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The first Europa League season, following its rebranding from UEFA Cup, draws to a close with a final line-up no-one would have expected here in Hamburg, but still, there is a familiar feel heading into this match.
Fulham’s roller coaster ride is reminiscent of the journey made by Spain’s Alaves, when they made it all the way to the final in 2000-01.
The final that year was in Dortmund, a three-hour drive down the A1 from Hamburg, and ultimately the underdogs came up short, losing in sudden-death extra-time to Liverpool.
You could make a case for Atletico Madrid being the rough equivalent of that Liverpool team nine years ago. Liverpool’s European glories looked a little faded back then: they had never so much as qualified for the Champions League at that stage and were being thoroughly overshadowed by Manchester United.
The Champions League has brought little joy to English clubs this season but the Europa League has been a different story, with Liverpool and Fulham both in with a chance of making the final.
Join us for live chat and on-the-spot details from our reporters as Liverpool take on Atletico Madrid and Fulham face Hamburg in the semi-final second legs.
Here’s a total random idea: go and choose the best five matches of the last 10 years – a lot easier said than done.
Where do you begin? Do you only pick matches you have seen yourself ? As I am based in England, do I pick only matches played in England, or as I am lucky enough to travel round the world and watch football, do I go for international matches too?
from UK News:
The son of a miner, Robson's career was characterised by dignity, loyalty and hard graft and no little success.
The way the UEFA Cup has been going, it was fitting, perhaps even inevitable, that Shakhtar Donetsk triumphed over Werder Bremen to win the competition’s final final before its rebranding as the Europa League.
As Sonia Oxley pointed out, Easter European teams have been the ones taking it seriously of late, and as Justin Palmer noted, the Brazilian influence on the competition has been getting ever stronger. Werder were missing Diego and it showed, as they searched in vain for inspiration after falling behind for a second time. Shakhtar, of course, have far the greater Brazilian contingent.
There will be a heavy Brazilian influence in Wednesday’s UEFA Cup final between Shakhtar Donetsk and Werder Bremen in Istanbul — despite the absence of Werder’s influential playmaker Diego through suspension.
Brazilian players have made a major impact in recent finals and with Ukraine’s Shakhtar boasting five in their ranks, and Naldo lining up for their German rivals, expect the boys from South America to take centre stage.
What have the UEFA Cup and the Eurovision song contest got in common?
A) Some people don’t take them as seriously as they could.
B) They give lesser known participants the chance to appear on prime-time TV.
C) East European countries have started to dominate them
And the answer, I’m starting to think, is C … because of A and B.
This year will be the third year in the past six that an ex-Soviet team plays in the UEFA Cup final after victories by Russian sides Zenit St Petersburg last year and CSKA Moscow in 2005.
Watching Shakhtar Donetsk’s dramatic victory over fellow Ukrainian team Dynamo Kiev, I wondered why eastern European teams were enjoying such a love affair with a competition others have lost their passion for.
Comments by UEFA officials that the body’s president Michel Platini is “dead set” against a European Super League must come as a huge relief to a vast majority of Europe’s clubs.
“People should not mix up philosophy and reality. As far as the president is concerned, such a proposal is a non-starter,” a senior official close to Platini told Reuters.
Spain overcame 44 years of underachievement on the international stage when they were crowned European champions at Euro 2008. Not only did they win the tournament, but their players, their style and their attacking ambition were hailed around the world.
However, that success appears to have had a detrimental effect on their domestic teams, who have traditionally been some of the strongest performers in Europe’s club competitions.
Twice UEFA Cup winners Tottenham Hotspur are most likely heading out of the competition after a 2-0 first-leg defeat at Shakhtar Donetsk in the first knockout round on Thursday.
The fact they fielded a ‘B’ team was not surprising. Manager Harry Redknapp had already stated several times that Premier League survival and the League Cup were his priorities. After the game Redknapp said: “I had a 17-year-old playing tonight and I will probably have four playing next week.”
The reason they will play with an under-strength team in the return leg next Thursday is that it comes three days after a crunch league match at Hull City and three days before their League Cup final against Manchester United.