As the new UEFA Europa League approaches the closing stages of its debut season, UEFA is heartened by the reaction to its fledgling club competition.
"As you are well aware, we have introduced a new format, a new name and a new identity to rejuvenate this competition," said UEFA's head of club competitions Michael Heselschwerdt during Friday's quarter-final and semi-final draw in Nyon. "These changes have been well-received by the fans, clubs and all our stakeholders, and are positive signs that we are moving in the right direction for the future.
"The excitement, the passion and the drama that the round of 16 matches generated was lived and breathed by thousands of fans at the stadiums – with an average stadium attendance of more than 75%," he added. "A total of 53 goals were scored over the two legs, with an average of 3.3 goals per match."
The UEFA Europa League is considered a truly European competition, with clubs from across the continent involved in the action – including some stellar names. "In the last eight of the competition, we have five different countries represented," said Heselschwerdt. Two Spanish clubs, one Portuguese, two English, two German and one Belgian went into the hat.
"We have seen some of European football's top club names taking part in the competition this year," he continued, pointing out the presence of sides such as Liverpool FC and Valencia CF in the last eight. "This demonstrates the quality of the teams present at this stage of the competition in the first-ever UEFA Europa League."
UEFA also thanked the fans and the clubs for upholding the true spirit of Respect and fair play, both on and off the pitch.
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