Cup draws and Giant killing glory

A week apart we see Cup dynamics and draws take shape. Last week it was the FA Cup Third round draw, that brought dreams of giant killing for several clubs together with moneys pinning tv opportunities. Then yesterday it was the Champions League and Europa League draws. Another road to glory as well as fallout for those finishing third in their respective Champions League groups and then thrown into the Europa League.

On a personal note, even though it now gives qualification to the following seasons Champions League, I have never understood why the teams that finish third in their Champions League group find themselves parachuted into the Europa League. Surely if a team isn’t good enough to finish in the top two and qualify for the knockout stages, why should it be rewarded with another opportunity of glory, especially as now the winners of the Europa League will qualify for the following seasons Champions League

Back to the FA Cup though and last Monday we saw the draw for the third round and the big boys enter the draw. I would imagine like most Premier League club fans, the thought of being drawn against another Premier League rival so early in the competition would bring brief sighs and the shaking of heads. Then of course for some teams the idea of being on the other end of a giant killing would be something far from wanted.

The draw though did produce some plum ties for giant killing. AFC Wimbledon not only got a home draw against Liverpool, but their tie was selected for live BBC coverage. Conference side Dover Athletic found themselves in a great position for a chance to knock out a Premier League team. They were drawn at home to Crystal Palace. For them on top of Premier League opposition, they will be on a BT sport.

Blyth Spartans, who overcame Hartlepool United, were rewarded with a home tie against Birmingham City. Having showed no fear in their visit to Hartlepool, they will no doubt be rubbing their hands with glee at the chance of another FA Cup upset.

Conference side Southport face a tougher challenge in their bid to make the fourth round. They will have to overcome Derby County, who are doing well in the Championship. Of course though it’s a whole different mindset when it comes to the Cup. If you dont win or get a replay, there are no second chances, there’s no bounce back next week etc.

The full FA Cup fixture list can be found at http://www.bbc.co.uk/sport/football/fa-cup/fixtures.

The FA Cup wasn’t the only draw to take place, yesterday saw the Champions League and Europa League knockout stage draws take place. The remaining English sides had mixed draws. Premier League Champions Manchester City found themselves with the toughest draw after being paired with Barcelona. Barcelona are not the invincible team they once were although I would imagine that City would have to go real far to knock the Spaniards out. Chelsea find themselves with a tricky draw against high-flying Paris Saint Germain. The French wont be pushovers and they will be coming face to face with David Luiz for the first time since he left Chelsea back in the Summer. The London club have only lost once so far this season and PSG will be looking to increase the number of defeats suffered.

The remaining English club in the Champions League, were Arsenal. Their fans might well be thinking that they could make the final if the draw continues in this manner. Monaco who are currently sixth in the French League will be hoping themselves that they can progress to the next round after avoiding the big guns as well. Arsenal will consider themselves the favourites having had the more trickier group to get through.

The Europa League sees a contingent of English teams together with Celtic representing Scotland in the first knock out stage. Celtic will play Inter Milan in what will be a repeat of the 1967 European Cup final. The final of course which saw the first British club to win the European competition. The Italians will be hoping to have improved in the league by the time they face Celtic. The team managed by Roberto Mancini find themselves lying in twelfth and sixteen points from the top spot, may find this as their only route to European football next season if things don’t pick up. Another two sides facing each other in European competition once more are Liverpool and Besiktas. The Turkish team will be hoping that they avoid a repeat of their last visit to Anfield, when they were on the receiving end of an 8-0 thrashing. Given Liverpool’s season so far and that of Besiktas, it is very unlikely that history will be repeating itself in such grand scale. The other English representatives, Everton and Tottenham, find themselves facing opposition for the first time in their history (competitive that is). The blue half of Merseyside face Swiss club FC Young Boys and Tottenham taking on Fiorentina, who are eighth in Serie A. Given that a top four finish for either Everton, Spurs or Liverpool would be unlikely, the much maligned Europa League would be the best opportunity for the English trio to qualify for next seasons Champions League.

The full Europa League draw can be found here http://www1.skysports.com/football/competitions/europa-league/fixtures

Wembley Dreams

So the FA Cup second round is here and with the opening game of the round, non league Blyth Spartans opened up with a victory against league strugglers Hartlepool. Despite going a goal behind the lowly Spartans came back and rode their luck. A cracking free kick and a deflected winner saw the visitors cause an upset and earn themselves the opportunity of a big money shot at a Premier League club in the third round draw. That wasnt all for the defeated Hartlepool, despite only being in the job since October, they sacked manager Paul Murray.

The magic of the FA Cup continued on its very own Super Sunday. There were ten FA Cup ties taking place with several non league sides hoping to make the third round draw. Two non league teams were guaranteed a place in the third round draw when they were paired together. Gateshead hosted Warrington Town and it was the home side who were dreaming of plum ties against Chelsea, Liverpool, Arsenal and Manchester United. It seemed one round too far for the visitors whose home is more noted for the game of rugby league. In the all conference tie, Southport were the victors in a close game against struggling Eastleigh. The result saw the north west side emerge 2-1 winners.

For one club the FA Cup seems to have invigorated the team in the league. Kent coast team Dover Athletic have seemed to have bounced back since progressing in the competition. Before the 4th round qualifying tie against Eastbourne Borough, the side had a record of won 4 drawn 1 lost 6 F14 A 14 13 pts. This run had see four straight defeats. Since the FA Cup run, the team who play at home at the Crabble have a league record of won 4 drawn 3 lost 0 F15 A7. Im sure whilst they would welcome one of the big guns, a game at the Crabble against any of the teams would do wonders for their league run and notably finances. Should they get a good draw, they could even find themselves with a live tv game. The appearance of Dover in the FA Cup third round draw, will be their second appearance in four years at that stage.

Conference north side Worcester City, ensured their place in the third round was still alive after they held League One Scunthorpe to a 1-1 draw at the league sides ground. City will be hoping that they can cause problems for the team managed by one time cup star Mark Robins in the replay. Should they overcome Scunthorpe, another big pay day is on the cards for the non league side. Aldershot who beat Portsmouth in the previous round will be hoping to add Rochdale to the scalp list in the replay. Aldershot held the league side to a 0-0 draw and will be looking to cause an upset at Rochdale’s ground. Chester will be hoping to cause an upset against League One Barnsley after also securing a 0-0 draw. The non league visitors came very close to causing another upset and will hope to do so when they host Barnsley.

Seven games will see replays with all those involved notably being spurred on by the outcome of the third round draw. No club in the second round will want to go out with it being so close to the entry of the big guns. Come 7pm, the time will be here for the big one. Which Premier League clubs could draw the non league opposition, who would be at risk of cup humiliation and could there be third round all Premier League tie. I guess we will just have to wait and see.

The draw takes place on BBC2 from 7pm tonight.

Owners, referees, Ballon D’or

Leeds United fans must wonder when everything will be alright again. If its not the coming and going of managers, this time it’s the owner. Italian Massimo Cellino has been disqualified from owning the club due to failing the League’s fit and proper ownership test. Paper work that had been acquired by the League had shown the Italian to be guilty of tax evasion. He had received a heavy fine from the Italian court back in March. This had lead to the Football League blocking his takeover. This was over ruled by an independent QC. Some might now be saying ‘we told you so’. Of course it doesnt end there as the Italian, it is likely that he will appeal this decision. Should he lose, he will be back in March when the punishment will have been served. That of course will help neither the club or the fans who just want to see football being the centre of the club news and not ownership battles or manager sackings. It is a sad time for Leeds United who found themselves relegated from the Premier League in 2007 and plunged into administration. This is a club of course that had seen a few glory days under the management of Don Revie in the 1960’s and 70’s.

Man City were robbed of an early penalty opportunity after Sergio Aguero was brought down in the area. The referee though was having none of it and opted to show the Argentinian a yellow card for simulation. It would seem that maybe past history was on the mind of the official when he made that decision. Sadly though it should be the moment in the match that the referee makes his decision on. It would of course have been no different to that of one Luis Suarez who often found himself missing out on legitimate free kicks and penalties all because of his diving intent.

It’s the start of December and in football that means its Ballon D’or time or more commonly known as the Messi & Ronaldo club. Cristiano Ronaldo is the current holder as we wait to hear the announcement. Last year Franck Ribery came third ending the Spain & Barcelona dominance for the previous three years. The third place for the 2014 award is likely to go to Manuel Neur of Bayern Munich and Germany. It will be the first time since 2002 that a German has finished in the top three, back when it was the World Footballer of The Year. That year was also a German goalkeeper in the form of Oliver Kahn, who also played for Bayern Munich. With Messi still only 27 and Ronaldo 29, it would appear only an injury to either player would prevent them battling for the top honour.

Newcastle United find themselves without keeper Tim Krul for six weeks. The Dutchman suffered ankle ligament damage in pre match training. The Toon’s good start has seen them rise to ninth despite the regular discontent from the fans. The injury to Krul is also one of the last things that Pardew requires as he already has several key players out with injury. Interesting times lay ahead for Magpies.