Thursday, August 23, 2012

Europa League: Motherwell v Levante

Edinburgh might be hosting one of the most decorated teams in Europe this evening but Lanarkshire has the romance.

An unfashionable side that battled back from financial trauma and turned last season into an unlikely success story.

But that's enough about Motherwell...

Actually there are similarities between Motherwell and their visitors Levante.

Both have discovered that money can be a cruel footballing mistress, both weathered those storms and recovered.

Both surprised their leagues last season and got their continental rewards: Motherwell with a Champions League debut and Levante with their first ever appearance in European competition.

The weather's better in Valencia though.

European new boys they might be but the experts are falling into line behind Levante. Not much money to be made betting on an away win in this one.

The consensus seems to be that finishing sixth in La Liga is more of an achievement than finishing third in the SPL.

Cheeky buggers.

To combat this Stuart McCall is considering a "Scottish" approach.

Tactics the staff of President Josiah Bartlett might call "let fitba' be fitba'." Probably.

Not, perhaps, Motherwell's normal game. But if you can't beat them, join them. And if you still can't beat them, leave them and try to beat them the old way again.

What McCall will want is the sort of ferocious European night that grounds across Scotland used to reverberate to.

It won't please the purists who think we should have moved on - we should have - but a rumbustiously crowd-pleasing night has its attractions.

The catch, with Scottish football there is forever a catch, is that we weren't always successful playing that way. And our opponents seem to have leapt forward with more vigour and more conviction than we have managed.

Yet Levante's cherry popping European appearance plays on my mind.

Will the untested tourists just want to drop in to Motherwell, be quietly cagey and get the party back to their place as quickly as possible?

If that's the case then Motherwell hurling blood and guts their way could give them an uncomfortable night.

Not the fashionable way to do things. But when have Motherwell ever worried about being trendy?

Still a big ask though. Motherwell's aggregate score across their last four European match is 8-1 against without a goal scored at home.

Levante have been quick to pay their respects to their opponents but they'll be cheered that their European baptism of fire is in this particular furnace.

Even when the unfashionable collide, they split up into the haves and the have nots.

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