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Still Just A Relatively Small Club In Europe

CaughtOffside’s reader-submitted UEFA cup coverage keeps on trucking as Richard continues his careful watch over Blackburn’s UEFA cup run.

What a difference a fortnight makes in the world of football – and I’m not talking about the Panorama investigation.

Two weeks have passed since the last round of European matches, and we have seen somewhat of a contrast in the results of the English clubs competing in this year’s UEFA Cup. Blackburn’s impressive 2-2 result at the Wals Siezenheim Stadium in Austria was followed by a commanding victory in Middlesbrough at the weekend. Sandwiched in between was a morale boosting 4-2 success over the faltering Man City. Since that clammy Salzburg evening, Rovers have only continued to improve, looking more assured in each passing fixture.

The three other English UEFA Cup entrants, on the other hand, have fared somewhat differently since their European adventures began. West Ham continue to strive for their first victory since the Argentinean arrivals on Transfer Deadline Day. In fact a solitary Bobby Zamora effort against Aston Villa is all they have produced by the way of goals in their last 360 minutes of football. It is interesting to note that between them, the Hammers, Tottenham and Newcastle, have only scored one goal since the first round of UEFA Cup fixtures nearly two weeks ago – Shola Ameobi netting for the Magpies. Liverpool have helped to account for the poor recent form of the 2 ‘biggest clubs in England’ and handed out free football lessons to both Newcastle and Spurs within 4 days of each other.

What do these results say about the much maligned little brother of the Champions League? Has it acted as a distraction for the clubs involved? Well, the results of Blackburn would seem to suggest that it has helped more than hindered. They seem to be rediscovering their form of last season which led to a 6th placed finish. The confidence gained from their two away goals in Austria was probably as big a surprise to many of the players as to the spectators. As a Blackburn fan though, I must remember that neither Middlesbrough nor Man City are very good. In fact to say so is almost a compliment this season.

The other clubs involved in the UEFA Cup have had much more difficult fixtures and it would be unfair to blame their poor results solely on the burden of an extra midweek match. On to this week’s upcoming games though. Spurs and Newcastle were equally impressive in their away European ties and should expect to advance this Thursday evening reasonably comfortably. Fingers crossed that Blackburn can achieve a similar scenario on home soil. The blonde Adonis that is Robbie Savage has warned against complacency this week lest anyone forgets Rovers’ terrible European record:

“Let’s not underestimate them; they’ve got some top players. We have got the advantage, it’s going to be difficult but hopefully we can progress.”

And what price a Carlos Tevez double in Italy to send Alan Pardew’s men through to the group stages? As I said, what a difference a fortnight makes in the world of football. In two weeks time we may well be drooling over the way in which the men in claret and blue have gelled as a unit. Then again, maybe not….

Being from Northern Ireland I would just like to wish Derry City the best of luck against PSG this week. I’m sure they’ll get put firmly in their place, but with the absence of Vikash Dhorasoo and Edouard Cisse for the French outfit we might yet see a surprise outcome. Now that surely is dreaming!