What lessons can Europa learn from European campaign?

The fact that Europa FC lost 9-0 to Slovan Bratislava over two legs came as no surprise to anyone – one of the nuances in the first qualifying rounds of European qualifiers is that an unseeded side in the Champions League first qualifying round is likely to get an easier opponent than a team in the Europa League will. However, the 180 minutes played over the course of the last two weeks offered a few key points for Europa to learn ahead of the upcoming season, where they plan to try and challenge the monopoly held over the local game by Lincoln.

Consistency is key within the club

It’s safe to say that consistency and Europa FC do not go hand in hand. Players, managers and other staff have come and gone in what has been one of local football’s quickest conveyor belts. The best example of this would be the home leg against Slovan Bratislava, compared to the home leg against Vaduz last season. Of the 18 man squad named in the Vaduz game, only three players have survived to make the team against Slovan; Matt Cafer, Cristian Toncheff and Aymen Mouelhi. Such a high turnover rate of players does little to help a team gel, with the squad almost starting from scratch each season, and this was evident in the first half at the Victoria, where it felt like 11 strangers gathered together to face a team of professionals who tore them apart.

Unsurprisingly though, a number of new signings have been announced in the last two weeks, including new Head Coaches in David and Dimas Carrasco. If they are still at the club next season, and most of the players currently in pre-season training with Europa actually still belong to the club in 12 months time, that would constitute some progress for a team that has had extra helpings of self inflicted turmoil in recent times.

More local involvement will help them win back some support

Another stark statistic from the squad list in the first leg, and one that did not go unnoticed by the fans who attended the home leg (754 was the official attendance compared to 824 last season against Vaduz) was that there was not a single local player in the eleven that lined up two weeks ago. Compare that to the five who started vs Vaduz (including three current internationals in Jamie Robba, Jamie Bosio and Jamie Coombes) and you can see why people were not as interested in turning up to the Victoria, despite the opposition being of a higher calibre than Santa Coloma were. The ticket prices may have contributed to that too (Lincoln’s cheapest ticket was £5 compared to Europa’s £10, although Europa did offer a children’s ticket which is more than Lincoln did) but in a small place where national pride is massive, retaining some sort of local presence is vital if you want to build a fan base.

While it is true that Lincoln tend to hoover up the best local talent, due to their status in local football as the premier team on the Rock, there is still a lot of talent available that Europa could tap into, and potentially use as cheaper, equally skilled alternatives to some of the foreign players they have imported into their team in recent months. Each team is allowed to have their own approach to transfers, and they should be respected, not hounded for it, but it is fair to say that a club almost entirely full of foreign talent will not win many admirers in Gibraltar.

There’s still a way to go before they catch up with Lincoln

As pointed out in the first paragraph, Europa’s chances of progression were hampered by being paired against far superior, professional opponents in Slovan Bratislava, and nothing about the two games can be a factor when judging the chances Europa have in this season’s Premier Division. However, the Red Imps are still a long way clear of the league’s other representatives, with the gap potentially set to grow further after their victory against Santa Coloma earned them a further six-figure sum to invest back into their day to day running and professionalism.

With Lincoln set to earn around £300,000 more than Europa this season, and Europa in turn making more money than the other eight teams in the league this season from competitions, most predictions for this season would probably have Lincoln winning the league again, with Europa finishing second. The increase to a ten team league makes for a more interesting division, as well as the reintroduction of relegation after a one year absence in order to rebalance the league. Additionally, the recent sale of Lions to Enterprise Insurance CEO Andrew Flowers suddenly makes them a potent threat to the league, with their new owner, previously talked about as making a bid for English team Leeds United, set to turn the team semi-professional and bring in the kind of talent required to challenge for local honours.

There is still a while until the season starts, with most teams currently in the infant stages of their pre-season preparations. The now annual European campaigns are an early opportunity to watch competitive football on the Rock, and should whet people’s excitement levels for what could be one of the most interesting domestic campaigns to date.

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EUROPA PLAYING FOR PRIDE IN BRATISLAVA

Europa FC play their final game of a brief 2015/16 Europa League campaign today as they take on Slovan Bratislava in the First Qualifying Round Second Leg. With Slovan holding a strong 6-0 lead from the first leg in Gibraltar, all Europa have to play for tonight is pride, as well as valuable experience to take into the upcoming domestic season.

The club have already announced changes for after this game; new managers David and Dimas Carrasco will take charge. The brothers have worked in Spain, England and the USA professionally, and will hope to add stability to a team that has been altered too many times in the last 12 months.

It would be expected that Slovan would rotate a few players from the eleven that dismantled Europa, but even so they should prove too much to handle, and are expected to add to their 6-0 aggregate lead so far.

The odds are naturally in favour of Slovan, with the hosts a small 1.015 to win their second leg. A draw for Europa is as high as 21.00, while a monumental shock in the form of a Europa FC win sees odds of 41.00

Whatever the result, Europa can hopefully take a lot out of these last two games, which may stand them in good stead this season.

Football Gibraltar tips:

Slovan Bratislava Highest Scoring Half – 1st half – 2.50

Slovan Bratislava -4.5 – 1.650

Lincoln and College Europa learn their European fates

Today’s UEFA Champions League and Europa League qualifying draws saw Lincoln Red Imps and College Europa draw HB Torshavn and FC Vaduz respectively.

 

Lincoln, who won last season’s league, host Faroese team HB on the 1st/2nd of July, with the return leg being a week later in Torshavn.  HB, who won the 2013 Effodeildin by five points, contain four players who were in the squad for the Faroes 4-1 friendly win versus Gibraltar back in March, including Frodi Benjaminsen who captains both club and country.  With the Faroese league running through the summer, HB will have the advantage of being fully match fit, as their season is currently 14 games old, with HB currently second in the league.

 

The reward for the winners of this game is a match against one time European Cup finalists FK Partizan (they lost 2-1 to Real Madrid in the 1966 final).

 

College Europa, as Gibraltar’s sole entrant in the Europa League after finishing runners up in the Rock Cup, travel to Liechtenstein to face Vaduz, who play in the Swiss league due to Liechtenstein’s lack of a league system.  Vaduz will play in the Swiss Super League this season after winning the second division, and have won the Liechtenstein Cup (which provides the country with its sole European representative) 18 times in the last 20 years.  The Liechtensteiner’s will be in the closing stages of their pre-season, with the Swiss Super League starting on the 19th July.  Recent Gibraltarian representation in Liechtenstein were the national under 16 team, who went there for a UEFA development tournament back in April.

 

Should College advance past Vaduz, they would face Ruch Chorzow of Poland in the next round.  The 14 time Polish champions came 3rd in last seasons Ekstraklasa behind Legia Warsaw and Lech Poznan.

 

The order of home and away fixtures can be reversed if both teams agree to it, and this will be announced at some point in the next day or so.

 

The Champions League games are on the 1st/2nd of July and 8th/9th July, with the Europa League games being on the 3rd and 10th of July.  Ticket details are scheduled to be announced tomorrow by the GFA.

Gibraltar allocated one Champions League and one Europa League qualifying place

Next season, Gibraltar shall see a team playing in both the Champions League and Europa League qualifying stages, after UEFA made their decision on how many places to allocate to Gib.

 

This will see both the Champions of this season’s Premier Division, and either the Rock Cup winner, or the second place team (up to the GFA to decide) enter the Champions League and Euorpa League first qualifying rounds respectively.

 

Whilst it is most likely Lincoln that will win this season’s league, and take the Champions League spot, the Europa League spot could go a number of teams, especially if it is the Rock Cup winners who gain the qualifying spot.  Needless to say, the domestic competitions this season have been given an extra bit of excitement to them today.

 

UEFA to decide on Gibraltar’s European allocations this month

UEFA, at their Executive Committee in Croatia on the 19th and 20th September, will decide how many qualification berths will be given to Gibraltarian teams in next seasons Champions League and Europa League.

One of several items on UEFA’s agenda, the allocation of places to Gibraltar will give clubs an idea of where they have to finish if they want to stand of chance of playing in Europe next season.

At most, Gibraltar will get one Champions League spot, and two Europa League spots, in line with other smaller nations such as San Marino and Andorra. Those teams would enter at the first qualifying round of their respective competitions.

The one Champions League spot would be allocated to this season’s Premier Division winner, whilst the two Europa League spots could either be allocated to the second and third place Premier Division teams, or the second placed Premier Division team and the Rock Cup winner.

If the Rock Cup winner is already qualified for Europe due to league position, the place would go back to the third place team, or the runner up of the Rock Cup (the GFA choose how Europa League spots are allocated)

All qualifying clubs would have to achieve a UEFA license before being allowed to compete in the Champions or Europa League. Failure to do so would lead to qualifying spots being given to the next highest ranking team with such a license.