Friday, August 1, 2008

Manchester City Draws FC Midtjylland, Aston Villa Draws FH in UEFA Cup Second Qualifying Round

The draw for the UEFA Cup Second Qualifying Round was conducted this morning, and the two English clubs involved at this stage in the competition couldn't have come away happier. Both should defeat their respective Scandinavian opponents and advance to the First Round without too much difficulty.

After seeing off EB/Streymur in the last round, Manchester City will open this tie at home against FC Midtjylland. The Danish club finished second in their domestic league last season and have 4 points after 2 games so far in the '08-'09 campaign. Here in the US, they're most well-known for having former LA Galaxy and San Jose Earthquakes defender Danny Califf on the roster. Califf has carved out a nice career for himself in Denmark, having just moved to Midtjylland after spending two seasons at Aalborg BK, where he was the captain and and played in an Intertoto Cup with the club. He's played both of Midtjylland's games so far and has 20 caps for the US National Team.

Aside from Califf, there's no real recognizable name unless you're a fan of the club or the Danish Superliga. Three players on the roster, including Califf, have represented their countries at the senior level, and five Nigerians can be found on the first team.

As I said earlier, City should progress with relative comfort. Mark Hughes would like his side to effectively end the tie in Manchester before going to Denmark for the return game, so expect him to field a full-strength side on August 14 in the first leg.

Villa is coming off a 3-2 aggregate victory against pesky Odense BK, another Danish side, in the Third Round of the Intertoto Cup. Their 1-0 second leg victory was marred by a horrific injury to left back Wilfred Bouma, who looks likely to miss the first half of the upcoming Premiership season with a dislocated ankle.

Their opponent in this tie is Icelandic club FH, short for Fimleikafélag Hafnarfjarðar (you can see why no one uses their full name!). They finished 2nd in the 2007 Úrvalsdeild Karla, Iceland's top flight, season, and sit on top of the league by a point this year after 13 of 22 games. Because of Iceland's harsh winter climate, the league schedule runs from May to September, so FH will be in full form against a Villa side just getting the new season underway.

That advantage still won't be enough for FH, however. The club is comprised solely of Icelandic players outside of two Danes, and needed a 5-1 victory in the second leg just to put away CS Grevenmacher from Luxembourg in the First Qualifying Round. Villa has the quality to finish this thing up in the first game. With the small first team roster that Martin O'Neill has right now, I wouldn't doubt that he'll use a number of backups and young players in the second leg if the end result isn't in doubt.

Villa and FH have both requested the order of games to be switched; right now, the first leg would be played at Villa Park with the return match at Kaplakriki, which holds 6000 spectators but seats only 2200. According to a press release on Villa's official website, "both clubs must now speak to their individual football associations before making a formal request (to swap home games) to UEFA."

Here's the complete draw, with all first legs to be played August 14 and the second legs played exactly two weeks later on the 28th. Teams listed first are home first:

Southern-Mediterranean Region
Široki Brijeg vs. Beşiktaş
Braga vs. Zrinjski Mostar
Lokomotiv Sofia vs. Borac Čačak
Vojvodina vs. Hapoel Tel Aviv
Aris Thessaloniki vs. Slaven Belupo
Litex Lovech vs. Ironi Kiryat Shmona
Deportivo vs. Hajduk Split
APOEL vs. Red Star Belgrade
Vllaznia Shkodër vs. Napoli
Maccabi Netanya vs. Cherno More
Omonia vs. AEK Athens

Central-East Region
Liepājas Metalurgs vs. Vaslui
Zürich vs. Sturm Graz
Stuttgart vs. Győri ETO
Lech Poznań vs. Grasshopper
Slovan Liberec vs. MŠK Žilina
WIT Georgia vs. Austria Wien
Young Boys vs. Debrecen
Legia Warsaw vs. FC Moscow
Dnipro Dnipropetrovsk vs. Bellinzona
Interblock Ljubljana vs. Hertha BSC
Sūduva vs. Red Bull Salzburg

Northern Region
Djurgården vs. Rosenborg
Queen of the South vs. Nordsjælland
Gent vs. Kalmar
Manchester City vs. FC Midtjylland
Honka vs. Viking FK
Haka vs. Brøndby
Stabæk vs. Rennes
Copenhagen vs. Lillestrøm
Elfsborg vs. St. Patrick's Athletic
Aston Villa vs. FH

The 32 winners from this round will advance to the First Round, in which they'll join the 32 teams that are already entered and the 16 losers in the Champions League Third Qualifying Round. The draw for the First Round will be made on August 29, and you can find full coverage of that here on English Soccer Talk.

No comments: