18 June 2009

The Obligatory Football Post

You thought the football season was over, didn't you? Well, it is, but preparations for the new one are underway, and we therefore await the draw for the first two Qualifying Rounds of the Champions' League and Europa League.

For Rangers, winning the League made things simple: their prize is an automatic place in the Group Stage, where the likelihood is that Pot 3 beckons for the Group Stage Draw at the end of August, unless three teams from Arsenal, Lyon, Shakhtar Donetsk, Sporting Lisbon and Panathinaikos get knocked out in the Qualifiers, in which case, Pot 2 becomes a possibility.

For Celtic, their final-day failure makes things complicated. And difficult. They enter the Third Qualifying Round, in which they will be seeded. However, as UEFA have split domestic league winners from lower-placed teams in stronger leagues, their pool of opponents is reduced to five teams: Sparta Prague, Steve "Schtop, schtop, thish acschent ish not ready yet" McClaren's Twente Entschede, Dinamo Moscow, FC Timisoara and Sivasspor.

If they are unfortunate enough to lose that tie, they go into the Europa League Play-offs, where they'll probably be seeded. If they win their Third Qualifying Round tie, however, they go into the Champions' League Play-offs, where they will not be seeded under any circumstances. They could face Arsenal or Lyon. Other possible opponents are Shakhtar, Sporting or Panathinaikos. If they get knocked out in the Third Qualifying Round, VfB Stuttgart, Fiorentina and Atletico Madrid are the next teams in line to be seeded. Celtic do not get a look-in.

If, by some miracle, they do win this tie, they'll probably go into Pot 3 for the Champions' League Group Draw. Pot 2 isn't a mathematical impossibility, but it is highly improbable, and there would have to be a lot of upsets. If they lose, they go into the draw for the Europa League Group Stage instead, and they'll probably end up in Pot 2.

For Hearts, their third place gives them a spot in the Play-off Round of the Europa League. Unfortunately for them, however, they won't be seeded, so possible opponents include, but are not limited to, UEFA Cup Runners-Up Werder Bremen, Villarreal, Zenit St. Petersburg and Benfica, but that's only the tip of the iceberg: there are 38 potential opponents, many of which we can't yet identify and won't be able to until the Qualifying Rounds start. If they get through that, they'll go into the Group Stage but they'll more than likely end up in Pot 4.

Meanwhile, Aberdeen sneaking fourth place gets them a spot in the Europa League Third Qualifying Round, where they will be seeded. They have 35 potential opponents (well, assuming that Falkirk and Motherwell a) get there and b) aren't seeded, 33) coming from countries such as Serbia, Israel, Cyprus, Sweden, Slovakia, the Republic of Ireland, Slovenia, Poland, Croatia and Finland. Assuming they win that tie, they go into the Play-off and aren't seeded. If they do get into the Groups, they too are probably going to end up in Pot 4. Mind you, an awful, awful seeding didn't pose that big a problem for them in the 2007-08 campaign under Jimmy Calderwood.

Falkirk's Cup run gets them a place in the Second Qualifying Round, where they will be seeded, with any one of 40 possible opponents coming from places such as Belarus, Bosnia, Hungary, Georgia, Moldova or Iceland. And whatever happens, they will go into the hat for the Third Qualifying Round as the draw for that tie takes place between the first and second legs of the Second Qualifying Round. Therefore, we know already that Falkirk will not be seeded in the subsequent game (assuming they get to play it). They have 39 possible opponents (they can't meet Aberdeen), including AS Roma, Hamburg, PSV Eindhoven and, closer to home, Fulham.

Meanwhile, they say that nice guys don't win football games, and perhaps Motherwell's failure to get into the Top Six last season proved that. However, they were rewarded for their pleasantness with a UEFA Fair-Play League place in the Europa League First Qualifying Round, in which they will be seeded: possible opponents come from the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, Azerbaijan, Estonia, Albania, Kazakhtan, Armenia, Wales, Northern Ireland, the Faroe Islands, Luxembourg, Montenegro and Malta. As the draws for the First and Second Qualifying Rounds take place on the same day, we know that Motherwell will be seeded should they win, but, like Falkirk, will not be seeded for the Third Qualifying Round draw.

So for Scottish football fans, the competitive football season begins in less than two weeks, on 2 July, when Motherwell play their first match. How time flies!

PS I should, of course, credit Bert Kassies for this, who does all the hard work so schmucks like me can just take a look at it without having to work it all out for themselves...


naldo said...

Jaysus, 2 weeks til i start acting like an irrational phud again. How depressing.

I wish fitba, like the mobile phone, could be disinvented.

Will said...

Never wish for that, naldo... just imagine a world without football. What on earth would we do with our weekends? And midweek nights?

Good grief, the boredom...

BellgroveBelle said...

Thanks for remembering Motherwell are there too! I'm hoping for somewhere I can get to without a visa or a hostage situation. I also hope my passport arrives in time.

I hear we've got a friendly against your mob...

Will said...

To be honest, I sort of hope you end up playing Okzhetpes Kokshetau. The trip to Kazakhstan won't be much fun, but listening to the commentators make a dog's breakfast of the name will provides me with lots of entertainment... ;)

Hopefully Bob'll have his team together by the time we meet in the friendly (8 August)!

naldo said...

Will, maybe we'd do something healthy and thoughtful with our time instead of getting drunk and worked up about something that make no material difference to our lives whatsoever.

I've been a Jambo since as long as i could think and as i've got older i've realised what a lot of pish it is. Cannae stop it though. Aaaaargh!