A much maligned competition by some, the Europa League taking a backseat compared to the more prestigious Champions League, a renewed sense of importance in Europe's secondary competition has emerged. For fans of both West Ham and Rangers, it's given them some of the best nights in their recent history. After recently knocking out serial Europa League winners Sevilla at the London Stadium - Andriy Yarmolenko scoring the decisive goal in Extra Time - West Ham's season is only getting better with David Moyes' Hammers reaching an unprecedented Quarter Final. After years of failing to adjust to their new surroundings away from Upton Park, nights like their 2-0 win over Sevilla will live long in the memory in front of the Hammers home crowd.
Ibrox has also seen some special mid-week matches in the Europa League, Rangers securing their progress to the last 16 with a 2-2 draw against Dortmund on their own patch - James Tavernier's goals turning Ibrox into a wall of noise in every part of the home end. With both sides upsetting the odds - knocking out two of the favourites in Borussia Dortmund and Sevilla respectively - could either side go all the way and be crowned Europa League victors come May?
The first leg of Rangers' monumental victory over Dortmund certainly indicated that Rangers meant business, a 4-2 win in front of an intimidating BVB atmosphere allowing for a comfortable cushion going into that famous night at Ibrox in the home tie. Rangers swept aside Borussia Dortmund on the night, winning 4-2 with three of the away side's strikes coming in a mad 13 minute spell in the second half - the travelling Gers faithful could hardly believe what they were watching, the SPL side beating a team more used to Champions League football than Thursday night affairs. Marco Rose's men severely underestimated the away side, the brash nature of Rangers on the night too much even with Rose fielding the likes of Marco Reus and Jude Bellingham in this one. Rangers would then seal their progression to the Quarter Finals with a two-leg win over Red Star Belgrade, James Tavernier leading by example once more on the big occasion with a goal and assist in their comprehensive first leg win over the Serbians. It was another huge statement to the rest of the sides still competing in this year's Europa League - turning over Red Star 3-0, another unbelievable atmosphere served up by the home fans at Ibrox to push their side over the line. An unconvincing second leg loss could well have derailed their progress, but when Ryan Kent surged through and hit a deflected strike past Borjan in the Belgrade net, all their nerves were calmed and Rangers could relax. Van Bronckhorst was understandably proud of his side for sealing their place in the last eight, ecstatic that his team managed to get that necessary goal on the night to seal a 4-2 win on aggregate. Next up for Van Bronckhorst's men, Braga in the last eight.
West Ham's route to the final few teams in the Europa League hasn't quite been as dramatic as Rangers, but progression to the Quarter Finals is another sign that David Moyes' men aren't relenting in what's been a fantastic season for those associated with The Hammers. Still flying high in 7th spot in the Premier League, being crowned as Europa League winners would be a great ending to a terrific season down in East London. The most impressive feat of their Europa League campaign to date has to be their 2-1 aggregate success over Sevilla, knocking out the six-time winners with a convincing win at the London Stadium. Unity and passion on showcase throughout, this is the sign of a West Ham side fans can get behind and feel pride in as opposed to the relegation-threatened sides of the past where fan protests would overshadow the football on the pitch. Fast-tracked to the round of 16 after finishing top of Group H, West Ham were handed the toughest of ties in facing Sevilla - not only do they hold the record for most Europa Leagues, but they're directly behind Real Madrid near the top of La Liga in 2nd. But, as David Moyes' men seem to do best at the moment, they defied expectations and toppled the Spanish giants on a rousing night at the London Stadium. After losing 1-0 out in Seville, the emphasis was on the home tie to turn around West Ham's fortunes.
A fantastic surge and cross into the box from Antonio would allow West Ham to equalise on aggregate, West Ham's number 9 delivering it expertly for Thomas Soucek to head home. A real fan favourite since making the switch from Slavia Prague, West Ham's Czech hero scoring another crucial goal for David Moyes' men. The winner would come from Andriy Yarmolenko, a darting run from Pablo Fornals stinging the palms of Bounou in the Sevilla net before the Ukrainian winger converted the crucial rebound. 2-0 on the night, a late winner in the 110th minute resulting in a deafening roar from the West Ham faithful and another emotional celebration from West Ham's Ukrainian number 7 with his teammates. Lyon will be the next opponents for West Ham, the side looking to stop Moyes' men from making it to the semi-finals.
Are both these Quarter Final ties winnable on paper for both West Ham and Rangers? Lyon are stuttering in Ligue 1 this campaign, 10th at the time of writing, which works in West Ham's favour but Lyon have just knocked out Porto who fell into the Europa League after exiting the Champions League. Even if their form domestically isn't all there, they'll be a tough proposition. Braga will also provide stern opposition for Van Bronckhorst's Gers, Braga knocking out Monaco in the last 16. Yet, they needed penalties to narrowly edge past Sheriff in order to get to the knockouts. Even if both West Ham and Rangers do the unthinkable and make the semi-finals, this is where they'll ultimately get unstuck. Barcelona could well be the opponents for West Ham if they make the semi-finals, alongside Eintracht Frankfurt. Xavi's men will still be favourites for the competition, helped by their ruthless victory in the El Classico recently. Rangers will also have to play either RB Leipzig or Atalanta if they make it to this stage, both teams entertaining on the eye and both who will be looking to clinch the Europa League at the expense of Van Bronckhorst's men. Still, with wins against Dortmund and Sevilla respectively, Rangers and West Ham could spring another upset in the final few knockout rounds. But, even if West Ham and Rangers bow out at the Quarter Final stages or at the final hurdle before the Final in Seville, there's no doubt both clubs will look back at their European adventures this season with great fondness.