Just think, this time in a month we’ll know who won the Community Shield! As we edge closer to the return of the Premier League, we have another week of alternatives for you to try. The Gold Cup is in full swing, at very unsociable hours, but there’s also a week of European qualifiers to enjoy. Oh and I’ll be sounding the “new tournament klaxon for Sunday. Let’s explore.
Monday 10th July
I was drawn to Mexico facing El Salvador at 2am on Monday in the Gold Cup, but I don’t want to really run with this match because it takes place before this article will go out. Also, Mexico have named a bit of a second string side having taken the first team to the Confederations Cup last month. So, instead, I’ve gone trawling the other leagues for my football fix. We’ve talked about Norway and Sweden before, and don’t get me wrong, they’ll always have a place in my heart. But are they the Icelandic Premier League (or the Úrvalsdeild as it translates)? No, they aren’t, and as I sat here researching the Icelandic football pyramid, I asked myself, is this what it has come to? It has, and it can for you too at 8.15pm on Monday as Knattspyrnufélag Reykjavíkur (henceforth known as KR) host Fjolnir. KR are 7th, but have European commitments later in the week which leads me to believe they should be doing better. Fjolnir are 11th (of 12) and their manager doesn’t have a Wikipedia page, so read into that what you will.
Tuesday 11th July
The New Saints are becoming a regular feature on this blog, and having battled through the previous round they are off to Croatia for the first leg of the second round. Their opponents are HNK Rijeka, who I know nothing about but they have a striker called Goodness Ajayi. We can all get on board with that. As a club, the City of Rijeka owns 30%, which I’m sure helps. TNS meanwhile lost their manage to Hartlepool United in the summer, now that’s a gamble if ever I’ve seen one.
Wednesday 12th July
If you’re up early enough, the Gold Cup actino at half midnight sees hosts Canada take on Costa Rica. Canada might capitalise on Toronto reaching the MLS cup final last season and insprising a generation, but I doubt that has taken effect in the last 7 months. Anyway, there’s also a whole host of Champions League qualifiers including Dundalk vs Rosenborg. As mentioned last week, Nicklas Bendtner has rocked up at Rosenborg, whilst Dundalk will be looking to replicate last season’s form where they knocked out BATE Borisov before losing to Legia Warsaw, which was still enough to drop into the Europa League group stages. A great achievement for the Irish side, who have a Romanian goalkeeper on the books, who has only played for Irish sides. Incredible.
Thursday 13th July
Again, the early morning Gold Cup action might tickle your fancy, especially as tournament favourites USA are in action against Martinique. Alternatively, it’s a Europa League night and my pick of the fixtures is Aberdeen against Siroki Brijeg of Bosnia & Herzegovina. Brijeg are captain by a Brazilian called Wagner, but aside from that my focus is on Aberdeen. Derek McInnes caused a stir by turning down Sunderland to continue the project at Aberdeen, but one of their better performers, Niall McGinn, has left for South Korea’s K-League. See, that’s why I like writing this. You learn stuff. Anyway, they’ve also lost Paul Hayes to Celtic, but they have signed Nicky Maynard. Swings and roundabouts.
Friday 14th July
When a Champions League game is moved to a Friday at 5pm, there’s usually a good reason. Linfield vs Celtic originally would clash with Orange Order marches in Belfast. I don’t plan to get political here so I will stick to football. Celtic lost to a side from Gibraltar at this stage last season, so it just goes to show, you never know. Sure, they recovered in the second leg, but it was very odd. Then again, they went on to have a successful domestic season and not lose a game, so maybe it was the perfect tonic. It’s at 5pm on Friday, I’d stay out of Linfield on Friday night.
Saturday 15th July
Speaking of Scottish clubs, the Scottish League cup is back woo and yay! League clubs and Premier League sides not in Europe play in the group stages, along with the winners of the Highland and Lowland leagues. The competition also has a wacky bonus point system, whereby any game that ends in a draw goes to a penalty shootout, and the winners take an extra point. To be fair, there have been worse ideas. The Dundee clubs are in the same group, so that should be good, but they don’t meet this weekend, which doesn’t help me. I’ll go for Falkirk against Stirling Albion because Falkirk are captained by Championship Manager legend Mark Kerr. Yeah. That’s a reason.
Sunday 16th July
New Tournament Klaxon! The UEFA Women’s European Championship 2017 kicks off on Sunday from the Netherlands. Channel 4 have the rights here in the UK, with England and Scotland’s games being shown on Channel 4 and the rest on All4. They’ve gone all out, securing Clare Balding as host and Michael Owen, Ian Wright and Jermaine Jenas as pundits, alongside stars of the female game such as Kelly Smith and Eni Aluko. England and Scotland are in the same group, along with Spain and Portugal, so expect that on next week’s article. On Sunday though you can enjoy hosts Holland take on Norway at 5pm UK time.
That’s it from me this week, next time we speak we’ll be less than a month from the return of the Premier League. We’re nearly there.