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City’s European adventure begins

19 August 2010

The home of FC Timişoara, Stadionul Dan Păltinişanu opened in 1963 and has a capacity of 32,019.

I may have spoken some harsh words about the Europa League last spring, with the bitter taste of City’s failure to gain access to the Champions League fresh in my mouth, but there’s no denying it’s good to be in the competition. Last season it would have been a distraction to the club’s pursuit of a Top Four finish domestically, but after the busy summer in the transfer market, Roberto Mancini has the depth of class to wage war on four fronts simultaneously.

As opposed to last time around, when City endured a long qualification round by virtue of sneaking in via the Fair Play backdoor, this season’s European campaign begins in the third and final qualification round. The opponents are Romanian side FC Timişoara. I can’t claim to be familiar with the Transylvanian club, and their Wikipedia page seems principally preoccupied with some legal battle between current clubs of a predecessor’s name, colors, and records.

Aside from the BBC’s Jonathan Stevenson’s extensive blog entry, the UK media have seized on two bits of information about Timişoara: their owner offering his players £82,000 a man if they win this tie to advance to Europa League group play; and the fact their stadium is completely uncovered.

James Milner’s arrival comes too late for him to be registered for the competition, but fellow newcomer Mario Balotelli was added to City’s squad in time and is expected to make his bow in a City shirt tonight. No Aleksandar Kolarov or Wayne Bridge tonight means that either Pablo Zabaleta or Gareth Barry will have to fill in at left back, unless Academy product Greg Cunningham was a stealth late addition to Mancini’s 25-man squad.

From City’s experience playing smaller European sides two seasons ago, I’m not expecting a cakewalk in Romania tonight. If I had to guess, I think we’ll see City emerge with a 2-1 victory against a plucky and fired-up opponent. Part of me is fearing for a comeuppance after all my Spurs schadenfreude on Tuesday, but honestly as long as City get at least one away goal and don’t completely switch off defensively, I’ll be fine. Of course, that won’t stop me from wanting to see them end the tie for all intents and purposes with a 5-0 thrashing of the hosts.

Because there is no broadcast of the game here in the States — DirecTV’s awesome Europa League coverage apparently doesn’t extend to qualifiers, unlike their Champions League coverage — I’ll be watching online. I’m thinking about giving a try, as a number of people I know swear by it. It’s just that with so many City games picked for television now, I don’t expect to find myself searching for Internet streams very often this season.

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