UCL Qualification Preview: MFF v Žalgiris Vilnius
If you are like me, the name FC Žalgiris (or Vilniaus futbolo klubas Žalgiris as they are known in their native tongue) is vaguely familiar, but you couldn’t place them on a map. It’s possible you know them by another name:
- 1947 – Dinamo
- 1948 – Spartakas
- 1962 – Žalgiris
- 1993 – Žalgiris-EBSW
- 1993 – FK Žalgiris
- 2009 – VMFD Žalgiris
- 2015 – FK Žalgiris
More likely, you remember them from last year’s UCL Qualification, where they crashed out against Dinamo Zagreb in the round where they are currently meeting Malmö.
While it turns out “they have won the Lithuanian Championship (5 times), Lithuanian Football Cup (8 times) and Lithuanian Supercup (4 times)”, certainly MFF has a better pedigree. Both teams are in the middle of their domestic campaigns, and this is where things get interesting. While FCZ are sitting first (though the 2nd place team has two games in hand), MFF sits in sixth.
I wrote before the season started that I was unimpressed with MFF’s signings. They sold/didn’t resign a lot of players. Since then, MFF has brought in Vladimir Rodić and Felipe Carvalho. Neither of these guys is going to help. My pessimism about the signings was tempered by the fact that Yotún has 38 international appearances and Eikrem came through the Manchester United academy. Neither the Serb nor Uruguayan have anything like that sort of pedigree. They also sold Robin Olsen and Erik Johansson this summer. Now, Johansson has had a problem with picking up yellow cards, so maybe this is a short-term decision to free up some money to grab a defender that is not going to be suspended for yellow card accumulation.
The real problem for MFF has been the draws (5 of 15!). This might not be so bad in the Champions League. They just need to make sure they keep it tight at the back at home. Even if MFF does make it through their first round, in the next round they will face one of the following:
- Basel CC: 84.875
- Red Bull Salzburg CC: 43.135
- Viktoria Plzeň CC: 41.825
- Winners of match involving Steaua București CC: 40.259
- Winners of match involving Celtic CC: 39.080
- Winners of match involving APOEL CC: 35.460
- Winners of match involving BATE Borisov CC: 35.150
- Winners of match involving Ludogorets Razgrad CC: 25.350
- Winners of match involving Dinamo Zagreb CC: 24.700
- Winners of match involving Maribor CC: 22.225
While I get that Scottish football is not what it was (else Celtic would not be entering at this stage), these are teams that have done well in recent years. I’m not going to spend time profiling each of them. I will spend some time looking at the match-up if MFF manages to make it through.
The first leg is in Malmö on July 15. We’ll have to wait until July 21 to know whether MFF makes it through.