Often Partisan

Off To Partizan VIII

As a distraction from the current mire surrounding Birmingham City, I thought I’d take another look at potential European opponents, and so here is the latest in the Off to Partizan series. In this article, I’ve looked at three teams who have already qualified for our round who are going to be unseeded, and thus are very much potential opponents.

FC Nordsjælland

FC Nordsjælland have qualified for the Playoff round of the Europa league by virtue of winning the Danish Cup 3-2 against FC Midtjylland, thanks to an injury time winner from Søren Christensen. Their last foray into Europe was back in 2008, where they went out in the First round proper against Olympiacos of Greece, having previously knocked out Scottish side Queen of the South. Michael Laudrup’s son Andreas is a striker for the Danish team, and they are well known for their strong youth setup.

Nordsjælland play at the compact Farum Stadium, capacity 10,100, in the small Danish municipality of Farum, about 15 miles north east of Copenhagen. The stadium is a regular host of the Danish u21 national side, and handily has a hotel next door to it with a fully equipped sports centre.

Getting to Farum isn’t too hard; SAS fly direct from Birmingham to Copenhagen and flights are currently around the £175 mark. Copenhagen airport is just 25 miles away, making it easy to get to and from the ground. Alternatively, for those who don’t like flying there is the option of taking the ferry from Harwich to Esbjerg with either car or train connections on either side. Unfortunately, like in most Scandinavian countries beer is expensive in Denmark and you’re looking at a fiver a pint – so Copenhagen might not be the cheapest of European trips.

FC Sion

FC Sion have qualified for Europe by virtue of winning the Swiss Cup, beating Neuchâtel Xamax 2-0 with two early goals in the final. FC Sion have some pedigree in Switzerland, winning the Swiss league twice and the Swiss Cup twelve times, and last qualified for the Europa League in 2009, losing out in the Playoff round to Fenerbahçe of Turkey. A look through their current side doesn’t show many household names, although their star striker Dragan Mrdja is a Serb team mate of Zigic who was an unused sub at the 2010 World Cup.

FC Sion play at the 20,200 capacity Stade Tourbillon in Sion. Like many European stadiums, Sion has a lot of standing areas which I can see being popular with Blues fans who would make the trip. The stadium has seen a lot of renovation in the past few years as Sion’s chairman continues to try to put it on the European map.

Rail is most likely to be the easiest way to get to Sion; the local airport doesn’t really have many flights and the nearest airport that does is Geneva which is some distance away. However, Switzerland has an excellent train network, with many long tunnels bored through the Alps to help people get from a to b quickly. Beer is similar pricing to the UK, but can vary greatly between the larger cities and smaller towns.

Hannover 96

German side Hannover 96 made it to the Playoff round of the Europa League by virtue of their fourth placed finish in the Bundesliga. Hannover are much like us, in that they haven’t achieved much of note for a long time until last season, and have spent time bouncing around the top two divisions. They also are connected via Mikael Forssell, who was spending time on their bench until his release from his contract at the end of last season. They do however boast former Man United youth keeper Ron-Robert Zieler, Ivorian hot property Didier Konan Ya and former Middlesbrough psycho Emanuel Pogatetz.

The 49,000 capacity AWD Arena is home to Die Roten. It was redeveloped for the FIFA World Cup in 2006, and hosted five games. Again, like many European stadia there are standing areas behind the goals at the AWD, and ticket prices range from a dirt cheap 13 euros in the standing sections. Even if Blues only get seated tickets, the most expensive ones on offer currently are 40 euros.

Getting to Hannover is easy; there are direct flights from Birmingham to Hannover with flybe and current prices are around the £120 mark. Hannover also has excellent rail and road connections and is probably within range for a coach or minibus trip from Brum. Beer in Hannover is around £2.50 a pint – and with Germany offering many excellent beers this could offer an excellent European trip. At the moment, it’s my personal current hope for our draw.

With the first round matches coming to a close tonight, the time is ever coming closer for Birmingham’s destiny to be drawn. I’ll be taking another look in the next couple of weeks at more potential destinations.

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