It’s not just that the Europa League produces remarkable matches like Liverpool vs Borussia Dortmund…matches that can give even neutral fan a series of heart attacks.

Thanks partly to games like the thriller at Anfield, the average football fan’s opinion of the Europa League has shifted in recent times. This season, it has been properly good – Champions League-beating good.

Ironically, one of the main reasons why has been the Champions League itself. Allow us to explain, along with six other reasons you NEED to be tuning into the rest of the Europa League this season… and beyond.

1) The Champions League carrot

The Champions League trophy on display during the draw
Big ears, big prize (Image: EPA/Valentin Flauraud)

No, that’s not UEFA’s attempt to branch out into branded grocery merchandise (though we wouldn’t it past them now we’ve mentioned it). Rather, as of this year, the Europa League winner gets a place in next season’s Champions League.

As a result, there have been some great teams actually going for it this year, rather than treating it as a reserve tournament: Dortmund, Liverpool, Sevilla, Manchester United, Tottenham, and so on. Hey… money talks, right?

2) It’s much less predictable than the Champions League

Fast forward to next season’s Champions League quarter-finals. You know there’s a very, very high chance they’ll include Barcelona, Real Madrid, Bayern Munich and PSG (and one of them would’ve definitely knocked out Arsenal in the last 16). Boring.

Try doing the same with the Europa League and it’s much more difficult. Who could’ve predicted Dnipro’s run to the final last season? This year there’s Braga, Villarreal, Sparta Prague among them. Next year’s quarter-finalists are anyone’s guess. It’s simply more exciting.

3) It expands your footballing knowledge

We’re all already fully clued up on Barcelona’s brilliant attack, Bayern’s quality in depth, Real Madrid’s European pedigree.

Only in the Europa League can you really expand your footballing palette by watching games involving the likes of Sparta Prague, Athletic Bilbao and FC Augsburg. The tournament gives you the chance to learn more about Europe’s not-quite-elite clubs.

4) You get more bang for your buck

Can’t get enough of watching football? Then the Europa League has got your back. This season, there’ll eventually be a total of 196 matches played in the competition. The Champions League, meanwhile? A paltry 118. Pathetic…

5) More fun for travelling fans

There used to be a time when away fans of clubs in the tournament would bemoan having to traipse around Europe’s deepest and darkest corners to follow their team. No longer is this the case.

Some fans have even nicknamed the Europe League the “Stag Do Cup” – with locations in excellent cities like Vienna and Lisbon. Or, if you’re a casual football fan and fancy a trip to Amsterdam, why not make take a long weekend and build it around their Europa League clash with Villarreal?

And for the more intrepid among you, it’s a chance to tick the likes of Kazan and Belgrade off the map. Europe is your oyster.

6) Become your own football scout

Saint-Etienne Dimitri Payet vies with Valencia defender Miguel Garcia Monteiro

Discover what diamonds-in-the-rough are lurking under the radar. You could’ve STARTED the Dimitri Payet bandwagon eight years ago.

The Europa League gives you the chance to spot a future star in games like Gabala vs Dinamo Minsk. The new Kante/Payet/Vardy is hiding there somewhere, surely…

7) Thursdays are the new Friday

Well, that’s what they say, don’t they? So what better excuse to meet up with your mates for a few beers on a Thursday evening than to watch some quality European football?