So KR Reykjavik “at home” in the first round of Europe.
Except we might not actually be at home depending on the state of the air-bans list come the game.
The tie itself is a one legged affair so getting familiar surroundings is a bonus.
Except there’ll be no fans.
All of this is going to be strange beyond anything we’ve experienced in Europe before.
Within a short time of the first one kicking off we’ll know whether we’ve made the Groups. There will be no eight match marathon to get there … just five games in which our fate will be decided. It’s a strange new nightmare qualification path, the ultimate measure of where we are.
Are we ready for it? Will we be ready for it? We need to get some business done pronto because the traditional “pause” between European rounds, and the two-legged nature of them, doesn’t exist here. We’ll be out of one tie and into the next at breakneck speed.
Players who aren’t signed in time for one round won’t be bedded in to play in the next.
What time we have left – not much of it; the first games take place on 18/19 August – needs to be spent wisely. I think we’d all like to see a central defender and a striker signed before then, just to give us the breathing space we need in case of injuries to key players.
Some things can’t be prevented. An injury to a top footballer is just one of those things. But a failure to be able to put someone else in should such an eventuality arise, the weight of that would fall on Lawwell and the board.
Fair? Unfair? A lot of folk won’t even hear those words.
The first round is easily navigable, and you’d have expected us to do it whether we were home, away or on neutral ground. But later rounds may throw up some unpleasant surprises and not just from the teams involved. You get the feeling anything could happen.
And anything and everything will.
All we can do is be our best selves, prepare as completely as possible and then trust that the draw gives us a clear shot. The idea that we’ll be seeded in every round is a bonus, but that doesn’t mean we’ll dodge every bullet. There are hard games ahead.
The simple truth is that one Lincoln Red Imps style night and we’re out. In these first couple of rounds its complacency that could be our biggest foe.
We must guard against that and get these jobs done.
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