Opposition from Croatia, Luxembourg and Malta are in the sights of the three Welsh Premier clubs competing in the Europa League first qualifying round this evening – Airbus, Bala and Newtown will all be looking to replicate TNS’s success…
Michael Wilde’s last minute winner last night secured TNS a valuable away win in the Faroe Islands against B36 and the WPL Champions are now well-placed to advance into the second qualifying round. After conceding early on, the Saints quickly found themselves back on level terms through Scott Quigley and with Wilde pouncing in the dying stages, the Saints can take a confidence-boosting win back to Park Hall, where they have a realistic chance of building on that momentum and clinch a second qualifying round tie against Hungarian heavyweights Videoton later this month.
Two of the three European ties tonight take place on Welsh soil and it’s at Nantporth where I believe we will see the trickiest tie of the night where Airbus UK – or AUK Broughton as UEFA fondly refer to them – face Croatian side NK Lokomotiva.
Newtown, the lowest-ranked qualifier’s in the WPL, entertain a Valletta side who have been beset by with problems over player availability but the Robins cannot afford to be distracted by that and Chris Hughes needs to ensure his squad are fully focused on their own game-plan in what should be a very testing evening at Latham Park for Newtown.
I’m going to be at the Newtown-Valletta game and while Newtown may be lacking the quality of some of the other Welsh sides in European competition, they are equipped with a strong sense of togetherness which they will be hoping can make up for any shortfall in quality against the Maltese side.
Bala Town could also be in for a difficult couple of games against FC Differdange. They start the tie in Luxembourg and it’s anyone’s guess as to how they will fare over two legs.
What is interesting is that none of the four clubs have made too many changes in personnel over the summer.
Each have just made the odd addition which implies that the managers are happy with their respective squads and don’t want to upset the apple cart by bringing in any new faces which could change the dynamic of the changing room or risk losing the familiarity that helped each team reach Europe in the first place. I don’t think it would be any coincidence should these teams are all far more proactive in player recruitment after their European campaigns.
As supporters of the Welsh Premier League, we all know just how crucial this time of the year is to the league and clubs in terms of both finances and profile – two of the key factors which are fundamental in helping the league to develop. Let’s hope we can have some positive headlines over the next few weeks and some memorable nights can be entered into the club’s history books!
Let me know your views and comments and how you think the sides will fair in Europe this summer in the comments section or via Twitter @1matthewburgess
As always, thanks for reading!