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