With attendances, TV viewing figures and the quality of matches all high, Thursday's UEFA Europa League nights are providing a refreshing taste of European football action.
Article top media content
The UEFA Europa League is proving to be a "refreshing take on European football for Thursday nights" in the wake of some superb action and surprise results so far in this season's knockout phase.
"Although the competition may have some detractors out there, the clubs involved and the fans of those clubs, plus the broadcasters showing the matches are not among them," UEFA General Secretary Gianni Infantino told the draw ceremony for the quarter-finals and semi-finals at the House of European Football in Nyon on Friday.
"Attendances have been very good this season while the quality of the matches has also been of a high level, as have the TV audience viewing figures."
This year marks the end of the first three-year cycle of the newest of UEFA's European club competitions. The former UEFA Cup became the UEFA Europa League at the start of the 2009/10 campaign.
"The UEFA Europa League has offered us new teams, exciting matches, passionate fans and a refreshing take on European football for Thursday nights," Mr Infantino continued. "In total, some ten different national associations were represented in the round of 16, and five nations are represented by the eight quarter-finalists – a true representation of Europe, surely?
"Today's draw will bring those eight clubs one step closer to the final itself, to be played in Bucharest at the new National Arena on Wednesday 9 May," the UEFA General Secretary said. "The first European final to be staged at this brand-new stadium will surely be one to watch, and the next round of matches promise to be very interesting indeed.
"Let's hope that the quarter and semi-finals will throw together some great teams and that the matches will be played in a spirit of respect and fair play."
Mr Infantino then conveyed the European football family's sympathy with the families of the victims of the bus crash in Switzerland earlier this week. "It is a time of great sadness," he said. "We therefore offer our sincere condolences to the families of the 28 persons, including 22 children, from Belgium, who lost their lives so tragically just three days ago not far from here in Sierre. Our thoughts and our prayers are with you at this most difficult time."
The UEFA General Secretary also offered best wishes to FC Barcelona full-back Éric Abidal. Barcelona have announced that French international Abidal is to have a liver transplant.