Europa League preview: 'Well v FC Kuban
Motherwell kick off the season with a Europa League tie against FC Kuban from Krasnodar in southern Russia. Any result that keeps the tie alive for the away leg is the target. Will the Fir Park faithful be happy on Thursday night?
The visitors qualified for their first European competition on the final day of the season but they lost some influential players over the summer. They had three managers last year but still delivered their finest season in the top league. Motherwell are interested only in members of the current squad and there's enough talent in the rebuilt side to cause us problems.
The new manager, Dorinel Munteanu, has signed ex-QPR striker Djibril Cisse and together with Baldé and Popov they have plenty of attacking options. Last season they relied of a stout defence and speedy wing play and based much of their success on counter attacking play. They have a goalkeeper, Belenov, who is expected to be called up to the international team and they have brought in a couple of midfielders to fill the empty slots.
Kuban are three games into their new campaign and have yet to lose (2 draws and a win) so they may have the advantage of match sharpness.
Stuart McCall's team has also undergone a transformation since we finished the league as runners up. New boys Vigurs, Lawson, McManus and Anier will be keen to make their mark and a good showing on Thursday would be the best way to introduce themselves to the Motherwell crowd.
The club has done its best to prepare the team for this tie. A week into the pre-season they embarked on a Spanish training trip and followed it up with a series of friendlies. They have the advantage of recent match videos of our opponents and no doubt a plan to counter their expected 4-2-3-1 formation has been hatched.
We got a boost from Faddy's decision to join up for another spell and it could be that his big match experience will be a vital factor over the two legs. The old ground should have a great atmosphere and if we can keep a clean sheet a shock might be on the cards. We'll be happy with a 0-0.
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