|Football Bettor's Survey|
Here we go again, folks!
It is less than two months since John Terry slipped just when it looked as though the Chelsea skipper was going to clinch the Champions League for the London club.
With one slip of the foot, Ronaldo was off the hook and Manchester United managed to regain the initiative in Moscow. Such is the fine line between success and failure and a season’s good work can be wiped out in an instant.
Chelsea may have pushed the English Premier League title race until the very last day but it is the Champions League final heartbreak that will have caused the most pain. And it is a pain that will still be very fresh in the memory.
The 2008/09 final is due to be held in Rome on the 27th of May next year but it may surprise you to know that the road to Rome starts next week. Tuesday the 15th of July and Wednesday the 16th are the first round first leg matches in the Champions League qualifying campaign and there are a couple of names that are famous in footballing history.
Twice Uefa Cup Winners in Action
IFK Gothenburg from Sweden are perhaps the biggest name in the competition at this stage and the Swedish giants have European success to their name. Twice in the 1980s, Uefa Cup glory was had as the Swedes won the event in 1982 and 1987.
With a tie against Murata from San Marino, IFK will be expecting nothing but a comfortable victory to put them into the second round. If they are to succeed though, they will face FC Basel and this will be a tricky tie for both clubs. The Basel home leg will be played at the St. Jacob Park, which will be recognisable to many who watched Euro 2008. Six games were staged at the stadium, three in the group, two quarter final matches and of the semis. It can only be hoped that there is less water on the park for this game than there was due during the infamous Switzerland versus Turkey match in the group stages.
Previous European winners joining IFK Gothenburg in the first round are Dinamo Zagreb and Dinamo Tiblesi.
In a former guise, Dinamo Zagreb won the Fair Cup, the fore-runner to the Uefa Cup back in 1967 when they defeated Leeds in a two-legged final. The Croatian team are paired against Linfield from Northern Ireland, a team with much experience in Europe but one that rarely gets beyond August. All going to form, Zagreb should overcome Linfield comfortably and if they do, they will face the winners of the tie between F91 Dudelange and Domzale.
Dinamo Zagreb may not be the team they once were but these ties give them a great chance of getting to the third qualifying round of the Champions League. Making the 3rd will leave them with a hard task but at least it offers them the parachute of a Uefa Cup place if they are knocked out on that round.
Dinamo Tiblesi from Georgia won the Uefa Cup in 1981 with a 2-1 victory over Carl Zeiss Jena. They will face NSI Runavik from the Faroe Islands in their first round tie with the first leg being played in Georgia. If they triumph in this round, they will face Panathinaikos in the second round which promises to be a much sterner test.
Can Romanov Get the Last Laugh?
An interesting possibly in the second round will be determined by the victor of the match between Santa Coloma from Andorra and FC Kaunas from Lithuania. Whoever triumphs in this match will face Rangers, the Uefa Cup losers from 2008 and if Kaunas make it through, there will be some extra spice for Vladimir Romanov.
Kaunas are sponsored by UKIO Bankas who have Romanov as their main shareholder. Romanov owns Heart of Midlothian who play in Scotland and has seen many managerial and player links between the two clubs.
Throughout his time in Scotland Romanov has been a very public figure and as well as referees and the media, Rangers have taken a lot of stick from the maverick owner. Romanov gloriously led Hearts to second place in the league a few seasons back that deprived Rangers of the chance of Champions League qualification. Given that Scottish football is usually viewed as a two-horse race, many neutrals delighted in Hearts coming second. Although to be honest, most of the joy came at Rangers coming third in the two-horse race they are supposed to be in.
No doubt Romanov would love to see Rangers pipped by his side again but it is unlikely that this will happen this time around. Rangers kick off their European campaign in July and will be hoping for a similar turn of events as last season. This time last year Rangers started off in the second qualifying rounds back in July and were still involved in Europe by mid-May. For all the criticism levelled at the club, it has to be said that their results were effective.
Other Big Names Lie in Wait
Some of the other bigger clubs lying in wait in the second round include Anderlecht from Belgium, Sparta Prague from the Czech Republic and FK Partizan. Dinamo Kiev and Fenerbache are also waiting in the second round and some of the teams entering the first round may be having doubts over the size of the challenge they may face in the next few weeks.
The major teams in Europe are still working on their signing targets and some of the top players will still be sunning themselves on a beach somewhere but for some clubs, this is the most important part of their season. Being able to navigate a few rounds in the qualification process may give them an increased budget before the transfer window shuts and give their fans something to cheer. These ties may not have the glamour that Uefa will try to convince you the Champions League is all about and these games will be forgotten by the time Rome rolls around but for some teams, this is the big time.
for The Silver Circle at www.footballtip.co.uk
I've been a member since July 2003, maybe one of the first to join the Silver Circle. 2004 was a good year but I really enjoyed the long run we had in, I think, July 2005. It was exhilarating! 2006-2007 was not as exciting although still quite profitable and so far 2007-2008 looks quite good. I'm wondering if we're going to hit a long one again soon. Anyway, it's been a pleasure as always with your service, Greg. Armstrong and you are one of the few people I trust on the internet. You have made my retirement so much more fun and financially happy!
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