Tuesday, 7 October 2008

UEFA Cup Group A

I think the group we've drawn with is probably slightly harder than the average. But given the nature of the qualifying stage, I'm confident we'll progress. All it takes is five points, generally. Some teams have gone through with four.

FC Twente home, November 6

Everyone's favourite Eredivisie side, thanks to their legendary boss. The club that went where Blackburn Rovers daren't, bringing Steve McClaren back into management. Not a historically significant club, the came into their current format as late as 1965. Since then they have won only two Dutch cups (one fewer than the number of domestic cup competitions that City have won in the last 43 years). Had their best season for years in 2007/08, finishing fourth. But their coach, Fred Rutten, left for Schalke 04 (more on them later), taking Orlando Engelaar with him.

Last year Best for ten years. Finished fourth (out of 18), with 62 points from 34 games. Won through to the Champions League 3rd Qualifying Round by beating first NAC Breda then Ajax in two legged games.
So far this year Knocked out of the Champions League by Arsenal. 8th in the league with 8 points from 5 games.
Premier League connections Only Stevie Mac as far as I can see.
Man to watch Blaise Kufo has won even more consecutive Player of the Season awards than Richard Dunne. The veteran Swiss striker has scored 88 league goals in five full seasons for Twente, with 22 last year (second only to Huntelaar in the standings) and 21 the year before that.

FC Schalke 04 away, November 27

Sandwiched between Arsenal and Manchester United's trips to CoMS, City visit the 61,000 seater Veltins Arena in Gelsenkirchen. Venue of Mourinho's 2004 Champions League triumph, and England's penalty defeat to Portugal in the 2006 World Cup quater final. An exciting moment, but I fear we may have more on our minds three days before the derby. A sleeping giant of German football, they won 6 titles between 1934 and 1942 but only one since. Nevertheless, surely our hardest game this time.

Last year Third in the 18 team Bundesliga, with 64 points from 34 games. Kevin Kuranyi came third in the top scorer charts with 15 in the league. Knocked out of Champions League by Barcelona at the quarter final stage.
So far this year Unbeaten in the league with 8 points from four games. Like Twente, originally in the Champions League qualifying round. Then they got heavily Agueroed.
Premier League connections No obvious ones, but Peter Lovenkrands used to play for Rangers.
Man to watch Jefferson Farfan Prolific Peruvian and former City target, Farfan arrived from PSV Eindhoven this summer for €10million. Also watch for Croatian midfield prospect Ivan Rakitic.

Paris Saint-Germain home, December 3

I was really hoping this was going to be an away game. But we should win this one, and we may need to. One of the most high profile French clubs, they dominated through the 1980s and 1990s but have faded somewhat in recent years. In the 2000-01 season, three future City players: Distin, Anelka and Benarbia played for them. Read into that what you will. Currently rebuilding under Lyon legend and Rangers reject Paul le Guen. This summer he signed two ageing Champions League winners, Claude Makelele and Ludo Giuly.

Last year Almost went down. Finished 16th, with 43 points, only three points abouve 18th. Only in the UEFA Cup by virtue of winning the French Coupe de Ligue (no prizes for translating). Don't these back door entries de-value the competition..
This year Eleventh, with 11 points from eight games.
Premier League connections Claude Makelele is not the only Chelsea legend at the Parc des Princes. They also have Serbian tatto-fetishist Mateja Kezman.
One to watch Clement Chantome. Arsene Wenger is allegedly very interested in the 21 year old 'new Deschampes'.

Racing Santander away, December 18

I hope we will have tied up the necessary five (six to be safe) points by the time of this game. Seemingly the Wigan Athletic of Spain, having literally never won anything. But they finished sixth in La Liga last year, and could well be a difficult proposition in Spain. Despite being one week before Christmas, I'm sure there will be a vocal City contingent at the 22,000 seater Estadio el Sardinero.

Last year A very impressive sixth place, with 60 points. Only four points fewer than Sevilla or Atletico Madrid. Their small club status was underlined, however, when coach Marcelino left for relegated Real Zaragoza.
This season so far Five points from six games under new boss Juan Ramón López Muñiz. They are fourteenth in the league.
Premier League connections The least lame answer is that Yossi Benayoun used to play for them.
Man to watch Ezequiel Garay Allegedly a target of both Liverpool and Spurs, Garay played in the same Argentina U-2o side as Messi, Aguero and Zabaleta. Sold to Real Madrid in the summer, but loaned straight back.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Good info but have to take you to task over the "back door entries devaluing the competition" line... Remember how we got in!

Should get something v Twente, PSG and Racing so barring disaster we can look forward to being in Europe after xmas.. Then with new signings, who knows?

PS What's the situation re new players in Jan being cup-tied?