Thursday, August 19, 2010

SPL In Europe: Terrible Trio

Time once again for our clubs to roll up their sleeves and embark on yet another march towards European respectability.

Dundee United's forays into Europe have been sporadic of late. The memories of great European nights linger but a defeat to MyPa 47 in 2005 has been the solitary new entry in United's continental history in the past decade. This, remember, is a club that as late as 1987 could consider itself a contender in European competition.

Tonight United will need to rely on memories and passion rather any depth of European experience in a match against AEK Athens that looks daunting. With the home tie first United will be keen to put on show. The reality is that they have to stay close enough to AEK to keep the away leg alive.

I'll start on a downer: I can't see anyway United will progress from this tie. I hope I'm wrong but I suspect that they'll be all but out of the tournament by full time this evening.

Motherwell's third European tie of the still young season begins in Denmark. I said at the time that the draw was as good as Craig Brown could have hoped for.

Not that Odense are going to be a pushover. Far from it. But they looked to be less daunting than others in the draw and Brown will be looking for a tight performance tonight, with an away goal as a bonus, to give his side every chance in the return at Fir Park.

A simple plan, far easier to talk about or write about than to execute. They'll certainly need to cope better defensively than they did against Hibs in the second half on Sunday.

But I've got a feeling they might just manage it. A 1-1 draw would be a commendable result but it's certainly not an impossible one.

Finally Celtic's Europa League parachute has landed them in a tie against Utrecht. The Dutch side are hardly high fliers in either Europe or domestically. A seventh placed finish in the Eredivisie - European qualification came through a play off win - is not the stuff of legends.

Celtic should be looking at ties such as this with caution, treating the opponents with respect and then beating them. Unfortunately that rarely seems to happen these days and I suspect Neil Lennon's players might struggle a bit tonight.

Playing at home first is little comfort and they could be left with a mountain to climb when they travel to Holland. Everything could, of course, click. Celtic could be excellent, Utrecht could be a ramshackle mess. It seems unlikely though.

It's a difficult one to call, I think it will be one goal win and I think Celtic will concede. So I'll be extremely optimistic and say Celtic to win 2-1.

I'll probably be wrong though.

A comprehensive guide to Utrecht at GibFootballShow.

Annoying that with three teams in action we're not being treated to any television coverage. The BBC should be taking a long hard look at themselves.