Scouse conspiracy theorists (ie everyone on Merseyside) were quickly disappointed when it emerged that Liverpool and Everton would not face each other, a turn of events that left the red half of Liverpool with nothing to complain about and the blue half with a stinker against Villarreal. Assuming they see off FBK Kaunas, Rafa Benitez’s side will play KF Tirana or CSKA Sofia, although chief executive Rick Parry soon warned: “When you see what happened to Celtic in midweek, you can’t take anything for granted” – neglecting to mention that thing you can take for granted is that the MU Glazerballs always get an easy draw. This year their likely opponents are Hungary’s Debrecen. No, us neither.
Meanwhile in Scotland, the Queen’s Celtic have already stolen a march in the annual Old Firm race to see who can get knocked out of Europe earliest, but should they overturn their five-goal first-leg deficit against Hoxton side Artmedia, a tie against Partizan Belgrade or Sheriff Tiraspol awaits. Elsewhere in Glasgow, not even the Pope’s O’Rangers will be confident that they can be beaten by Anorthosis Famagusta or Trabzonspor. But having threatened to make the group stages last year, Irish outfit Shelbourne will fancy their chances of going one better. An away scoredraw against Steaua Bucharest next week would see them play Rosenborg, where a win would prompt no end of drink-related lazy national stereotyping and derring-do.
Queens Park Rangers celebrated the launch of their new red & black striped away shirt with a visit to Beano Land yesterday. March Bircham (above) posed for television and still cameras, shortly before head-butting Gnasher and being led away by security.