Tottenham and Everton fans must surely be approaching this weekend’s Premier League games with a sense of dread after a busy week of Europa League action.
The Toffees meet Manchester United on Sunday following a long trip to face Krasnodar in Russia while Spurs struggled in their home encounter with Besiktas and will not be relishing a game against Southampton.
Both lost in the league days after their previous European excursions too and could be in line for more misery this weekend. But it should not be this way.
There was a time when European competition was welcomed as something to enjoy, rather than a hindrance that clogs up an already busy fixture list and while that sense of enjoyment remains among the fans, steps need to be taken to give the likes of Tottenham and Everton the best chance of competing and enjoying their football on both fronts.
Here are five options to help improve the Europa League.
Bring back the old UEFA Cup format
One of the biggest concerns for managers is the sheer number of fixtures teams must play in order to progress in the Europa League at present. Sevilla played a mammoth 15 games en route to victory last season which is enough to test even the biggest and best of squads.
With so many top-flight teams balancing European commitments with domestic league and cup concerns, a return to the two-leg knockout format that worked so well for so long could at least provide some respite, while also making for more exciting encounters from the off.
Ditch the Thursday night games
Those behind the scenes at Tottenham have previously spoken of the psychological effect playing on a Thursday can have on any club with league aspirations. In these instances, teams like Spurs can often find themselves playing catch-up in the race for a top four spot with those who played and won on a Saturday.
In something of an odd twist, the scheduling of the Europa League can seemingly result in those teams involved feeling under the microscope come kick-off on Sunday. The simple and obvious solution is to move games to Tuesday and Wednesday nights, which brings me to my next point...
Schedule on different weeks
One of the main arguments against moving Europa League games to Tuesdays and Wednesdays is the loss in potential television revenue that would incur if these fixtures went up alongside their bigger brother the Champions League.
But an easy way around this would be to have Europa League games played on different weeks to the Champions League fixtures. Not only would there be no clash, the move could also raise the profile of the tournament, helping shed it’s current status as something of an afterthought to Europe’s premier cup competition.
No Champions League entries
Giving the winner a place in the Champions League is a great move but, if the organisers want to make the competition feel less like a consolation prize for those sides not good enough to progress further in the Champions League, teams who are beaten qualifying or finish third in their group should no longer drop down into the Europa League.
The arrival of these teams in the knockout stages of the competition not only devalues the efforts of those that have traversed the tricky group stage but takes away some of the romance of the cup.
It also seems ridiculous that a team who finishes third in their group can end up having a longer European campaign than the team that progresses above them into the Champions League last 16.
Increase the prize money
With 15 games to play – not including a two-leg qualification play-off – those teams involved in the Europa League would benefit from a greater financial incentive and at present the disparity in prize money between the Europa League and Champions League is too much.
As a basic example, while the winner of the former earns a €5 million prize for picking up the trophy, the latter gets just over twice as much at €10.5 million and that's before we even begin to look at the bigger per-game revenues. While a place in the Champions League brings obvious rewards to the winner, increasing the prize funds in the Europa League could also go a long way to increasing interest.
What do you think of these suggestions? Would you like to see any changes made to the Europa League? Comment below