Group E coming to a close...
What a funny game football is, even more bizarre in the vast parameters of Europe. Once it had become clear and the dust had settled around Europe`s secondary club competition that Rovers would be one amongst a group of unknown entities everyone at Ewood was optimistic, and why not.
At the time Rovers were celebrating their victory over Salzburg and were in the middle of an eight game unbeaten run, proving there was life after Craig Bellamy.
Amongst the five sides it was perhaps fair to say that Feyenoord, with all their pedigree in European competitions, would top the group leaving behind a pack scrimmaging around for the remaining two places. Wisla Krakow were deemed the 'dark horses` whilst Basel provided an enterprising past in European football, making them the inconsistent anomaly.
That left UEFA virgins, Nancy and the perennial underachievers at this level…Rovers.
As match day five approaches and Rovers say goodbye to an exciting period in their history the group doesn`t appear as it should.
Feyenoord are languishing in fourth with just two points from three fixtures and the virgins have reached the top in ruthless fashion. There is still time for them to be toppled by the underachievers but the UEFA Cup will say see no more of last season`s semi finalists Basel. The dark horses have finally stirred and galloped into third. They will battle it out with Feyenoord for that final place in the last 32.
All five sides have played their part in making Group E of the UEFA Cup 2006/2007 exciting and controversial. Their have been some memorable strikes, particularly at Ewood Park and forgettable moments too such as the abuse aimed at Benni McCarthy in Krakow.
However, one thing is clear….it is tough to maintain a challenge in Europe and at home. Rovers and Nancy have been the success stories in Group E to date but both have found their respective league forms dwindling.
We need not look too far into Rovers abysmal form that makes Andriy Shevchenko`s strike rate seem bearable, but Nancy, who showed so much early season promise in only their second season back in the top flight, have begun to slide down the French league quicker than one of Bordeaux`s finest.
On the other hand, Feyenoord approached the group in horrendous league form but have since catapulted up the league into a position that is more befitting of a club of their stature. However, they are just one of the 'big clubs` struggling in this years competition. They face possible elimination unless they can overturn Wisla at the De Kuip on Wednesday.
Basel are a mirror image of their Dutch compatriots. Christian Gross` side have been unceremoniously dumped out of this year`s competition, largely because of their profligacy in front of goal as witnessed at Ewood, but during their doomed adventure they have managed to reverse their poor league form.
Wisla are the only side who have managed to balance the two competitions, but the standard in Poland is well, leaving a lot to be desired.
The group has thrown up some interesting results, notably Nancy`s hammering of Feyenoord on match day four to supplant Rovers at the top. The research that has been undertaken to try, as best as possible, to glean an understanding of opposition form has often left journalists scratching their heads as results fluctuate between the obvious and incredible. Group E has been something of an enigma which is a fitting advocate for this years tremendous UEFA Cup.