Often Partisan

Off to Partizan III

This is the third part in the continuing series “Off to Partizan”, where I take a look at teams we could face in the Europa League next season. If you’ve not read them, check out parts I and II. This week, I thought I’d focus on teams close to home.

Montpellier HSC

One of the places in the 3rd Qualifying round draw will go to the winners of the French Coupe da la Ligue, the final of which is to be held on April 23 at the Stade de France, between Olympique de Marseille and Montpellier HSC. As Marseille are quite a well known team, I thought I’d take a look at their lesser known opponents, Montpellier.

Montpellier are from the sunny southern coast of France, and a have led a bit of a yo-yo existence, like Blues. However, unlike Blues they’ve also had some success, qualifying for the third qualifying round of the Europa League this year. However, they fell at the first hurdle, losing to Hungarian team Győri ETO FC on penalties.

They play at the 32,900 capacity Stade de la Mosson, which is slightly curiously shaped. Three stands are small and covered, with the fourth a tier taller yet open to the elements.

Stade de la Mosson

As you can see, it looks like a small, compact ground – although I wouldn’t fancy getting caught in the Mistral in that open stand.

Montpellier is served by Montpellier – Méditerranée Airport, and fans will be glad to hear that there is apparently a Ryanair service serving Monpellier direct from Birmingham International Airport from April. Alternatively, easyJet fly to Montpellier from Gatwick. Fans with a fear of flying (or of no-frills airlines) can reach Montpellier via France’s excellent train network – although there is no TGV direct to Montpellier yet, the city is linked by train to Marseille which is on the high speed link. However, beer isn’t cheap in Montpellier, with Pintprice giving the local price of an ale at £4.24 – maybe a few days on the wine would be more cost-effective?

Jeunesse Esch

One of the teams for the Europa League second qualifying round will qualify via the Luxembourg Cup. Unfortunately, that cup is still in the last sixteen so there is still quite a bit of a way to go – however, I’ve seen Jeunessse Esch in the Europa League before and thought it would be a good team to look at.

Jeunesse play in the small 5,400 capacity Stade de la Frontiere in the town of Esch-Sur-Alzette. As you’d expect, it’s a compact little ground, and the way it’s surrounded by houses is reminiscent of lower league English football.

Whilst the capacity would mean that the allocation Blues would get would be tiny, you could imagine it would be a good away trip to do.

Esch is near the French border, and is well connected to France via motorway and train. Whilst the town itself isn’t served by an airport, it’s close enough to England that it would be reachable by coach and ferry – albeit a fair few hours journey. A pint will set you back two to three euros, making Esch a potentially good destination for the lucky blues fans who can get a ticket.

Crusaders FC

Another qualifier for the Europa League second qualifying round will come from the winners of the Northern Irish Cup – which is coming into it’s semi final stage. One of the four teams left in the competition is Crusaders FC of Belfast, and I thought I’d take a look at them.

The Hatchetmen play in the 5,473 capacity Seaview ground, in the northern suburb of Skegoneill. However, due to safety restrictions the capacity has been limited to just under 2,000 which does make me wonder if they will be allowed to use it for European competition. As you’d expect, it’s a compact, small ground and again it would probably be hard to get a ticket.

Travellers to Belfast have the choice of an eight hour ferry from Liverpool to the Northern Irish capital (or just 90 minutes on the high speed ferry from Stranraer in Scotland), or a flight on bmiBaby or Flybe from Birmingham International into George Best Belfast City Airport. Buses and taxis are plentiful within Belfast, which should make it relatively easy to get to the ground. Belfast has plenty of pubs, as you would expect, ranging from Wetherspoons to more upmarket establishments with prices comparable to drinking in Birmingham City Centre.

As an addendum to this series, you should be made aware that it is possible we will skip the third qualifying round and end up in the Playoff round. It is dependent on who wins the FA Cup – a Manchester win (City or United) means the FA will have to make a decision on which team is more deserving of a higher place in Europe – the FA Cup runners up or the League Cup winners. BCFC have confirmed at the moment that they don’t know which way the FA will go – when places are confirmed I will confirm it on this blog.

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