Friday, August 06, 2010

SPL in Europe: Draws

UEFA get on my goat. They really do.

Celtic, not SPL champion's, get knocked out of the Champion's League. Their reward for losing is to be seeded in the Europa League play-off round.

Motherwell get through two rounds, not the hardest of ties but tricky and requiring some negotiation, and don't get seeded.

Yes, fair enough, Celtic are stronger and had actually got themselves into the Champion's League qualifiers.

But until UEFA stop pimping the integrity of their competitions to best suit the bank accounts of the biggest clubs they should give up any pretence of these being great sporting events.

The governing body are continually diluting both the worth and quality of both their tournaments. And they should be ashamed of themselves. Yes, Platini, I'm aiming this accusing stare at you.

Anyway, the millionaires orgy, the rewarding of mediocrity, the administrative trick of turning defeat into something positive goes on.

Which means that big fat losers Celtic, Euro cavaliers Motherwell and not played yet Dundee United found out their play off opposition at lunchtime today.

Motherwell will play Odense, a trip to Denmark continuing their Scandic odyssey. Probably as good draw as they could have hoped for. Craig Brown certainly seems to think so:

"It's accessible for the fans and it's not too far to travel. I would hope it's an even game," said Brown.

"Some of the other teams like Manchester City were much more formidable than Odense.

"I have no complaints, the draw has been reasonably kind to us."


But has the draw been kind? Aye an' naw. It's an easier tie than they could have had. But it's hardly a debt busting glamour clash.

It's a good draw if they progress. If they lose, not so much. Nae pressure then boys.

Dundee United face AEK Athens. Not easy that. Home game first, away leg second. Tough.

And Celtic's prize for losing to the Portugese runners-up is a clash with Utrecht, the seventh best side in Holland last season.

Utrechtian (made that word up, by the way) defender Alje Schut was effusive as he greeted the draw:

“It is a fantastic draw,” Schut told Voetbal International. “Beforehand, we hoped to get a big opponent like Liverpool, Celtic or Borussia Dortmund."

Which might be a problem for Celtic. Schut has warned Neil Lennon's men not to underestimate the Dutch side. But if Utrecht over-estimate Celtic's strength then what should be a winnable tie could become a touch uncomfortable.

So all three miss out on the sort of "big" team fixtures that UEFA use to distract us from their dastardly plan to strip football of everything that makes it great.

But from those three ties we can say that one team in the Europa League group stages is achievable. Two teams is not impossible. That would be that rarest of treasures: a positive development in Scottish football.

Of course, if we end up with none then it will be time for the wailing and hollering that we're all much more used to.

*Ties to be played on August 19th and 26th.