The Hangover Binge - 31st August 2018

When The European Hangover started, the intention was to cover football across Europe and the major European competitions. It was for bears who love the big matches in the Champions League (and the Europa League) but sadly we hadn't experienced proper European football at Ibrox since Walter Smith's last outing when we succumbed to PSV Eindhoven, a game I watched in the pub (I was just about old enough to drink legally by then) and afterward I thought "ach well, another run next year". Six years later, the prospect of playing Progres Niederkorn in the first qualifying round was a genuinely exciting affair, a step closer to normality for the Bears. Of course what would happen would happen, and ever since I shudder whenever I hear the word "progress" in any context. 

So what would be considered progress (sorry) this season in Europe? It would all come down to who we would be drawn against. Shkupi, all about not doing a repeat of last season. Job done. Osijek, a name that rang a bell for knocking out the afore mentioned PSV the previous year, but they were much worse and we were much better, improved further by signing their best player.

By now I'm thinking "yeh, that's much better, see what we can do from here". Maribor, wouldn't have been surprised if this was the end of the road for this season, but we had a real coming of age performance over the two legs and suddenly we have a play off qualifier against a team who were lower seeded. HOW HAS THIS HAPPENED!? Ufa, a mercifully short name for a Russian club compared to ex foes Anzhi Mightcatchacold.

That nagging fear in the back of my mind saying "we are Rangers, we do the hard jobs well but screw up when it should be easier." 1-0 lead to take to Bashkortostan, and a lovely Ejaria goal early on makes this a cake walk surely? Two red cards and an equaliser made it very much the opposite. But this side has heart, grit, desire. But most importantly it has smarts, and we managed the game perfectly and at the end, we qualified for the group stage.

Next week I will preview our group that we've been drawn in, both on pod and blog, as well as the rest of the Champions League and Europa League groups, but tonight, I'm celebrating a truly magnificent achievement from a team that I am seriously falling in love with. Compare this squad to last season. That, in my opinion, is the best representation of our progress (fuck sake James!).

Spain & Portugal

Chris Marshall is back to talk about Iberia. Want to hear more about La Liga in particular? Check out our new La Liga show, Isco Inferno.

This week in Spain the La Liga table has an awfully familiar feel to it as Real Madrid and Barcelona sit on toafter two wins from two but off the field matters have been making the headlines on the Iberian Peninsula. Javier Tebas, current president of La Liga, has put a much publicised agreement in place for at least one league game a season to be played in the USA over the next 15 years, less publicised has been the announcement that games could also take place in Mexico during this period.

Unsurprisingly this has not gone down well with fans, and the 20 La Liga captains - led by a jazzy shirted Sergio Ramos - voiced their disapproval after an impromptu summit. Perhaps a game on the other side of the Atlantic might not be a bad thing for Rayo Vallecano though who have been forced to close the Estadio de Vallecas due to a number of health and safety issues culminating in a 4 year old fan falling through a hole in the ground. Thankfully the boy was unscathed but Rayo now face the prospect of hosting no games at Vallecas until at least mid-October.

Anyone who has had the pleasure of experiencing a match day at the Madrid side will know how wonderful that can be but to call the stadium ramshackle would be politeness in the extreme with the Madrid City Council and their often controversial chairman Raul Martin Presa taking the brunt of the blame. It’s also been an interesting week for Real Valladolid.

Firstly their 4 day old pitch was rightly condemned by opponents Barcelona and onlookers as it cut up horrendously almost from the first minute of their weekend fixture against the Catalans with petrol thieves and the long Segunda season wheeled out as reasons for the delay in getting it laid. Maybe their new investor Ronaldo – the Brazilian one – can use some of the 30m he is rumoured to be putting into the club to put down a plastic pitch (Kidding!). The Brazilian’s previous wine business with former Valladolid president Jose Moro a key driver in El Fenomeno showing an interest in the Castilla y Leon side.

Whilst Rayo must wait for their next fixture after their home game to Athletic Bilbao was called off Jornada 3 in La Liga has thrown up not one, but 4 derbies with Levante v Valencia and Real Betis v Sevilla the pick of the ties. The Seville derby in particular already seeming key in determining the direction of the season for both sides whilst Celta Vigo v Atletico Madrid has potential to be pretty tasty in Galicia. Continuing on the derby theme and in Portugal Benfica and Sporting Club de Portugal played out a 1-1 draw in the first Lisbon Derby of the season that point being enough for both clubs to pull ahead of Porto who lost 3-2 at home to Vitoria Setubal despite leading 2-0 with an hour played. Joining the Lisbon sides at the top of the league are Braga and surprisingly Fierense with both teams also sitting undefeatedon 7 points. 

The transfer window in both countries also closes this week and questions remains about what strengthening may still yet be done. That’s all for this week – until next time – hasta luego!

Greece

Bradley Johnson talks about domestic and continental ramifications for Greek sides:

This week saw the conclusion of the European qualifiers. Just like rangers; it was a good week for the Greek sides hoping for European football. Current Greek champions AEK (remember them!) qualified for the champions league group stages stages, where they will face ; Bayern Munich, Benfica and Ajax. Unfortunately PAOK were beaten by Benfica, so will therefore join Rangers in the Europa league draw. Olympiacos also over came Burnley in a edgy affair to reach the Europa league.

This past week also saw the super league kick off. Champions AEK started the defence of there title with a 2/0 home win against PAS. Challengers Olympiacos and PAOK both also started with home wins. A new relegation system was thrown out in the court of law. With the top league cutting the teams in the league from 16 to 14, a new solution is yet to be agreed upon for the new format. I'm pretty sure, it won't be the first time that the Greek super league and courts will be mentioned in the same sentence together this season.

Scot van den Akker runs the rule over who has qualified for the Europa League in Benelux, including a magnificent achievement for a European minnow:
Praise is certainly due to F91 Dudelange. The club are the first team from Luxembourg to qualify for a UEFA tournament group stage. Their home town has only 19,000 inhabitants and the average attendance at their league matches is around 750 (dwarfed by the country's biggest club Jeunesse Esch who average a mighty 1,050). Their cosmopolitan squad has players from Serbia, Hungary, Bosnia, France, Germany, Ghana and Angola alongside the spine of local talent. Joining them in the Europa League draw are Belgian trio Anderlecht, Genk and Standard Liege. Mixed fortunes in CL with a group of death for PSV with Inter, Barca and Spurs, and a decent draw for Ajax as one of three teams chasing 2nd behind Bayern: they share group with AEK Athens and Benfica. Club Brugges have Dortmund, Atletico Madrid and Monaco and will find 3rd place tough enough let alone getting through the group.

Germany

Finally, Scott McKenzie writes his first report on a club that many Rangers fans have a soft spot for, HSV Hamburg:

As part of my responsibilities of being the H&H German correspondent is that I shall also be keeping an eye on HSV & therefore the 2. Bundesliga due to HSV's relegation from the Bundesliga in the long term in the view of many which may help the club in the long term.

It's been a major summer of change at the Volkspark but with one piece that has remain unchanged & that's the permanent appointment of Christian Titz who came in from the club's youth team towards the end of last season where many thought that HSV was at the time pretty much down but showed how good the team could be with the club's best run of the season although that ended in the famous clock coming to a halt in the club's first relegation. 

As expected like most clubs that are relegated from the top tier, many well known first team players leave & at HSV there has been no such exceptions with some interesting business being done which will help the piggy bank at the Volkspark. With the likes of Luca Waldschmidt who went to Freiburg for €5.0M, Walace to Hannover 96  €6.0M & Andre Hahn who has returned to Augsburg for €3.0M (who has suddenly decided to start scoring again Grrr!).

However, there has been some other interesting departures the likes such as Filip Kostic who is one of the high earners at the club has gone to Eintracht Frankfurt on a two-year loan deal with a buy clause in there for good measure. Also joining him in Frankfurt has been Nicolai Müller who has left the club on a free transfer & interestingly scored his first goal for Eintracht against Freiburg on Saturday in his first game since scoring in the first day of last season where he injured his ACL in his goal celebration.

Also, Bobby Wood who has only signed a contract extension a year ago has joined Walace at Hanover 96 on a season-long loan but still bringing in a €1.2M loan fee. 

However, there is still a few loyal players who have decided to stay to help the team in their promotion push back to the Bundesliga in the likes of club captain Gōtoku Sakai, Aaron Hunt &  Lewis Holtby along with some that the club can't get out of the door including the likes of Kyriakos Papadopoulos. Of course, there has been plenty that has come in the door most notably Our Pod Overlord's boy David Bates who seems to have settled in very well. T

he majority have come from the club's youth system including Jann Fiete Arp who has signed a one-year contract extension till 2020 despite the interest from Bayern Munich. The most notable player that has come in has been the return of Pierre-Michel Lasogga from his loan at Leeds United. The most other notable arrivals have been Jairo from Las Palmas although he is now out with ACL damage, Khaled Narey from Greuther Fürth & Christoph Moritz from Kaiserslautern who managed to get relegated from the 2. Bundesliga last season. 

Pre-season has been very positive which included a summer camp in Austria & included a few friendlies as you would assume. These included wins against CSKA Moscow, Stoke & at Rapid Vienna. There was also had an impressive win against Monaco at the Volkspark in the club's last pre-season game in the week before the season began. 

So far we are going into week four of matches in the 2. Bundesliga where HSV will be travelling to Dynamo Dresden on Saturday lunchtime which I believe will be on BT Sport for readers in the UK & from what I have seen so far it's likely that they will show most of their games this season. So far the season has been a mixed bag so but mainly positive. On Matchday 1 HSV opened things up with a home defeat to Holstein Kiel 3 nil where all three goals were poorly conceded in the second half. Then on Matchday 2, they recovered to a 3 nil victory at SV Sandhausen.

Then there was a break in the league for the first round of the DFB Pokal where HSV was up against TuS Erndtebrück of where they made things hard for themselves in a way that only HSV can win 5-3 at the 4th tier minnows. Then on Monday night, HSV was home to Arminia Bielefeld where they won 3 nil although again they did make hard work of it but, that’s not really a surprise. So as it stands HSV are third, a point behind Union Berlin & Köln. 

So at the moment, I am cautiously optimistic which I know is dangerous for an HSV fan but with the resources should go straight back up to the Bundesliga & of course I will be providing updates on the blog & the pod as the season progresses. 

Scott McKenzie (@scottmckenzie81)

Next week I will preview our group that we've been drawn in, both on pod and blog, as well as the rest of the Champions League and Europa League groups, but tonight, I'm celebrating a truly magnificent achievement from a team that I am seriously falling in love with. Compare this squad to last season. That, in my opinion, is the best representation of our progress (fuck sake James!).

Thanks for reading,

James Forrest (@No_Not_That_1) 

 

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