Tuesday, 15 September 2009

The Road To Madrid & Hamburg

With great relief, the two remaining European competitions get underway this week with Scottish participation after one of the most bloody and depressing close seasons ever. Starting with 6 teams, only the Old Firm remain in the first round proper. Falkirk were dumped by Vaduz, Motherwell lost heavily to Steua Bucharest, Aberdeen were undone by Sigma Olomouc and Hearts were taken apart, only to rally, against Dynamo Zagreb. Celtic lost out to a poor Arsenal team, but will start in the revamped UEFA Cup.

First up, on Wednesday, will be Rangers, amazingly playing their first European game this season. For the third time this decade, they open up their European Cup/Champions League campaign against VFB Stuttgart, though this time they play away first. On previous occasions Rangers have lost narrowly on their visits to the former Nekarstadion, they lost 1-0 in November 2003 and 3-2 in November 2007. A result for Rangers will be key, especially in such a winnable group. There is no Manchester United or Barcelona like there was in 2003 and 2007. Sevilla are the seeds in this group, and are likely to be more beatable than the previous seeds.

Having lost to Arsenal, Celtic has found themselves in a tough group. Before ties against Hamburg and a grudge match against Rapid Vienna, Celtic face Hapoel Tel Aviv on Thursday. They last played them 10 years ago and won 3-0 on aggregate in the old UEFA Cup, but then came Lyon and Larson’s leg-break… By the looks of things Celtic should win on Thursday, however as we have seen Scottish Football has had a stinker of a season. Our co-efficient has dived quicker than New Labour’s poll ratings.

While the English sides will go into this week with confidence, and Real Madrid will go into this week with a little verve, our sides will be rather more pragmatic about their chances. Hopefully we’ll see 2 wins out of 2, I suspect the best Rangers will get is a draw and Celtic will get a tight win.

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