No Surprises in Carling Cup As Premier League Teams all Qualify

The gulf in class between the Premier League and the rest was emphasised again last night as Fulham, Newcastle and Everton all advanced to round three without too much fuss.

A somewhat below strength Fulham proved far too good for Port Vale who struggled to create any chances in their 6-0 drubbing, while Everton fielding a similarly weakened squad saw off League one promotion hopefuls 5-1 in front of a impressive crowd of 28,901. The numbers here were swelled by a substantial traveling contingent who were given an indication of how tough life is when you move up the divisions.

League 2 Accrington Stanley did try to make a game of it losing 3-2 but the Newcastle starting line up didn’t include any of the players who hammered Aston Villa 6-0 at the weekend and they had to wait until the 94th minute before grabbing their second goal which gave the score a little more respectability. Still the 4,098 fans who turned up will have enjoyed what was a very attack minded tie.

So only Blackpool of the Premier League clubs have been knocked out in round 2 and this went to extra time.  Only Birmingham still have to play and with a home tie against Rochdale they should keep up the top clubs winning record.

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Some Interesting Champions League Groups Possible

The draw for the Champions League group stages takes place today, and there are some big name teams in the lower tier pots which could make for some very interesting groups. The English clubs will not be drawn to play each other until the Quarter Final stages so they will avoid each other but Glasgow Rangers who are in Pot Three could face one of them.

As would be expected there are no easy teams at this stage, however no group will be pleased to see FC Twente or Auxerre or Partizan Belgrade as their supposed whipping boy.  The British clubs in Pot 3 will be hoping they avoid falling into Real Madrid or Benfica’s group, while Tottenham, Braga & Spartak Moscow look good enough to grab a qualifying spot in the right group. Scottish Champions Rangers will have their work cut out whichever group they end up in, however they are hard to beat at home and with a very kind draw and a bit of good fortune they to could pose a threat to the top seeds.

The draw is scheduled for 16.30 hours today.

The Pots For The Champions League draw:

Pot one: Inter Milan, Barcelona, Manchester United, Chelsea, Arsenal, Bayern Munich, AC Milan, Lyon.

Pot two: Werder Bremen, Real Madrid, Roma, Shakhtar Donetsk, Benfica, Valencia, Marseille, Panathinaikos.

Pot three: Tottenham, Rangers, Ajax, Schalke, Basle, Braga, FC Copenhagen, Spartak Moscow.

Pot four: Hapoel Tel Aviv, FC Twente, Rubin Kazan, Auxerre, CFR Cluj, Partizan Belgrade, MSK Zilina, Bursaspor.

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Crouch Hat Trick Does The Job For Spurs In Champions League

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Having been 3-0 down at one stage Tottenham Hotspurs comfortably negotiated the Champions League knock out stages to earn their first ever group stage appearance.

Trailing 3-2 from the 1st leg, a game in which Young Boys really should have been out of site in by half time, Tottenham knowing what was needed set about the task well and it was no surprise when Crouch leveled the aggregate scores after 5 minutes.  Then when Defoe added a second with the help of a blatant hand ball you knew it was going to be spurs night. Peter Crouch put the tie beyond their Swiss opponents with a third early in the second half and then duly completed his hat trick from the penalty spot.

Spurs will now join the group stages in the third tier ensuring they don’t get an easy ride to the next stages. Still with over £11m assured now the pressure is off to a degree. They will know their fate today when the groups are drawn and although they cant meet any of the other English clubs at this stage they could end up with Inter Milan, Barcelona or Bayern Munich. Real Madrid are in pot two so the could also end up with them in what would be the competitions group of death.

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Hanilton’s Woes Continue In Scottish League Cup

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After two 4-0 defeats in their opening SPL games Hamilton would have been hoping for a bit of a morale boost in the CIS Sponsored Scottish League Cup. However it was not to be as they crashed out at 1st Division Raith Rovers. In a far from thrilling game Hamilton failed to get a shot on target and despite not being much better Raith managed to grab the winner in the second half.

The other SPL clubs playing all advances with varying degrees of ease, with current league leaders Aberdeen coasting past Alloa who will be consoled by the 1,649 crowd, given their average home attendance in the league is likely to be around half this.

The nights biggest winners were Hearts who won 4-0 over Elgin who were totally outclassed and only managed one attempt at goal in the match. Still given the gulf in resources between the two sides holding Hearts to 4-0 was a good performance.

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Great Night For MK Dons In Carling Cup

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The MK Dons snatched a win in extra time to record the nights best win in the 2010 Carling Cup second round. Ahead after only a minute an 3-1 up early in the second half, they had to survive a determined Blackpool fightback before winning 4-3.

Blackpool were the only Premier League casualties on the night although Wolves had to wait until the last minute of extra time to ensure they didn’t face the lottery of penalties against League 2 strugglers Southend. Defender Richard Stearman grabbed Wolves winner scrambling the ball over the line seconds after Southend could have won the game themselves but Josh Simpson shot tamely at the keeper when clean through.

The rest of the night was largely uneventful with the only other surprise being Northampton winning on penalties at Reading.

Sadly the competition is no longer taken seriously by the bigger clubs and even Leeds who have just been promoted to the Championships decided to field a second string squad in their 2-1 defeat to Leicester. This is reflected in the poor attendances with few crowds making it past 10,000. Most disappointing was Blackburn v Norwich which only attracted 9,235.

Perhaps the competition needs a real incentive put behind it like a Champions League place for the winner.

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Big Night Of League Cup Football Ahead

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The Premier League teams not competing in Europe enter the League Cup (Carling Cup) tonight, however the biggest tie in terms of anticipated crowd will be at Elland Road to watch two ex premier league sides Leeds & Leicester. Leeds are just coming into form and with a number of new additions due they will fancy their chances of a fun in the Cup as well as a promotion push.

Of the Premier League Clubs the most interesting ties look like Wigan’s trip to Hartlepool, which will either give the Lactics a chance to get back on track or pile the pressure on Manager Martinez who has just had the dreaded vote of confidence.

Blackpool’s trip to the MK Dons will give them the chance to exorcise the memory of their 6-0 drubbing at Arsenal and if they play like they did against Wigan they should pass this test easily enough.

It is not easy to see where a shock result will come tonight but whatever it will be a money spinner for the smaller clubs with Oxford, Shrewsbury and Southend having nice away ties which should attract double figure crowds.

The ties:

Bradford v Preston
Brentford v Hull
Crewe v Ipswich
Hartlepool v Wigan
Leeds United v Leicester
Leyton Orient v West Brom
MK Dons v Blackpool
Millwall v Middlesbrough
Morecambe v Burnley
Peterborough v Cardiff
Portsmouth v Crystal Palace
Scunthorpe v Sheff Wed
Southampton v Bolton
Stoke v Shrewsbury
Sunderland v Colchester
Tranmere v Swansea
Watford v Notts County
West Ham v Oxford Utd
Wolverhampton v Southend
Blackburn v Norwich
Reading v Northampton

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Good Wins For Manchester City & Celtic In Europa League

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On a night of mixed fortunes for the British representatives still in the Europa League only Celtic and Manchester City will be pleased with their 1st leg results.

Celtic in front of a partisan crowd of well over 35,000 were good value for their 2-0 win , dominating possession and defending well when Utrecht did come forward. The Dutch side only had one shot on target in the match but did have a few attempts at goal so Celtic will still need to be on their Guard in the return leg.

Manchester City will be delighted to have played quite badly and still came away from Romania with a 1-0 win thanks to a late goal from their new £24m striker Mario Balotelli. FC Timisoara had plenty of chances but its hard to see them getting anything from the away leg.

Liverpool on the other hand played well but now face a nerve wracking trip to Turkey after missing a second half penalty against Trabzonspor. They also had what looked like a good goal disallowed so now face the away leg with only a one goal cushion. Still if Roy Hodgson is serious about the competition and puts out a strong squat they should still progress.

Aston Villa fielded a second string team but still managed to get a credible 1-1 draw in Vienna and they will also expect to complete the job in the home leg, although Rapid did create a lot of chances and could easily sneak an away goal when they visit Villa Park.

Of the nights losers Motherwell look the best places to still progress, largely thanks to a 94th minute away goal against Odense BK. In a close game the home side snatched 2 goals and when Motherwell had Jennings sent off near the end things looked bleak. Then with virtually the last kick of the game Tom Hateley fired in a lovely free kick to give the Scots some hope. It was no less than Motherwell deserved and overall a draw would have been a fairer result. They look capable of overturning this in the home leg.

Dundee United looked decidedly second best against Greek giants AEK Athens losing 1-0 and will come out of this match thankful that its not already over for them. Unless they show a massive improvement in the second leg their European campaign will be a short one.

The New Saints who have undoubtedly exceeded their expectations this season lost 3-0 away to CSKA Sofia, however the Welsh champions defended resolutely and it took the Bulgarians until the 81st minute to break the deadlock. CSKA did have a lot of chances and it was no real surprise when Italian Giuseppe Aquaro grabbed the opener.  Then as it looked like TNS might return home with a great result the Bulgarians added two more to effectively end any slim hope TNS might have had. The attendance of 2,950 was a bit disappointing, however with it being a night match in Bulgaria it is not surprising that few Welsh fans traveled.

So with a little good fortune Britain will have five representatives in the Europa League group stages.

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Seven British Clubs In Europa League Knockout Ties

The seven British clubs in the Europa League knock out stages kick of their 1st leg ties tonight with some facing tough tests. Of those involved Liverpool & Manchester City will be quietly confident of progressing against Turkish side Trabzonspor, and Romanians FC Timisora, and Aston Villa should be capable of beating Rapid Vienna over two legs. However the other four clubs face a slightly less certain future in the competition.

Unfortunately the three Scottish representatives Celtic, Motherwell and Dundee United have been handed very tricky ties and none can feel confident of progressing. If pushed for a prediction then it would be that Celtic and Dundee united will make it but Motherwell, who have done well to reach this stage will probably go out.

Flying the flag for Wales is The New Saints, TNS who are here like Celtic by virtue of their Champions League performances. They have an almighty task against Bulgarian side CSKA Sofia, and unfortunately its almost impossible to make a case for the Welsh side progressing.

Tonight’s Fixtures involving British Clubs:-

FC Timisoara v Man City

Rapid Vienna v Aston Villa

Odense BK v Motherwell

Celtic v FC Utrecht

Liverpool v Trabzonspor

Dundee Utd v AEK Athens

CSKA Sofia v The New Saints

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Tottenham Struggle Against Young Boys

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Tottenham’s first venture into Europe’s Premier competition in 48 years got off to a less than auspicious start as they lost 3-2 to Switzerland’s Young Boys of Bern. With the stakes being high Tottenham sent a near full strength squad with Ledley King being the main absentee as there were fears that the plastic pitch could aggravate his knee. However after 30 minutes Spurs dream of reaching the group stages looked to be in tatters as they went 3-0 down and to be fair looked a distant second best.

However some shrewd tactical changes and inspired substitutions allowed Tottenham to claw their way back into the game and one of those substitutes Robbie Keane was instrumental in giving them a lifeline when his skillful pass set up Pavlyuchenko who angled a thunderous shot past Young Boys keeper Marco Wolfli.This 83rd minute goal was enough to make Spurs favourites to progress.

In an entertaining match watched by a sizable crowd of 31,275 Young Boys who surprisingly knocked out Fenerbache in the previous round were ahead after 4 minutes thanks to Lulic and Bienvenu hit the second after 13 minutes. Things then looked all over for Spurs when Xavier Hochstrasser added the 3rd after 28 minutes, However soon after Harry Redknapp brought on Tom Huddlestone, andthis seemed to steady the ship and just before half time French Defender Sebastien Bassong pulled a goal back to give Tottenham hope for the second half.

Young Boys did have their chances in the second half but spurs did start to take control as the game wore on and their second goal should ensure they manage to progress when the two meet again on the 25th August at White Hart Lane.

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Tottenham Face Plastic Pitch Test In Champions League

Tottenham’s first ever game in the Champions League will be played on a plastic pitch tonight when they travel to Switzerland to take on Young Boys of Bern. Spurs are taking this qualifier seriously and are sending a strong squad, although Ledley King’s knee will not be risked on a plastic pitch and midfielder Jermaine Jenas is being rested as he has a minor Calf injury.

Young Boys will be no push over, having already knocked Turkish side Fenerbache out in the previous round, and the £10 million in prize money up for grabs just for reaching the group stages is enough to make any team take things seriously. Young Boys only lost once at home in the league last season and their win over Champions League regulars Fenerbache will have instilled a lot of confidence in them.

If Tottenham can come away from Bern with a draw, preferably having scored then they should progress giving England a strong presence in the group stages again this year.

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