The UEFA Champions League usually corners the lion's share of all media and global attention, particularly when the competition enters the knock-out stages. Big-name and glamorous clubs like Real Madrid, Barcelona, Manchester United and AC Milan are such regular fixtures in the tournament's latter stages and so often are duels between the world's greatest current players fought out in this tournament that most of us tend to forget the Europa League... an equally intense continental competition that is condemned to second-tier status.
There is perhaps some truth to that measure. After all, the top clubs from each domestic league go into the Champions League and those clubs that can only manage a third, fourth or lower finish in their domestic leagues are "forced" to play in the Europa League.
Nevertheless, the Europa League has seen high-profile and glamour clubs take part and some truly wonderful European football is always on offer.
The 2011/12 competition has already seen drama in the form of both Manchester clubs dumped from the Champions League into this tournament's knock-out stages... and then get knocked out!
The draw for the quarter-finals and semi-finals were conducted on 16 March, at UEFA's headquarters in Nyon, Switzerland. The two-legged ties have been scheduled for 29 March (leg 1) and 5 April (leg 2). The semi-finals, meanwhile, have been fixed for 19 April (leg 1) and 26 April (leg 2).
The final of the tournament is on 9 May and will be held in Bucharest, Romania.
- QF 1 - AZ Alkmaar (Holland) vs Valencia (Spain)
- QF 2 - Schalke 04 (Germany) vs Athletic Bilbao (Spain)
- QF 3 - Sporting Lisbon (Portugal) vs Metalist (Ukraine)
- QF 4 - Atletico Madrid (Spain) vs Hannover 96 (Germany)
- SF 1 - Atletico Madrid / Hannover 96 vs AZ Alkmaar / Valencia
- SF 2 - Sporting Lisbon / Metalist vs Schalke 04 / Athletic Bilbao