Motherwell's Champions League opponents
Updated Wednesday, 23rd May 2012
After a few weeks of waiting we now know our potential opponents in the Champions League third qualifier. Who do we fancy from this lot?
Dynamo Kiev are probably the most famous name of the quartet and would be incredibly tough opponents. They have a clutch of championships and cups from when they played in the USSR and have been similarly successful in the Ukrainian football system. Their biggest achievements were winning two Cup Winners Cups and though they have recently been usurped by the emergence of Shaktar Donetsk, they remain one of the strongest sides in the country.
Lobanovskyi Dynamo Stadium
They were the team of Blokhin and Shevchenko and play in the rather modest Lobanovskyi stadium, named after their legendary manager, though bigger matches are moved to the national arena. A trip here would also include a sighting of a monument to the semi-mythical 1942 'death match' between FC Start and the Nazi occupying forces. Getting here is not impossible and could involve flying Wizz Air from Luton or a train journey of epic proportions from one several central European cities.
Fenerbahçe would give us the bizarre opportunity to play a European tie in Asia. They have 18 Turkish championships, several cups but, more interestingly play on the far side of the Bosphorus. Istanbul is a fascinating place and is one of the biggest cities in the world (depending on definition!) but while Motherwell fans would never forget being there, it is a place which would require caution.
The Turks are a friendly and social people but while alcohol is freely available, this is not a place to be out of control. Beyond that, jokes about religion and their country are to be avoided. On the bright side, kebabs and food in general is excellent and very affordable. Like Kiev, going directly would prove expensive but those with time to spare could go via any one of several wonderful places. You could even make the journey on the route of the Orient Express!
Panathinaikos are by some distance the second most successful team in Greece and a trip here would be a magnificent experience. They do have their own modest stadium but for European games they play in the vast Olympic Stadium in Athens. Any 'Well fans who want tickets for the away leg would be welcome to ten. Despite trailing rivals Olympiakos (with whom they compete in the awesomely named derby of the eternal enemies) in terms of domestic honours, they have been the most successful Greek side on the European stage. They lost out to the legendary Ajax in the 1971 European Cup final and reached the semi finals of Europe's premier club competition on two further occasions.
Olympic Stadium Athens
They have 20 Greek championships and almost as many cup successes but they have triumphed only twice in each tournament since the turn of the century as their power has been on the wane. The squad is largely Greek including wonderkid Sotiris Ninis though there is one face familiar to Motherwell fans in the shape of Jean-Alain Boumsong who has ended up in Athens via Newcastle, Juventus and Lyon having left Rangers in 2005. Athens is accessible by Easyjet from Edinburgh and though also reachable by some international rail routes, these have been suspended due to their financial crisis. Should you fail to hit the direct flight in time to get it cheaply, there are plenty of alternative airports in the country served by Easyjet, Ryanair and a variety of holiday operators.
FC Copenhagen are the Danish dynamite lying in wait for Motherwell and a return to the country of Odense would be warmly welcomed by everyone who made that trip. Danish domestic football is notably stronger than that in neighbouring Sweden and Norway and FCK have substantial experience of European football recently. They even reached the last 16 of the Champions League in 2011 but were pipped by upstarts Nordsjaelland to the 2012 Superliga and now find themselves in the non-champions qualifying path.
Their squad includes several Scandinavians which the media would take great delight in referring to as 'solid' while equally stereotypically flair is provided by a couple of Brazilians and Africans. The team play at the Parken Stadium which with a capacity of nearly 40,000 would surely provide a more than adequate away allocation. Travel to Denmark is possible through Ryanair from Edinburgh and Easyjet via London but the more adventurous could also go via northern Germany with Bremen being an obvious choice.
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