Thursday, September 16, 2010


Along with many others I was very sceptical about the competition last year, especially the number of matches required and early start to the season that involved, with losing finalist Fulham playing 19 times between July and May . But I think everyone was a little surprised by the money up for grabs and a big name club from one of the major television markets could potentially pick up 20m euros and significantly raise their worldwide profile.

With so many clubs struggling financially, few are going to want to tell the money men that they rested players for this competition and put progress at risk,because they have league fixture number 9 of 38 in four days time !

Therefore, I think almost every club will be taking the competition seriously. For example, Liverpool have little chance of a top 4 finish in the EPL , have a coach who loves the competition, are £500 million in debt and looking to attract investment, how are they not going to be highly motivated ? The same is true to some degree or other for almost all the others and whilst it lacks the glamour of the Champions League, at least we now have a valid alternative. Of course, that does not make it any easier to pick a winner, but at least you can be fairly confident that you are on a "trier".

Having said all that, the fixtures tonight do not excite me greatly, butI can pass on a small interest .....


Hosts are viewing this as a very big game, going as far as to describe it as "the first dawn of their international age" on the club website. It is the first time they have directly qualified for a european tournament in 15 years and their very loyal supporters have bought into the dream, with over 50,000 tickets already sold for this evening. The group is tough and with a trip to Steaua up next followed by home and away games with Liverpool, the Azzurri are viewing three points against the dutch side as vital. Utrecht are poor travellers and have already lost 2-0 at Celtic, 4-0 at Twente and 1-0 away to Groningen in the last month, they have no history of european success, little experience of the kind of atmosphere they will face this evening and will be looking to pick up most of their points at their homely De Galgenwaard stadium. They played a very open style at Celtic Park and the game was stretched almost from kick off, it was a similar story at Twente, where although all four goals came after the hour mark, Utrecht had the woodwork and their keeper to thank for not conceding much earlier and then they could have been looking at a landslide defeat. Napoli are very strong on home soil losing just ten times in 100 starts, winning an incredibly high 57% of those, they like to play on the front foot and to my mind they meet the ideal opponent to kick start that "international age".

Napoli -1.25 2.16 .

Good Luck.

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