanchez could be in line for a start after failing to cop a move away from the Emirates this summer, while Jack Wilshere could make his first-team return.
Then there’s youngsters like Reiss Nelson who are widely expected to feature… and how can you not enjoy watching some young prospects be given a chance at the big-time?
6. ALL. NIGHT. LONG.
THERE are 24 matches to choose from tonight… yes, twenty-four.
That’s an incredible night of football, but better yet, they’re spread out across the entire evening.
Half of Thursday’s kick-offs will be set at 6pm and will run to around 8pm.
Then the other half get underway, running from 8.05pm to nearly 10pm.
In other words… four hours of footballing bliss.
7. “EUROPA” LEAGUE?
I DON’T know about you, but I love looking at the teams that make it into the Europa League.
For starters, some teams aren’t even from Europe… I’m looking at you Astana.
But it’s not only the geography, it’s the nation’s love of the underdog.
Who wouldn’t want to see Zulte Waregem stun Nice or Skenderbeu get something from Dynamo Kiev?
The Europa League is definitely one for Danny Rose… lots of Googling.
Now check out what your Premier League club could be up to in the winter window… based on their kit numbers…