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Posted: Wed Aug 27, 2008 2:30 am
by Scottish
What an appalling set of results in Europe thus far. Six played (including the intertoto), one draw and five defeats. Only three goals scored. And it's not down to the quality of the opposition. The Scottish sides were the seeded clubs in every tie so far. The draw was kind in every instance. Elfsborg, Kaunas & Nordsjeeland are not names to make the knees tremble.

Nor do I subscribe to the 'plucky' school of thought advanced on the BBC tonight. Queen of the South were facing the most modest opponents possible. A team at the bottom of their league who only won their place through the fair play lottery. And although they competed well enough to keep interest alive until the last few minutes, the tie was effectively lost in Airdrie - or Glasgow, as their Chairman twice referred to it at half-time!

You could even argue that the only reason we have two teams left is that they haven't kicked a ball yet. Even worse, that's the easy draws out of the way now. Motherwell will be unseeded in the UEFA Cup and Celtic will be in the third pot for the CL. I suppose a good draw for Celtic would be Lyons, Sporting Lisbon and Aalborg/Kaunas and a bad one any other top seed, Bayern Munich & Fiorentina (assuming the latter qualify). Of course there could be one or two upsets tomorrow night which would improve Celtic's chances with some daunting opponents removed and other clubs moving up the rankings.

Motherwell's options look none too good. As things stand clubs of the stature of Borussia Dortmund & Napoli aren't seeded and need higher ranked sides to lose to move them up - Man City are doing their best to accommodate.

Then again Aberdeen surprised last year v Dnipro so perhaps 'Well have a fighting chance. I can identify three or four clubs they might do well against but around two dozen they will want to avoid if they are to progress.

So all the good work done last year in adding to the co-efficient is at risk. But pay no attention to Messrs Halliday and Wright in The Scotsman who suggest this could have an effect in 2009-10. It won't. The places for next season are already determined. It's the following seasons which will be affected. Next season we will lose 02-03 from the rankings list - Celtic's UEFA Cup Final season. But we gain 07-08 and Rangers UEFA Cup run. However we will lose 03-04 for the following season -a decent Celtic run to the last eight of the UEFA Cup and both OF being involved in the CL group stages helped boost the tally then - and gain this miserable-looking season instead.

Halliday and Wright are also misleading when they suggest Scotland will lose a UEFA Cup place should we drop out of the top 15 in the rankings. Yes, we will lose a European place but it will be in the CL as those outside the top 15 will have just one club in the CL and they will start in the 1st qualifying round.

In short we will keep an automatic CL place if we are in the top 12. That also give us a team in the CL qualifiers at the second round stage. If we drop to 13-15 we will have two clubs in the second round qualifiers. Below that just one entrant and they go into the first round. Bear in mind though that the qualifiers will be split into champions and non-champions and will guarantee five champion clubs from outside the top 12 a place in the CL. Also, losing in the second qualifying round will in future mean entering the UEFA Cup in the fourth qualifying round and losing in the third round brings a UEFA Cup group place.

UEFA Cup places themselves are the same if we are ranked between 10-15 - one entrant in the second qualifying round (4th, SPL) (the current Intertoto place), one in the third (3rd SPL) and one in the fourth (Scottish Cup Winners) (equivalent to the second qualifying and 1st round proper as at present). Dropping to 16 means two of our clubs entering in the third round qualifiers and the 4th-placed SPL side not entering at all.

But the places for next season are already determined despite what The Scotsman suggests (and I'm sure other uninformed reports will also suggest in the months ahead).

Posted: Thu Aug 28, 2008 7:57 am
Heartily agree. "Plucky" & "brave" my a***. All 3 Scottish clubs have been awful. I can only suggest Paul Mitchell was trying to be kind ito the Doonhamers in his commentary on Tuesday. One fluky long range effort was virtually all I could see to their advantage. The best thing to say is they weren`t pasted. Can anyone honestly see the Timaloys & the Well making any kind of impact?

Posted: Thu Aug 28, 2008 8:51 pm
by upthewell
LEATHERSTOCKING wrote:Heartily agree. "Plucky" & "brave" my a***. All 3 Scottish clubs have been awful. I can only suggest Paul Mitchell was trying to be kind ito the Doonhamers in his commentary on Tuesday. One fluky long range effort was virtually all I could see to their advantage. The best thing to say is they weren`t pasted. Can anyone honestly see the Timaloys & the Well making any kind of impact?
Don't know. Celtic got a tough group (I'm revising my prediction now as I think they'll come 3rd behind Man U and Villareal) and the Well could maybe get to the group stages if tomorrow's draw is kind and we get a bit of Aberdonian style luck in the opening tie....

Posted: Thu Aug 28, 2008 11:00 pm
by Scottish
Tough? Undoubtedly, given that Celtic will have to finish ahead of either the Champions of Europe and England or the Spanish runners-up to progress. But is there any other group they'd rather be in?

They have one of the weakest of the fourth seeds - a far better option than Atletico Madrid, Fiorentina and - given Celtic's record on their travels - Dynamo Kiev and Shakhtar. Sure they might have preferred Cluj or Bate Borisov but that would have meant being in the same group as either Chelsea & Roma or Real Madrid & Juventus. Even had they drawn Anorthosis as the fourth seed that would have landed them with Inter & Werder Bremen (though a Strachan/Mourinho press conference might have been more entertaining than the game itself).

I don't think any of the other options that the draw turned up would have been any better and Celtic do have some things in their favour. For a start travel is just about as easy it could be. Their first match is at home against the weakest side in the group and they have a home game to finish.

Yes, the odds are against them but OTOH they should surely finish no lower than third which would allow them a crack at the UEFA Cup.

Good luck to Motherwell in the draw tomorrow. Levski Sofia, Austria Vienna, Hapoel Tel Aviv, Slavia Prague, FC Copenhagen would be the teams I wanted. Nancy or Portsmouth at a stretch.

But if it's money you're after then AC Milan, Valencia, Sevilla, Benfica or any English side would do nicely.

BTW if further proof were needed of how poor Scottish performances have been thus far, have a look at the UEFA Cup seedings. Lowest ranked are St Patrick's Athletic, conquerors of Elfsborg who beat Hibs. Second lowest are Kaunas and we all know how they got their place there. Nordsjeeland are 71st of 80.

Posted: Fri Aug 29, 2008 9:16 am
by Scottish
I've just seen the potential opponents for Motherwell and it's not as bad as it might have been. Any of them would be favourites but Bruges, Nancy & Sparta Prague don't exactly strike fear into the heart. And while it would be a major upset if 'Well were to overcome either Valencia or Man City both of these clubs have their weaknesses too. City are lucky to even still be in the competition and Valencia are coming off the back of their weakest league season for several years. They are there by virtue of their Spanish Cup triumph and will have played just two league matches by the time of the first leg.

That's the optimistic assessment. But given Scottish performances thus far none of these clubs will be quaking in their boots at the prospect of a trip to Fir Park.

Posted: Fri Aug 29, 2008 11:41 am
by Gersman
Okay I'll be the first to say it. Anyone reckon Motherwell will be met in France by this chorus "Hello, Hello, we are the Nancy boys?" :lol:

Posted: Sat Aug 30, 2008 12:12 am
by upthewell
Gersman wrote:Okay I'll be the first to say it. Anyone reckon Motherwell will be met in France by this chorus "Hello, Hello, we are the Nancy boys?" :lol:
Nope - but "Hello Hello you are the Nancy boys" would be funny if it didn't stick in my craw so much...

Posted: Sat Aug 30, 2008 1:25 am
by Scottish
Tough but not the worst draw Motherwell could have had. Nancy only missed out on Champions League qualification by two points (if they still had two points for a win they'd have made it). They have a highly rated coach in Uruguyan Pablo Correa. Although only 41 he has been in charge for six seasons (though he's been with the club as a player and then coach since 1995) and since then his record is fairly impressive. Promotion in 2005 after five years out of the top flight then a League Cup success in 2005-06 (only the club's second trophy success, the French Cup in 1978 being the other) and two mid-table finishes before ending up 4th last season.

Then again this is a club that counts Arsene Wenger & Aime Jacquet among its former managers.

Apart from 2006-07 they have finished higher than the previous year during Correa's management. 15th in the 2nd division in his first season then 6th then 1st. 12th in the top flight then 13th (though with more points than the previous year) then 4th. They were formidable at home in 2007-08, losing just once (to Rennes 3-2 in the only home match in which they lost more than one goal). Not so good on the road, winning just three times.

The team is a blend of experienced French and North African players with the odd South American thrown in for good measure. Quite a few have international experience though there are no household names. They have signed several new players this season.Their success is built on a sound defence. Only 30 goals conceded last season in 38 league matches was the joint best in France. But they only scored 44 goals. Top league scorers last season were Youssef Hadji with seven goals from 25 appearances and Marc-Antoine Fortune with six from 37.

Last time they were in the UEFA Cup two seasons ago they did well, reaching the last 32 by beating Schalke 04 in the 1st round and finishing 2nd to Blackburn Rovers in a group which also included Wisla Krakow, Basle & Feyenoord before losing to Shakhtar Donetsk so they are no mugs. There was crowd trouble at Nancy's Marcel Picot stadium (capacity 20,087) at their game with Feyenoord which was blamed on Feyenoord fans banned from domestic football buying tickets for the home section.

Tickets will not be plentiful as Nancy play to pretty much a full house with average league attendances of almost 19,000 last season which means the 5% minimum away allocation is likely to be a maximum.

One thing which might make 'Well fans feel at home is that the city emblem (and that of Lorraine as a whole) is the thistle and the official motto translates as something very similar to "Nemo me impune lacessit"