When the news is currently non stop about ways that our country should be leaving Europe (just the EU obviously but it works with the metaphor) there are plenty of football clubs who will be trying their utmost to make it into Europe for next season, some of whom are clubs who rarely get the chance to participate in the qualifiers for either the Champions League or Europa League. So this week I thought I would bring to focus three clubs who look as though they will make such heights, and maybe could be in line to face a certain staunch club from Govan.
Now the obvious club to mention are Getafe, in prime position for the 4th Champions League spot in Spain, but they have been mentioned loads both by me and also the Isco Inferno, available on Heart and Hand for just £3.99, so instead let's look to a different part of Iberia and to a Portuguese club called Moreirense. They currently sit in 5th place in the Liga Nos after their Friday night away win at Portimonense. That put them 3 points clear of current favourites for 5th spot Vitoria Guimaraes, but Guimaraes have a game in hand and have a superior goal difference. With the Portuguese cup Semi Finals being contested by the top 4, 5th place suddenly holds a prize for the "best of the rest" accolade in Portugal, and should Moreirense secure it, it would be another sign of progression after their first major trophy win two seasons ago in the form of the Portuguese League Cup. The only downside is their colour choice...green and white...
Speaking of League Cups, we have a final in France this weekend, and immediately you may suggest that PSG must be in that final and of course they will win this trophy with little fuss right? Wrong! PSG were knocked out in the quarter finals by Guingamp, who are deep in relegation trouble, and they started both Neymar and Mbappe in that match! Guingamp will be contesting the final after defeating Monaco on penalties in the semi's, and will face a much improved Strasbourg side who have dispatched Lille, Marseille, Lyon and Bordeaux on route to the final at the Stade Pierre Mauroy in Lille. Strasbourg have had a relatively mediocre season, but for a club who were demoted to the 5th tier of France after financial difficulties, and who only achieved promotion back to Ligue 1 two seasons ago, things will be looking a lot brighter for their supporters, and a Coupe de la Ligue triumph (their first since 04-05) would rubber stamp tags return. Along with England, France is one of the only countries whose League Cup champions qualify for the Europa League so there is extra kudos for achieving this. For me the favourites are Strasbourg, who have a full back in Kenny Lala who many are tipping to be on his way to one of the big Premier League clubs in the summer, but if Guingamp were to win it then we might have one of those strange quirks where a second tier side could be playing in Europe. That final is on Saturday evening at 20:05 on BT Sport ESPN.
Finally to two sides who regularly make the qualifiers and on the odd occasion have been seen in group stages in Europe, Qarabag and Neftchi Baku of Azerbaijan. This looks like being one of the closest title races in Europe, with 8 games to go both sides have 45 points and only Neftchi's record against Qarabag can separate the teams. There are two reasons why I bring this up. One, there is a fair chance that we will be on our way to Baku after all. Remember, we didn't know nor care how we got there, all we knew was that we were on our way. The other reason is, should the two sides have near similar records till the end of the season, the Azerbaijani fixture calendar has set up a final day of the season show down between Baku and Qarabag, how excellent would that be!?
In terms of what is on the TV this weekend, finally we have our club football back again, we have options for you should you need some different football from what we will all be watching on Sunday at noon.
On Saturday evening at 19:30 on FreeSports, Sampdoria host AC Milan in the Serie A. These two teams have been very fun to watch this season. Samp for their veteran striker and god among men Fabio Quagliarella, and Milan for their resurgence since the turn of the year. Milan will be looking to bounce back after the disappointment of losing the Milan derby (which many predicted they would win fairly comfortably) whilst Sampdoria still have the feint hope of reaching Europa League qualification. This is also a fairly staunch derby, Souness v Wilkins springs to mind. One things I would predict is goals, Quag and Piatek in the same game is rather tantalising.
On Sunday, depending on how the Old Firm goes, you might fancy sticking on Premier Sports 1 at 15:45 to watch one of the biggest games in The Netherlands, when Ajax host PSV Eindhoven at the Johan Cruyff Arena. On the most recent Hangover I talked to Amsterdam resident Lewis Wardrope about Ajax and their current exciting squad who are in the Champions League quarter finals, but on the domestic front they are finding things a bit tougher. 5 points behind leaders PSV, they have struggled to pull together the consistency they need to properly keep pace with the Eindhoven outfit, but if they were to get the result here then suddenly that title race looks very much on, so much to be excited about in this game, as well as a chance to watch this group of players playing together while we still can. Let's not forget about their opponents though, and if you do watch this game I'd urge you to keep an eye out for their Mexican duo of Hirving Lozano and Erick Gutierrez, two players who sensibly moved from their homeland to a country that will allow them to develop more before inevitably making the jump to one of the top 5 leagues in Europe.
Hopefully that will be of interest and use to you, and it should go without saying but COME ON THE FAMOUS GLASGOW RANGERS!