Midsummer is traditionally a period of relax, party and get together for the Baltic countries. However, for those who follow football, it’s the time for the European cups draw as the season kicks-off again in July with a set of preliminaries.
Let’s have a look at the draw for each of the four Estonian clubs that will be involved in the European campaign: FC Levadia (Champions League) Nõmme Kalju, Sillamäe Kalev and FC Santos Tartu (Europa League)
FC Levadia vs. La Fiorita (SMR)
The Estonian Champions return to the main competition after 4 years break. And picking up San Marino Champions was probably the best result. A trip to Armenia (FC Banants) and Gibraltar (Lincoln FC) was avoided. Italy and Estonia are directly connected by plane and then it takes a ride to the tiny republic for playing the game (about 3-4 hours). If the squad will not get distracted by the Romagna coast being in full swing during the summer, this tie looks easy before reaching Sparta Prague in the next stage where no one expects miracles a-la’ elimination of Twente and Wisla Krakow.
Most of La Fiorita players are from San Marino or Italy with Julian Aliaj, also member of the board, being the only foreigner (Albania)
Reactions to the draw in Estonia
Marko Kristal, coach, to Levadia website: 'for us any Champion of each European state is a tough opponent. No one will gift us with anything if we don't fight for it. Out only target is to get to the next round'
Reactions to the draw in San Marino
Alex Gasperoni, president of the club, to Rtv San Marino: 'we were not very lucky, we were hoping for a lighter opponent in order to limit the goals conceded, always many in our case. Levadia is made up of 100% professional players. We have built a team that shall manage to bear the impact and give a good impression. After all, we're San Marino Champions and we're ought to defend the colours of our club and our country'
First game away to San Marino (1/2 of July) return either on the 8th or 9th of July.
Precedents with San Marino clubs: there are no precedents between Levadia and San Marino clubs.
Precedents between other Estonian clubs and San Marino ones here.
Percentages of qualification: LEV 100% vs. LAF 0%
Info about Levadia
Info about La Fiorita (coming up soon)
Nõmme Kalju vs. Fram Reykjavik (ISL)
It is a good draw for Kalju albeit the long trip might rise some concerns. Kalju have increased international experience from last season and from bringing players who have had spells abroad, everyone would expect them to qualify almost with no hassle. Fram were a successful side in the past, but now are mainly a drop-zone side. Last season they were 10th out of 12 clubs of the PEPSI Deildin, the Iceland top-flight.
In few words, Kalju can make it past the Icelandic side and go clash with Lech Poznan (POL) in the next round.
Away game first on the 3rd of July in Iceland, return at Kadriorg on the 10th.
Reactions to the draw in Estonia:
Igor Prins, Nõmme Kalju coach, to the club's website: 'the opposition is quite unknown to us, however it won't be easy. It is good that the first leg will be away to Iceland. All we know is that they made a lot of changes in the past two years and now they play with many young players'
Several Kalju players, released their impression to the same website.
Vitali Teleś, Kalju's shot stopper: 'Scandinavian football is physical, there are difficult games ahead of us'; Jorge Rodrigues, Portuguese central defender: 'I think it's a good draw. The experience from the past season has helped strenghtening us'; Karl Mööl, attacking midfielder: 'it doesn't matter from which country or league they come, every opponent in Europe has to be taken seriously'; Japanese trequartista, Hidetoshi Wakui: 'it's not a big surprise, hopefully Kalju can continue writing history of the club in capital letters as done in the past three years'; Allan Kimbaloula, French attacking midfielder: 'the opponent will not be easy, however I believe and hope that we are powerful enough to come out as winners from this duel'; Italian striker, Damiano Quintieri: 'we could have picked up Real Madrid, but that wouldn't make a difference because we always go for winning.'
Precedents with Icelandic teams: none, in Europa League the opponents have been from Latvia, Finland, Azerbaijan and Ukraine.
Precedents between other Estonian clubs and Icelandic ones here
Sillamäe Kalev vs. FC Honka
On the paper there is no comparison: Honka were runners-up in Veikkausliiga last season after leading for a while ahead of HJK Helsinki. However, this season, they are not performing at the same level as at the moment they are 8th out of 12 clubs. With Kalju hitting the headlines last season against HJK Helsinki, Sillamäe might try to set up a surprise as well. An additional motivator could be that they will face Russian side FC Krasnodar in next round as most of the team is made up with ethnic Russians and Russian passport-holders.
It could be a good chance to show off for a contract there.
Reactions to the draw in Estonia:
Vadim Dobiza, Sillamäe Kalev head coach from Ukraine, to local press: 'I am glad we picked up a Finnish team, so we won't have to travel a lot. I confess I had preferred to play the first game away, however nevermind. Honka seems at our level even though we don't know much, we will investigate'.
Precedents with Finnish teams: none as Sillamäe played in the Europa League only once against Dinamo Minsk (BLR)
Precedents of other Estonian clubs with Finnish ones here
Percentages of qualification: SIL 40% vs. HON 60%
Info about Sillamäe Kalev
Info about FC Honka (coming up soon)
FC Santos Tartu vs. Tromso IL
Let’s admit it, of the four clubs, Santos have the hardest task. Not because of Tromso IL themselves (they have dropped from Tippeligaen last season) but because of their amateur status. However, dreaming is not forbidden.
Reactions to the draw in Estonia
Aivar Pohlak, Estonian FA president, to Santos club website: 'the opponent is really strong, and they won't slack against Santos. However, as always in football, the game starts from 0-0'
Timo Teniste, player of Santos and brother of Taijo (player of Norwegian side Sogndal), to local press: 'it will be a long trip for. Probably a draw with someone closer would have been better. Norway is a beautiful country nonetheless. It will be a difficult game for Santos. One way, or the other, we were not going to start as favourites anyway'
Precedents with Norwegian sides: none as the club never qualified to European competitions
Precedents of other Estonian clubs with Norwegian ones here.
Percentages of qualification: SAN 0% vs. TIL 100%
Info about FC Santos Tartu
Info about Tromso IL (coming up soon)