The spirit of European football lives on even through the summer months, if only because fans are so excited about the prospect of it all starting back up again. It may not be everyone’s cup of tea, perhaps as a direct result of many teams never ascending to those heights, but at the end of the day, we’d still argue that the Champions League and Europa League are two of the most entertaining competitions in all of sport.
Today we’re going to be focusing on the latter, which often doesn’t receive anywhere near the kind of praise or adulation in comparison to its ‘older brother’ of sorts. That comes from fan perception, and while we can somewhat understand that, we also sympathise with the fans that live and dream of playing in the Europa League – for two reasons. One, it serves as a potential ticket into the Champions League, and two, it’s a European competition that still holds a high enough prestige that it can be viewed as a massive honour to play in it.
The journey begins again
As reported by Daily Record and BBC, two teams that have gone on quite a journey in order to get back to this point are Wolverhampton Wanderers and Rangers.
For Rangers, they’re in an entirely new era under the tutelage of manager Steven Gerrard. The former Reds legend has been able to bring the good times back to the club, to the point where European glory doesn’t seem like the impossibility that it did just a few short years ago. They’ll be going head to head with Progres Niederkorn in their upcoming tie, and while that name might not mean much to a lot of us, it certainly does to Rangers supporters.
A few years back in 2017, the team in question, known as ‘minnows from Luxembourg’ and nothing more, were able to stun the 2008 UEFA Cup finalists by beating them 2-1 on aggregate to knock them out of the Europa League. At the time it was considered to be one of the worst defeats in the history of the club, and we’d say that is still the case in the current day – so you can bet that they’ve got revenge on their mind.
What a journey
On the other hand you’ve got Wolverhampton Wanderers, who have been waiting a long time to get back to this point. Their home game against Crusaders on Thursday evening will mark the first time in 40 years that they have played in European competition, and for many, the belief is that this is only just the beginning.
They have some high expectations for what they can accomplish both this season and beyond, but instead of getting caught up in what may or may not happen, it’s worth taking a look at how far this club has come in such a short space of time. A few years back they were reeling from a second consecutive relegation, which left them lingering down in the third tier of English football.
Since then they’ve put together some extraordinary moments, and now, their moment to shine on the big stage has arrived.