“I’m sorry, I don’t speak Albanian!”: The Conference League begins

candylandriots

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Since I’m probably the only one here (or perhaps anywhere) who cares about this competition, I’ll go ahead and get this one rolling. The new third tier of European football, The Conference League, has kicked off. Arena Kombëtare (aka Air Albania Stadium, capacity 22,500) in glamorous Tirana, Albania will host the final.

The winner of the competition earns a place in next year’s Europa League and €5,000,000 in prize money.

The competition is primarily designed to offer an opportunity for European football for countries that don’t traditionally qualify for the group stages of the Champions and Europa Leagues. Therefore, only one team from the “big” European leagues is directly placed in the league, though others could drop from Europa League contention.

Some of the better known teams currently in the competition include Tottenham, Roma, Basel, Galatasaray and Celtic. I probably like Jose Mourinho more than most, but picturing him on the sidelines playing against Dinamo Batumi in Georgia or Sivassopor in Turkey later this month is kind of fun.

It will be interesting to see how seriously some of these teams take the league. On the one hand, their domestic leagues are far more important and Thursday matches don’t exactly make you want to put out a first team before a match on Saturday or Sunday. On the other, a big club getting knocked out by a third place team from Estonia or whatever would be kind of embarrassing.

I got a ticket for the second leg of the Union Berlin v Astana (KAZ)/Kuopio FS (FIN), which I’m pretty excited for. The game will be at the Olympiastadion in Berlin instead of Stadion an der alten Försterei, so that we can get 25,000 fans into the stadium and still observe Corona regulations. It will be my first trip there - I’ll try and write something up about it. It will be my first sporting event since the last time Union had a full stadium in March of 2020.

Share all the adventures of European minnows, overqualified sharks, crappy pitches and exotic locations here.
 
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coremiller

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Just based on talent and financial strength, Tottenham should be favorites to win this competition if they take it seriously. I think bigger clubs might treat it kind of like the league cup, where they rotate heavily for the early rounds/group stage but genuinely try for the later rounds.

This seems destined for a Tottenham v. Roma Mourinho grudge match at some point.
 

Zososoxfan

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Much like the Europa League, the later rounds of this cup should be a lot of fun. I don't need to see 2 teams I have no idea play each other--I could just watch their domestic league matches--but once these lesser-known sides are going up against clubs from the bigger 7 leagues (Portuguese and Dutch leagues deserve some respect) I'll tune in. If the rights owner opts for the whiparound coverage, I'll check it out.
 

Titans Bastard

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I think this could be an interesting competition because there are potentially a wider variety of teams that could be competitive, whereas a lot of the CL group stage groups are basically kabuki theater at this point.

The FA Vase of continental competition, as it were.

Too bad about the dumb name.
 

candylandriots

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I watched a replay of Union’s soggy match against Slavia Prague late last night, earning me a very pissed off wife to go with my frustration about one of the most poorly refereed matches I’ve ever seen (she evidently did not care to hear my complaints at 1:45am), at least in terms of how cards were distributed. Are all Conference League games without VAR? Because if last night was indicative, I have some real concerns about the quality of refs they’ll have for this competition.

Slavia Prague did play well, but it was going to be a tough road after going down to 10 men. Union was able to equalize, but then gave up two very late goals and the game ended 3-1.
 

DJnVa

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Spurs manage a 2-2 draw on the road at Rennes, the toughest of the other teams in their group, but had a few more players limp off with injuries, so....yeah.
 

DJnVa

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Spurs get a Dele Alli PK and a nice finish from Lo Celso to go up 2-0 in first 8 minutes over Random Eastern EuroTeam FC.
 

Pesky Pole

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I'm definitely cheering for the Lincoln Red Imps (who I may or may not have just heard of for the first time). I assume they are from Illinois (maybe they can play at Soldier Field).
 

coremiller

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I'm definitely cheering for the Lincoln Red Imps (who I may or may not have just heard of for the first time). I assume they are from Illinois (maybe they can play at Soldier Field).
They already play in a way cooler place than Solider Field:

44744
 

DJnVa

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Tottenham being Tottenham gave up an early goal in second half to make game 2-1 and then Kane gets a hat trick and game ends 5-1.
 

candylandriots

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Union with a 3-0 win over Maccabi Haifa. I will say that the Israelis showed up in Berlin tonight. I’ll have more tomorrow.
 

candylandriots

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Why is there no VAR in this competition? Union has been pretty much robbed of a penalty and then just gave up a goal that was caused by a foul. Have VAR or don't, but this having it for some competitions and not others is really dumb. Similar annoyance with the CONCACAF World Cup qualifiers.

Edit: Taiwo Ayonyi does it again to make it 2-1. That guy is on fire. Can't believe he was only 6.5 million. This has been a super entertaining match.
 
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candylandriots

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And another goal for Feyenoord that looked like the goal scorer was offside. The quality of the officiating in this competition has not been very good from what I've seen. It definitely needs a second set of eyes.
 

Kliq

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Which one of these players did I make up and is not playing for Tottenham today?

Dilan Kumar Markanday
Brooklyn Lyons-Foster
Declan Kyle McCormick
Matthew George Craig
Malachi Fagan-Walcott
Kallum Xzeiba Tracey Cesay
 

Jimy Hendrix

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Ref in this Spurs / Vitesse game has compounded the weird lack of VAR by also being truly ghastly awful.

Spurs have been awful to match.
 

Cellar-Door

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I'm too lazy to make a Euopa League thread, but through 1 full rotation of the teams, West Ham is the top team in the competition. Not the most challenging group, but still got the full 9 points, scored 7 and kept clean sheets in every match. Lyon is the only other club to get the full 9
 

candylandriots

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My internet is complete dogshit tonight, and I did not actually see the goal, but Union Berlin just took a 1-0 lead against Maccabi Haifa in a must-win game in Israel.
 

candylandriots

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Feyenoord has already advanced to the knockout stage, and is down to 10 men, but did Union a gigantic favor by evening the score with Slavaia Prague in stoppage time. Still a few minutes to go, but if this holds up, Union just needs to beat SP (in Berlin) instead of having to win by at least 2.

Edit: final!
 

Jimy Hendrix

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Meanwhile, Spurs will need to beat Rennes and get help from the Slovenians who just clowned them to stay in the competition after a truly embarrassing loss to Mora.
 

candylandriots

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Berlin's Senate has reduced the permitted capacity for Thursday night's do-or-die game between Union Berlin and Slavia Prague from 25,000 to 5,000 spectators.

I had a ticket, which has now been converted to a lottery ticket.

There are 15,000 at the Dortmund-Bayern game. I'd feel better about my chances at 15k than 5k. Olympiastadion is going to look so empty on Thursday.