The Europa League got underway this week, with one game on Wednesday, whilst the other matches were played across Europe on Thursday afternoon and evening.
It features 32 teams which have been split into eight groups of four teams who will play each other home and away in the group phase.
The two teams that qualify top of their group will progress through to the knockout stages where they will be joined by the eight sides that finish third in their respective Champions League groups.
La Liga side Villareal are the defending champions, having beaten Manchester United on penalties in last season’s final which was played in Gdansk, Poland.
Of course, there are some who argue that penalties is an unfair way to decide a major final, and is akin to a game of chance that might be found in any online casino such as those in casinolist.ca as listed here.
Others, though, believe that there is an art and a skill in both taking and saving penalties, and that it is a test of mental as well as physical strength.
As a result of that victory, Villareal qualified for the Champions League, which means they will get no chance to defend their title, unless they finish third in their Champions League group (they drew with Atalanta of Italy in their opening game on Tuesday night).
This year the final of the Europa League will be staged at the Ramón Sánchez Pizjuán Stadium in Seville. This is an appropriate place for it to be held because it is the home ground of Sevilla, who are the most successful team in the history of the competition in its various guises, having won it on six occasions, most recently in 2020.
That is three more than a clutch of teams who have won it on three occasions – Inter Milan, Juventus, Liverpool, and Atlético Madrid.
Like Villareal, Sevilla are involved in the Champions League initially and will be hoping to progress sufficiently in that competition not to be involved in the Europa League this time at all.
The 2021/2022 campaign is different from previous years because the number of participating teams has been reduced in the group stage from 48 to 32 teams, to make way for the new UEFA competition, the Europa Conference League.
And, like all European competitions this season, the away goals rule has been abolished. That means that, in a two-legged tie, if the scores are level at the end, the winner will not be determined by the number of away goals scored.
Instead, extra time will be played and, if it is still level after that, then it will go to a penalty shoot-out.
The remaining five Group matches will be played during the middle of five weeks stretching until early December.
And then in February, the knock-out round play-offs – featuring the eight group runners-up and the eight teams that have dropped out of the Champions League – will take place.
The winners of those matches will join the original group winners in the round of 16, with the competition played on a two-legged knock-out format after that leading up to the one-of final on 18th May next year.