Dundee United travel to Wroclaw hoping to land a knockout blow in a city scheduled to host the WBC Heavyweight Boxing Title match in just two months’ time.
Peter Houston’s men will be underdogs against Slask Wroclaw in their Europa League Second Qualifying Round tie, just like Polish native Tomasz Adamek will be against champion Vitali Klitschko.
One thing the Taysiders may have to their advantage; however, is previous European experience and they do have a victory against these particular Eastern European opponents under their belts.
It was twenty-one years ago that the Tangerines managed a 0-0 draw away before demolishing Slask 7-2 in the return leg as Jim McLean’s men ran riot at Tannadice. Ironically, Slask’s currently coach Orest Lenczyk was in charge of the Poles on that occasion also, and has already stated he is keen to get one over the SPL outfit to even things out.
Lenczyk will not have had much opportunity to scout his opposition as United have lost some key players during the summer with the likes of Morgaro Gomis, Prince Buaben, Craig Conway and David Robertson moving on. Also gone are Darren Dods and Andis Shala. Houston has only added a couple of midfielders to his squad with Hibernian’s John Rankin joining Willo Flood from Middlesbrough and Craig McKay-Stevens from Airdrie United as the new faces in the set up. Flood is no stranger to United, having enjoyed a two-season loan spell from 2007-2009, where his form earned him a move to Boyhood heroes Celtic from his parent club Cardiff City. That didn’t go down well with the United faithful at the time, but it’s a sure thing they’ll be happy to see him back at the club.
United’s preparations for their European adventure started early with a tour of the Republic of Ireland last month proving a worthwhile test of the legs. Indeed, it’s been as short a pre-season break as you will get with only a few weeks rest enjoyed by the players before their games against Drogheda United (a 2-1 win) and Bohemians (1-1).
Despite Goodwillie taking most of the plaudits – as well as the Young Player of the Year awards – in the last campaign, the player to watch could be 21-year-old forward Johnny Russell.
The youngster burst on to the scene last season following loan spells at Forfar Athletic and Raith Rovers and managed a respectable 9 goals in 34 appearances, including a superb diving header at Ibrox in a 3-2 win for the Tayside club.
This youthful United side will come up against a more experienced Slask outfit, who will be hoping to keep hold of their star man, midfielder and captain Sebastian Mila.
Mila is the most-capped of the Slask side with 28 appearances for Poland and he has European experience from playing with Austria Vienna and Norwegian side Valerenga. There will, though, be some key players missing from their line-up.
A major boost for the Scots could be the omission of striker Lukasz Gikiewicz, former Porto midfielder Przemyslaw Kazmierczak and ex-Bolton defender Jaroslaw Fojut through injury.
One thing is for sure, Scottish clubs will have to improve their performances in European competition this season following some poor results in recent years which has seen the co-efficient rating damaged.
United themselves may have been unlucky last year to only lose out 2-1 on aggregate to a decent AEK Athens side, and they will be hoping for some better luck on this occasion.
The return leg at Tannadice takes place on July 21 and Houston and his men will be hoping their performance in Wroclaw will give them a fighting chance. Perhaps a better fighting chance than Adamek will have against Klitschko.
Written by Neil Murray