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Club competitions in healthy state

UEFA General Secretary Gianni Infantino reflected on the healthy state of the UEFA Champions League, UEFA Europa League and UEFA Youth League at the knockout draws.

UEFA General Secretary Gianni Infantino speaks at the draws
UEFA General Secretary Gianni Infantino speaks at the draws ©Getty Images for UEFA

Monday's European club competition draw ceremonies in Nyon have given UEFA the opportunity to highlight the blue-riband quality of the UEFA Champions League, the flourishing appeal of the UEFA Europa League, and the merits of the fledgling UEFA Youth League.

UEFA General Secretary Gianni Infantino compered all three draws at the House of European Football. Firstly, he reflected upon an entertaining autumn in the UEFA Champions League, culminating in a memorable last set of matches that kept everyone on the edge of their seats up to the final whistles.

"The excitement generated by this season's group stage lasted until the final matchday," he said. "No less than 11 clubs were chasing the remaining five available slots in the round of 16, and this underlines the competitive nature of the UEFA Champions League and guarantees a maximum of entertainment for the fans until the very last kick.

"It is impossible to forecast which teams will meet in the final at Berlin's Olympiastadion on 6 June 2015, but we can definitely expect more of the same – a wealth of fantastic matches, memorable goals and brilliant individual displays as the season unfolds."

Final ambassador Karl-Heinz Riedle, who helped make the draw, said he was eagerly anticipating the climax to the competition in the German city where he began his distinguished professional career with Blau-Weiss 1890 Berlin. "Berlin is very experienced in hosting big events, I think it's a very good choice to have the final there," said Riedle, who won the UEFA Champions League with Borussia Dortmund in 1997.

Turning to the UEFA Europa League, Mr Infantino stressed that the diversity of the round of 32 field and the calibre of the teams left on the road to the final at the National Stadium in Warsaw on 27 May promised an entertaining spring.

"This year, clubs from 17 different national associations are through to the UEFA Europa League knockout phase," he said, "and there are no less than 11 past winners still in the competition, including the title holders Sevilla FC. We can therefore expect a very exciting and unpredictable competition.

"The winners of this year's competition will not only engrave their name on its prestigious trophy," he added, "but they will also, for the first time in the history of the competition, qualify for the play-offs of next season's UEFA Champions League. This will no doubt provide another incentive to all clubs participating in the knockout phase."

"You can expect a great atmosphere both inside and outside the stadium, and we will be prepared," said final ambassador Jerzy Dudek, the former Feyenoord, Liverpool FC and Poland goalkeeper, looking ahead to the Warsaw showpiece and recalling the excitement when the Polish capital staged matches at UEFA EURO 2012.

Finally, Gianni Infantino welcomed the success of the UEFA Youth League, both in sporting and educational terms, as this season's competition enters its knockout phase. "The success of the first year of the UEFA Youth League, coupled with the positive feedback given by clubs, was such that it was decided to make the competition permanent and to amend the format from next season, so as to include another 32 domestic champions," he explained. "This will no doubt increase the quality of the competition and guarantee a wider representation of countries.

"In this season's group stage, our young players, coaches and referees were once more provided with a unique opportunity to test their skills at a very high international level," Mr Infantino concluded. "Importantly, it also offered the participants the chance to receive special education on topics such as anti-doping and match-fixing, helping to ensure these young players are fully aware of the dangers that such activities represent."