post

Gibraltar on course to benefit from Europa Conference League next season

The UEFA Europa Conference League starts for the first time next season, and Gibraltar are currently on course to get an extra European spot as a result of the new tournament.

Photo © Black and Burst

The tournament, announced by UEFA in 2018, has had little to no fanfare around it, but as we get closer to its inaugural season, it is becoming clearer how allocation to the tournament works, and how Gibraltar looks set to benefit, for at least one season.

The team allocation for the 21/22 edition uses the 2020 UEFA Country Coefficients, which takes into account performances from the 15/16 to 19/20 seasons. As it stands, teams ranked from 16th to 50th (excluding Liechtenstein who do not run a league) are granted three spots in the tournament, alongside their usual one Champions League spot – Gibraltar ended the 2020 Coefficient rankings in 49th, and as such seem set to benefit for at least one season by having four teams in European competition.

It was originally expected Gib would have four teams for this season’s qualifiers, which ended for the local teams yesterday, but with UEFA taking the 3rd Europa League spot from the 51st place team, which was Gib, and giving it to the 55th place nation, who only used to have two teams in Europe, that advantage was denied – Lynx were the team who would have theoretically taken the 3rd Europa League spot this summer had UEFA not changed the allocations.

This benefit is at the moment only guaranteed for one season, as Gibraltar are not currently guaranteed to finish in the top 50 spots at the end of this seasons rankings. Gib currently find themselves in 48th, but three nations below them currently have teams still in Europe (Faroe Islands, Montenegro and Estonia). Should the teams from those three nations go on good runs, then Gib may drop to 51st and only have one season of four teams in Europe – however the chances are in Gib’s favour as it would require all 3 nations jumping above them, and they currently enjoy a 1.291 point lead over Estonia, and a 0.791 lead over Montenegro.

As a result, with the 1.5 points per win divided by the four teams they enter in Europe, this would require Montenegrin side Buducnost Podgorica and Estonian side Flora to both qualify for the Europa League Group Stages.

While the confirmed start of the league is not officially known, the news that 4th place could get a European spot (depending on the Rock Cup winner), puts another twist into what could be a highly competitive season this time out.

post

Europa unfortunate in Djurgarden defeat

Europa were knocked out of Europe tonight after a narrow 2-1 away loss to Djurgarden of Sweden, with a saved penalty, a red card and the woodwork coming back to hurt the visitors.

Photo (C) C Correa Photography

Europa were not well fancied in the betting going into the game, but proved to be a match for the Swedish champions, and Rafael Escobar’s side had a great chance to go ahead from the spot just before half time – however Liam Walker’s penalty was saved well, and Djurgarden went up the other end to score through Curtis Edwards.

The setback did not deter the visitors though, and they got their reward in the 57th minute. A defensive mix up at the back by Djurgarden left Adrian Gallardo with an empty net to finish into and get his side back into it. Europa were to fall down to 10 men soon after though with Alex Quillo picking up two bookings in four minutes.

Europa kept on fighting, but would go behind to a penalty from former Burnley midfielder Fredrik Ulvestad. The woodwork would then go on to deny Europa a second equaliser, and later chances for Walker, Gallardo, and 18-year-old Gibraltarian Mitch Gibson, a surprise inclusion onto the field of play near the end, could not be converted as Europa lost in the narrowest of circumstances.

The final statistics, of 9 shots each team told the story of a tight match, which on another day, Europa may have been able to win – they will likely take confidence from the performance though going into the domestic season.

post

Rangers too strong for Lincoln

Rangers progressed safely into the next round of the Europa League by beating Lincoln Red Imps 5-0 at the Victoria Stadium.

Kyle Goldwin was the only change in William’s side with the Gibraltarian replacing Lolo Soler, new signing Tjay De Barr made the bench while Steven Gerrard made seven changes.

Imps were made to worry early on after Scott Wiseman pulled up after making a run down the right but the Gibraltar international was able to continue after receiving medical treatment.

James Tavernier scored a lovely free-kick to open the scoring for Rangers on the 20th minute and doubled their lead just before half-time through Connor Goldson’s header.

Goldwin made a couple of good saves early in the second half to keep the score at 2-0 and were unlucky not to pull a goal back after Roy Chipolina’s close-range shot was saved by Allan McGregor.

Alfredo Morelos and Jermain Defoe would come off the bench to get onto the scoresheet with the former bagging a brace. Rangers saw the game out with ease and will now face Dutch side Willem II.

post

Djurgardens v Europa: Match Preview

The second part of today’s Europa League double-header involving local sides sees Europa in Sweden, as they take on Djurgardens at the Tele2 Arena in Stockholm.

Photo © C Correa Photography

Europa, who moved into the Europa League after defeat to Red Star Belgrade, take on the Swedish champions, who lost at the same stage to Hungarian champions Ferencvaros, in what should be another tough encounter for Rafael Escobar’s side, who haven’t had the luck of the draw so to speak with the teams they have drawn out – the winner of this has to play CFR Cluj in the next round.

Europa’s most recent visit to Sweden saw them lose 1-0 to AIK back in 2016, and they will be hoping that this time out may be more joyful – they won’t be aided by the fact the hosts, who have two Head Coaches in Kim Bergstrand and Thomas Lagerlof, are 19 games into the Allsvenskan season, which started in June – they sit fifth in the league though which for last season’s champions is not ideal.

Before the game, Bergstrand spoke about the ball-skill and good organisation of Europa, noting they only went behind to Red Star initially due to an offside goal. He also noted that while his team should be able to hurt Europa, they also have to respect them. Liam Walker, Europa’s captain, spoke to FG yesterday ahead of the game, which you can read here.

Squad News:

Europa’s squad has been bolstered by the return of Ethan Jolley, as well as the arrival of new signing Kwadwo Poku – the pair would be expected to start at the Tele2 Arena this evening. They will be without Ibrahim Ayew and Blas Alvarez though, who have not travelled with the team to Stockholm.

For the hosts, they are confirmed to be without Erik Berg, Jesper Nyholm, Emmanuel Banda, Nicklas Bärkroth and Alexander Abrahamsson, according to their official website. One player that may catch the eye is English midfielder Curtis Edwards, who played both legs for fellow Swedish side Ostersund against Arsenal in their historic Europa League run of 2017/18. The Swedish side also have midfielder Kevin Walker – the Swedish/Irish 31-year-old won the 2013 Swedish Pop Idol, singing alongside Robbie Williams in the final.

Betting:

The hosts understandably go into this game as massive favourites, with 1/20 the best price you can get on them winning in 90 minutes. Europa are 45/1 to cause a big shock, while the draw in 90 minutes is 14/1. The handicap line is set at 3, with Europa 13/10 on +3. Meanwhile, if you do fancy Djurgardens to win but Europa to score, that is currently 11/4.

FG’s Predicted XI’s:

Djurgardens – Bratvelt; Witry, Une Larsson, Kack, Augustinsson; Ulvestad, Karlstrom; Eriksson, Edwards, Ring; Chilufya

Europa – Munoz;Jolley, Olmo, Carrascal, Olivero; Walker, Rosa, Badr, Becerra; Juampe, Gallardo

post

Lincoln v Rangers: Match Preview

Lincoln take on Rangers this afternoon in the first of two Europa League Second Qualifying Round matches involving Gibraltarian sides today.

Photo © Neil Wilson/Lincoln

Lincoln, who earned this tie by beating Union Titus Petange 2-0 in the last round, come up against a Rangers side going very well in the Scottish Premiership; Steven Gerrard’s side have won six of their seven games so far, without conceding a single goal, and are currently top of the league.

Lincoln, who famously beat Celtic at the Victoria Stadium in 2016, will be hoping to complete an ‘Old Firm Double’ by beating Rangers, and at the press conference yesterday, Lee Casciaro, who scored the winner that night, spoke about his sides chances and noted that unlike against then Brendan Rodgers side, this is a one-legged tie which adds a different dimension to the match.

Meanwhile, Gerrard, whose Rangers side of course played here last year against St Joseph’s, stated that he didn’t believe the artificial surface would pose any problem to his side – some teams in Scotland such as Hamilton, Kilmarnock and Livingston have used them in the Scottish top flight.

Squad News:

Lincoln are believed to have no new injury concerns ahead of the game, with Joseph Chipolina remaining out from his injury last year. Therefore, it will be expected that they pick a similar team to that which beat Union Titus Petange, and were set to face Prishtina in the round before that. Tjay De Barr has joined the team, but didn’t feature for the national side against San Marino, therefore is still short on match fitness since his injury in November, and may have to settle for a spot on the bench.

For Rangers, the good news is that striker Alfredo Morelos is available, despite suffering a knock on the weekend against Dundee United. Meanwhile, former Liverpool winger Ryan Kent is expected to be involved and will be a key threat, having scored four in seven so far this term. They will be missing a few players though, including Ryan Jack and Joe Aribo – the pair scored across both legs of the tie vs Saints last summer.

Betting:

It will come as no surprise to anyone that Rangers, who reached the Last 16 of this tournament last season, are big favourites to win today – the best you can get on them winning is 1/12, while Lincoln are as big as 60/1 in places to recreate the shock win vs Celtic against the other member of the Old Firm.

Ryan Kent, who is in good goalscoring form, is 6/5 to notch a goal today, while for Lincoln, Lee Casciaro is 10/1. Graeme Torrilla, who scored the winner for Gib vs San Marino, is 40/1 to repeat his goalscoring touch for his club side anytime.

FG’s Predicted Lineups:

Lincoln XI – Soler; Wiseman, Lopes, R. Chipolina, Sergeant, Britto; Hernandez, Torrilla, Yahaya, L. Casciaro; Kike

Rangers XI – McLaughlin; Tavernier, Goldson, Helander, Arfield; Davis, Kamara; Kent, Hagi, Roofe, Morelos

post

Walker: “We are all in a positive mindset”

FG caught up with Europa captain Liam Walker ahead of their Europa League tie with Swedish side Djurgårdens IF Fotboll tomorrow.

We asked Liam how preparation has gone for tomorrow’s game, “Preparations have gone as well as we can, as we all know the COVID situation so we have to adapt but it has been good.”

Liam gave us an insight into the mood among the team going into the game, “The mood around the team is good, we have a great group of players and we are all here for the same thing and that it is a success, so we are all in a positive mindset and are ready for tomorrow.”

Europa made four signings in their build-up to the defeat against Red Star last month but also lost some big players like Dayle Coleing and Manu Dimas – we asked Walker how the new signings have settled in, “The new players have settled in great, you would think they have been around for ages, but since day one they have integrated into the group fantastically and as well they are great players so the signings have been positive for us.”

Lastly, we asked Liam what he hopes to achieve for the upcoming season – “As every season I want to win everything, that’s my aim, but we know we are up against other good teams so we will go as we always have and we will take each game as it comes and play every game like its a last.”

post

FG interview with Scott Wiseman

With less than a week to go until Lincoln plays Rangers in the Victoria Stadium – FG spoke to Scott Wiseman about their UEL tie, Gibraltar’s win over San Marino and more.

The 34-year old made his debut in Lincoln’s win over Union Titus Petange then followed it up with a victory in the UEFA Nations League against San Marino after a four-year absence from international football.

post

What next for Europa?

With Europa yet to announce a replacement for Dayle Coleing and only 5 senior HGP’s at Rafael Escobar’s dispense – we take a look at some replacements which the Greens might want to consider.

1 – Matt Cafer (Romford)

A deal which we understand to be almost complete, Cafer will be returning to Europa after leaving the club in 2017. The Gibraltar international goalkeeper will be hoping to put his past behind him and a move to the Greens would be the perfect opportunity to throw his name back into the mix for Julio’s future squads.

Seeing as Jamie Robba signed a new contract with St Joseph’s in the summer and Jaylan Hankins is opting for Cordoba, Cafer would be the ideal choice.

2 – Andrew Hernandez (St Joseph’s)

An unlikely move with Pishu still having a year or two left on his contract at Saints but one which would be useful for Escobar. It’s still unclear what plans Procopio has for Pishu but the midfielder turned defender would be good competition at full-back for Ethan Jolley.

The recent signing of Erin Barnett in defence means that St Joseph’s are covered in case Pishu does depart for Europa, with Saints expected again to use the minimum HGP’s required in domestic matches.

3 – Ethan Britto (Lincoln Red Imps)

A name which will definitely raise some eyebrows and rustle feathers but a move for Ethan would be a major stamp-point, seeing as Lincoln are reportedly close to signing Tjay. He is expected to play regularly but the question is for how long? With Joseph Chipolina coming back from injury (which we don’t expect to be any time soon) and Tjay’s signing – we fail to see how Ethan will play a starting role in William’s team.

With Alain Pons becoming a regular figure in the St Joseph’s eleven, Ethan will need to be playing regularly if he wants to keep his starting place at International level.

4 – Ethan Santos (Mons Calpe)

It was noticeable in the defeat to Red Star that Europa are a little short on numbers defensively (only two recognised defenders started vs the Serbian champions), and Santos, who has played across the backline for Mons, could prove to be a good option in terms of adding depth to the club for the upcoming season.

While the 21-year-old is unlikely to immediately break up the pairing of Olmo and Sergio Sanchez in the middle of the back-line, he would still be a useful signing which could offer a longer-term use to Europa in terms of meeting HGP requirements, with the potential of the defender developing and becoming a part of Julio Ribas national squad down the line.

5 – Reece Styche (Buxton FC)

Since returning to the national fold, Reece Styche has proven himself to be a handy option, offering something different to the national team, and the same would apply to Europa, with the striker a different kind of striker to what Europa have used in previous seasons.

A potential stumbling block for this deal would be that the striker only joined Buxton earlier this summer, but with time running out before the rumoured season start, Europa may be able to offer a package that suits both Styche and his current employers.

post

Lincoln draw Rangers while Europa travel to Sweden

Scottish giants Rangers will play in Gibraltar for a second consecutive year, this time against Lincoln Red Imps while Europa faces a tricky away trip to Djurgårdens IF Fotboll of Sweden – we got the reaction of the respective captains Roy Chipolina and Liam Walker on the draw.

Wins over Prishtina and Union Titus Pétange have set up a mouth-watering encounter against Steven Gerrard’s side Rangers. The Victoria Stadium will be familiar territory for the Scottish giants who beat St Joseph’s 4-0 in last season’s campaign.

Lincoln captain Roy Chipolina gave us his reaction to the draw, “It’s fantastic for Lincoln and Gibraltar football. To draw the mighty Rangers is very exciting and the kind of team that you dream to play against. We know how tough of an opposition they are and I guess its another David and Goliath fixture.”

After beating knocked out in the preliminaries of the Champions League by Red Star Belgrade, Europa faces another tricky trip in the second qualifying round of the Europa League when they take on Djurgårdens IF Fotboll of Sweden. A tough draw but a great experience nonetheless and playing in the great Tele2 Arena.

Europa captain Liam Walker had this to say on the draw, “It’s another tough team that we have been drawn against but we will prepare to go there and try to get the win.”

Both games will be one-leg and take place on the 17th September.

post

Europa and Lincoln to find out Europa League fate today

Europa and Lincoln will both learn their Europa League opponents for next month’s Second Qualifying Round, in today’s draw at 1pm.

Photo (C) C Correa Photography

Europa, who lost in the Champions League to Red Star Belgrade, drop into the Champions Path of the Europa League draw, and their potential opponents, who all followed them out of the Champions League, are: Djurgarden (Sweden), Flora Tallinn (Estonia), Riga (Latvia), KR (Iceland) and Tre Fiori (San Marino).

Meanwhile, in the Main Path, Lincoln, who qualified after a 2-0 win last week vs Union Titus Petange, are set for a big draw, with their three potential opponents being: Stade de Reims (France), Rio Ave (Portugal) and Rangers (Scotland).

The draw takes place on UEFA.com at 1pm today, and the one-legged matches are set to take place behind closed doors on the 17th September.