Often Partisan

Off to Partizan VI

This is the latest in the Off to Partizan series, where I have taken a look at potential opponents for Birmingham City in the Europa League. This week the theme is nightmare trips. Previous entries in the series can be found here, here, here, here and here.

FK Qarabaq

FK Qarabaq look likely to qualify for the Europa League via their position in the Azerbaijani Premier League. At the moment, they are third and barring any major catastrophes will finish in the qualifying positions. They are due to enter the Europa League in the first round, so they’d have to get past a couple of teams to get to Blues. Should they do so and draw us, don’t even think about getting an away ticket.

Atlılar, or “the Horsemen” are one of those unfortunate teams whose home ground lies in a former warzone. They were only allowed to return to the Guzanli Olympic Stadium in 2009, which is in the town of Quzanli, in the province of Aghdam – a province which is torn in half between the Azerbaijanis and the secessionists of Nagorno-Karabakh. Quzanli lies in the eastern half of the region, and as such is currently safe but with a stadium that is so obscure I can’t even find a picture of it online, you’d think it mightn’t be the best place to go see the boys in Blue.

Getting there would be a flight into Baku, and then finding someone who’ll drive you up country towards the warzone. Bearing in mind this would be a fairly big deal for them, then I would think it would be sensible for UEFA to move the match to Baku itself; which is much safer and much easier to get to. Cost wise, however, flights at the moment are around the £800 mark and are only going to get more expensive. In short, it’d be the trip from hell.

Juventus

Fifth place in Serie A would see the “old lady” of Juventus in the same qualifying round as Birmingham City; and whilst I personally would love a trip to Turin, I think Juventus would qualify as a nightmare draw because they’d smash us into little pieces. At the moment, they lie seventh in the table and as such out of the Euro places, but it’s not beyond the realms of possibility that they could hoist themselves a couple of places higher.

Whilst Juve are building their new stadium, they are groundsharing with Torino at the Stadio Olimpico in Turin, but the new Juventus Arena is scheduled to be built in time for the 2011/12 season. The new stadium seats 41,000, and I think it would be ace if Blues were the first team to play a competitive match in it.

Getting to Turin wouldn’t be too bad; both Thomas Cook and Thomson Airways have seasonal schedules from Birmingham International to Turin Caselle Airport, and for those who are afraid of flying it wouldn’t even be beyond the realms of a long coach trip. Beer lovers won’t like to hear that Pintprice.com says beer costs around £4.20 a pint in Turin – it may be cheaper to stick to the vino. As places to visit it might be fun, but I wouldn’t like the prospect of a hammering handed out on our first European trip. Thankfully, the co-efficients (see below) mean it’s unlikely we’d end up against the Italians.

Rangers or Celtic

Before I even start on this, I’ll make it plain that I have no feelings for either Rangers or Celtic; I don’t have a Scottish team and any feelings I might have against us playing either Rangers or Celtic are not based on my beliefs etc. In saying that, this is why Rangers would be a horror tie; as an example you only need to look at the damage caused in Manchester in the 2008 UEFA Cup final to understand just how much potential for trouble this fixture could cause. Whilst it’s true to say there is a kinship between some of our supporters and Rangers fans, I know a fair contingent who are very proud to be Irish in descent and as such Rangers stands for everything that they despise. Likewise, those who are proud to follow the Blues of Glasgow wouldn’t be chuffed with Celtic coming down to St Andrews either; I have a vague memory of there being trouble the last time we played the Hoops in a friendly.

For an away trip, Glasgow would be very easy to get to – it’s about a four to five hour drive, or you can let the train take the strain with direct trains running from Birmingham to Glasgow taking around four hours, for about £100 return. Beer prices are similar in Glasgow to what you’d pay in Brum, and of course with it being just over Hadrian’s Wall there is no passport or money changing needed. In that respect, a trip to Glasgow would be in the reach of most interested Blues fans. However, the distinct possibility of it “going off” just makes me shudder – I’d hate our first trip into Europe for fifty years be marred by lurid tales of people getting the crap kicked out of them – on either side. So for me, Rangers or Celtic would be a no.

Coefficents

As you may or may not be aware, teams are seeded according to a co-efficient. As Birmingham City have not been involved in European competition in the past five years, their coefficent will be purely the association coefficent element, which is 20% of the national coefficient. England’s coefficient is the best in Europe, at 85.356, which places Birmingham City’s coefficent as 17.071, which would put us 111th in the coefficient table. I’m of the belief this should be high enough to see us seeded, but I am undertaking more research to see if that is truly the case.

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