Wednesday, July 2, 2008

Manchester City Draws EB/Streymur in UEFA Cup First Qualifying Round

The draw for the first qualifying round of the 2008-2009 UEFA Cup took place yesterday, which ordinarily wouldn't have much significance at least as this site is concerned. This time around, though, an English club will be taking part.

Manchester City are playing in this competition based on their exemplary fair play record last season, not through their league position, and thus will have to start from the very beginning. Aston Villa likely will enter in the second qualifying round (they will if they advance out of the Intertoto Cup, which they should), and Tottenham, Portsmouth, and Everton all begin their respective campaigns in the first round, which is the group stage.

New manager Mark Hughes, who confirmed today's signing of Brazilian striker Jô for a club record transfer fee (officially, it's undisclosed but most sources are indicating a price of $38 million dollars), has very little time to get used to his surroundings, the club, and his players. The first leg of the tie will be played in about two weeks, on July 17, with the second leg two weeks later on July 31. His team will be on the road first, giving them the advantage of hosting the pivotal second leg, not that they'll need it.

City's opponent?

EB/Streymur, who is currently 10-2-1 and in first place in the Formuladeildin, more commonly known as the Faroe Islands Premier League. They finished second last year to powerhouses NSÍ Runavík. EB/Streymur's stadium holds only 1000 people, yes, 1000, and it is located in the northern half of a twin-village (Hvalvík is the southern village) with a combined population of just over 400. It is on the eastern coast of Streymoy, the largest and most populated island in the Faroe chain.

I know absolutely nothing about the team's roster except for the fact that as of June 23, it boasted three players from the Faroe Islands national team, so take what you will from that.

The first leg won't be played at EB/Streymur's own stadium; according to the club's director, it will take place in either Toftir or Tórshavn, the nation's capital. Both cities have stadiums with seating capacities of 6000, and there's no doubt the match will be sold out and a relatively raucous atmosphere (at least as far as that country goes) will await Mark Hughes and his men.

The second leg won't be played at Manchester City's own stadium either. Barnsley's 23,000-seat Oakwell will host that game as the City of Manchester Stadium is undergoing field maintenance, including a relaid surface, after a recent Bon Jovi concert and other events held there this summer.

Here's the complete first qualifying round draw, with its ties scheduled for July 17 and 31. It's made up primarily of sides you've probably never heard of, unless of course you support that team or follow the leagues in which these teams play. The team listed first plays at home first:

Southern-Mediterranean Region
Cherno More vs. Sant Julià
Pelister vs. APOEL
Vaduz vs. Zrinjski Mostar
Široki Brijeg vs. Partizani
Hapoel Ironi KS vs. Mogren
Koper vs. Vllaznia Shkodër
Interblock Ljubljana vs. Zeta
Juvenes/Dogana vs. Hapoel Tel Aviv
Hajduk Split vs. Birkirkara
Milano vs. Omonia
Marsaxlokk vs. Slaven Belupo

Central-East Region
Red Bull Salzburg vs. Banants Yerevan
Győri ETO vs. Zestaponi
Ararat Yerevan vs. Bellinzona
Dacia Chişinău vs. Borac Čačak
Tobol vs. Austria Wien
Hertha BSC vs. Nistru Otaci
Khazar Lenkoran vs. Lech Poznań
Legia Warsaw vs. Gomel
Spartak Trnava vs. WIT Georgia
MTZ-RIPO vs. MŠK Žilina
Shakhter Karagandy vs. Debrecen
Olimpik Baku vs. Vojvodina

Northern Region
FH vs. Grevenmacher
Vėtra vs. Viking
Racing vs. Kalmar
Honka vs. Akranes
Glentoran vs. Liepājas Metalurgs
Brøndby vs. B36 Tórshavn
Nordsjælland vs. TVMK
EB/Streymur vs. Manchester City
Olimps vs. St Patrick's Athletic
Djurgården vs. Flora Tallinn
Sūduva vs. The New Saints
Cliftonville vs. Copenhagen
Cork City vs. Haka 17
Midtjylland vs. Bangor City

Realistically, Manchester City should have no problem whatsoever advancing, and I'll go for a 6 or 7-0 aggregate scoreline. The draw for the second qualifying round, which already has 16 entrants, takes place August 1.

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