Brighton begins its European dream by facing AEK Athens… and Liverpool faces Austria’s LASK
After continental participation was one of the things that Brighton fans in England did not even dare to dream of, the team nicknamed “The Seagulls” today (Thursday) begins a story closer to fantasy when they host AEK Athens of Greece at the beginning of their journey in the “Europa League” football competition, in… When their ancient compatriot Liverpool finds itself in a place that it does not want after having become accustomed to the spotlight of the Champions League, it is a guest of Austrian club LASK, while the third representative of England, West Ham (Conference League champion), is playing a test at hand against Serbian Bachka Topola.
AEK Athens’s visit to the Amex Stadium in the first round of Group Two, which includes former Champions League champions Ajax Amsterdam of the Netherlands and Marseille of France, is an occasion that was unimaginable in the dark days, when Brighton began to collapse.
Clubs are seeking to emulate Brighton’s ability to roam the globe in search of unknown young players such as Ecuadorian Moses Caicedo, Argentine Alexis McAllister and Spaniard Mark Cucurella, all of whom developed to become treasures for the club after it abandoned them in huge deals, huge compared to what it spent to include them.
This innovative policy helped the club defy the odds and surprise everyone by finishing in sixth place in the Premier League last season; This opened the door for the first continental participation in its history.
Brighton showed that what they achieved last season was not a coincidence. He also started this season strongly and embarrassed Manchester United on Saturday by defeating them in their stronghold, “Old Trafford”, with a score of 3-1.
Club CEO Paul Barber said: “This project was wonderful. There is definitely now a broader awareness in Brighton,” he said, adding: “One of the European clubs I spoke to is aware of all our matches, and its coaching staff sits down every Monday morning to watch them (Brighton matches) from start to finish.”
It is an unprecedented position of strength for a club that 26 years ago was on the verge of exiting the league and did not have a stadium of its own.
When Steve Great was appointed Brighton manager in December 1996, the team were 11 points adrift of the bottom of the fourth tier, and a disastrous relegation to the Championship loomed.
“It wasn’t about winning something,” Gret said of his rescue mission in Brighton. “It was more about seeing if something could be salvaged.” Great’s success in sparing Brighton the disaster of leaving the English professional football system was not the end of the problems for the club; The Goldstone Ground stadium, which was the team’s home for 95 years, was sold after it fell victim to real estate development in 1997.
After years of hardship and traveling to play his home matches away from home, relief came for professional poker player Tony Bloom, who bought the club in 2009, that is, two years before the opening of his new stadium located on the outskirts of the city.
Bloom’s bet on Brighton paid off; After an absence of 34 years, the team rose to the top flight in 2017 in an experience that Barber spoke about, saying: “Since 1997, we have risen 86 places in the league. “European football was a distant dream for fans at that time.”
But the dream has now become a reality under the leadership of Italian coach Roberto De Zerbi, who is aspiring to three points at the beginning of this historic continental adventure for the team, and who realizes that AEK Athens will most likely be the key to its competition for a direct qualification ticket to the 16th final, or at least obtaining second place to qualify for the playoff, no. Especially in light of the presence of the two experts, Ajax and Marseille, in the group.
If participating in the “Europa League” is a dream for Brighton, then his compatriot Liverpool, who is visiting Austria’s LASK in Group E, which also includes Belgium’s Union Saint-Geloise and France’s Toulouse, does not at all want to be in this place, especially after he regained his position among the top players. The Old Continent participated in its most important competition, the Champions League, in the past six seasons, and even won the title in 2019 for the first time since 2005 and the sixth in its history.
German coach Jurgen Klopp’s team seems determined to avoid what happened to them last season, when they finished outside the top four places qualifying for the Champions League, after starting the Premier League this season with four wins and a draw in the first five stages.
Klopp stressed that Liverpool will respect the competition and the competitors in the Europa League appropriately, and said: “I would definitely like to reach the final, but I do not know if we can do that. Because there will be a lot of great teams on our way towards our goal; “So we must perform strongly.”
Klopp praised the young players emerging from Liverpool’s academy, describing them as having a “promising future,” but said that he would not take advantage of the European League to showcase the talents of these players. He explained: “We are not in an experimental stage. I think that if we are not subjected to many absences due to injuries, we have enough players to enter with a strong squad.”
After finishing runner-up last season to the Spanish competition’s specialists, Sevilla, Italian Roma begins its campaign in Group G against its host, Sherif Tiraspol, Moldova, with very high morale, as a result of the sweeping victory achieved by Portuguese coach Jose Mourinho’s team on Sunday in the league over Empoli, with a score of seven clean goals, including a brace by Argentine Paulo Dybala. A first goal for Belgian Romelu Lukaku in the colors of the capital club.
Thus, Mourinho breathed a sigh of relief after a disastrous start to the season. The capital club entered the match in nineteenth place, penultimate, with only one point from three matches, but it benefited from its guest’s position at the bottom of the standings with no points to achieve its first victory and prepare well to host Sherif Tiraspol in the group of Slavia Prague of the Czech Republic and Servette of Switzerland. The two face each other today (Thursday) on the latter’s soil.
The confrontation between French Marseille and Dutch Ajax will be the highlight of today’s round of the European League. Marseille heads to the Netherlands hours after the dismissal of its Spanish coach, Marcelino, in light of a clash with fans.
On Tuesday, Marseille’s administration criticized the fans’ representatives after allegations of threats to the club’s management and demands for her to resign.
The club said in a statement: “Olympique Marseille believes that the events of September 18 do not allow Marcelino and his technical staff to perform the role assigned to him in good conditions. As a result of this unfortunate situation; Marcelino and his staff will not continue working with the team.”
He continued: “In light of this situation, the entire club feels extremely disappointed. “Being forced to deal with the departure of a coach and his technical staff, who took over on June 23 and were fully committed to the club, for non-sporting reasons.”
Former Valencia and Athletic Bilbao coach Marcelino took over before the start of the season, replacing Igor Tudor, as the team ranks fourth in the league with nine points from five matches.
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