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v Odense - Let's not mess it up !


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As you no doubt already know by now, Aston Villa will face Danish Superligaen outfit Odense Boldklub over the next 2 Saturdays (19th & 26th) in one of eleven Intertoto Cup finals. The winner will gain a place in the 2nd qualifying round of the UEFA Cup.

Given that Villa's European CV is a bit barren since the turn of the century it would be bordering on professional suicide to expect anything but a stern test from what is a very decent outfit from a decent standard of league. They will certainly be a sterner test than what will be faced in the 2nd qualifying round of the UEFA Cup for whoever gets through this tie.

Quite apart from being one of the more difficult opponents to come through the earlier rounds of the Intertoto Cup, Odense also have the not-insignificant advantage that their pre-season training has been completed and their league campaign starts this weekend. Anyone who watched Russia at Euro 2008 recently will know full well the advantages of being match-fit against opponents who are not (the Russian League was in full swing during Euro 2008 and at times they looked to be in a different gear to the rest). Anyone who thinks we only need to turn up to win needs to look back to last weekend where Villa DID manage to lose to a seemingly inferior team who were also 100% match fit (FC Zurich's Swiss League starts this weekend too).

Now I don't mean this article to be negative. I only want it to serve as a reminder of the reasons why this match will be more difficult than it appears on paper. We wont even go into discussing the players that haven't yet been bought and the positions that haven't yet been filled. O'Neill said only a few days ago that the Premier League was his priority, and I agree that it should be, but I just hope he wasn't creating a safety net for the 'what ifs' that could happen soon. For me, as a fan, Europe is the jam on top of the bread & butter that is the league and while it is not the financial goldmine that the Champions League offers, it would still be very disappointing not to have some kind of a run in it after the effort put in to reach it last season.

On the positive side, O'Neill has steered a team to the final of the UEFA Cup before (Celtic losing to an FC Porto currently under investigation for match fixing) and has in general done well in Europe, so we should be confident enough that the lads will have the right frame of mind and that the Zurich game will serve as a timely kick in the backside and a reminder that even supposed 'fodder' can bite back. Any potential complacency should well and truly be gone.

I can't wait to see the experienced European heads in the team making a return to European football. Martin Laursen and John Carew were signed for just this type of situation and although one has had to wait longer than the other, I've no doubt that on the day they will show their class and serve to steady the ship for the younger players. I also hope that whoever captains the side will be able to make the likes of Young & Agbonlahor play with the fearless youthful exuberance that has got them the reputations they have earned so far.

On the opposition side, most of you will have heard of former AC Milan, Internazionale and ... Norwich player Thomas Helveg. Their captain is central midfielder Esben Hansen, notable as being the only player ever to captain Denmark on his international debut. They have an exciting Senegalese forward by the name of Baye Djiby Fall who scored both their goals in the 2nd leg against Turku. Martin Bisgaard who spent 4 seasons with Derby County and they also have the older brother of ex-Aston villa reserve Magnus Troest, Jonas.

So, Villa are back in Europe. Let's enjoy it, let's revel in it and look forward to the midweek European evenings. Just don't mess it up at the first hurdle lads !!!

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I agree that to go out at the first hurdle when a place in the UEFA Cup is the prize for the winner (which our league position last year usualy brings) would be a huge blow. Given that I think we are under done for the first leg I would be happy with an away goal and to bring them back to Villa Park no worse than one behind. I trust we could then emerge winners in the home leg. I'm hoping that we can reach the group stage as a minimum but anything better than that would be a bonus.

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On the opposition side, most of you will have heard of former AC Milan, Internazionale and ... Norwich player Thomas Helveg. Their captain is central midfielder Esben Hansen, notable as being the only player ever to captain Denmark on his international debut. They have an exciting Senegalese forward by the name of Baye Djiby Fall who scored both their goals in the 2nd leg against Turku. Martin Bisgaard who spent 4 seasons with Derby County and they also have the older brother of ex-Aston villa reserve Magnus Troest, Jonas.

Most will have heard of Eric Djemba-Djemba aswell. Lets hope he doesnt 'do a darius' against us.

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I can't wait to see the experienced European heads in the team making a return to European football. Martin Laursen and John Carew were signed for just this type of situation and although one has had to wait longer than the other, I've no doubt that on the day they will show their class and serve to steady the ship for the younger players.

Well I think they made quite significant contributions on the night :)

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Next legs are 14th & 28th of August. And the draw for them is this Friday after the Thursday 2nd leg of the 1st qualy round.

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