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irishtimes.com – Last Updated: Friday, August 26, 2011, 15:48 Fixture list tempers Rovers delight Related

Valiant Rovers realise their European dream | 26/08/2011

Soccer: Shamrock Rovers will have an arduous trip to Russia to face Rubin Kazan on November 30th after the fixture list for the Europa League group stages was promptly hammered out in Monaco this afternoon. Delight at being drawn with Tottenham in Group A will have been tempered by the prospect of an icy reception 500 miles east of Moscow and a five-game wait for the visit of Spurs.
The game against Harry Redknapp’s side was always going to be the money spinner for Rovers – who will get around €1 million for their participation alone – but will not have the same financial potential if Rovers are out of the compeition by then.have not fared well in the preceding five games.

Rubin Kazan will be the first to visit Dublin on September 15th, followed two weeks later by a trip to White Hart Lane. Back-to-back games against PAOK Salonika come within a fortnight of each other from October 20th.

Having only made history by reaching the group stages last night with a 2-1 win over Partizan Belgrade last night, Rovers chairman Jonathan Roche and general manager Noel Byrne missed the draw in Monaco this afternoon but arrived in time for the fixture negotiations.

Speaking before the fixtures were agreed, Byrne gave the strongest indication yet that at least one of their games – against Spurs on December 15th – will have to be played at the Aviva Stadium.

“It’s the one that throws the venue into doubt,” he said. “There’s no doubt you could play the other two in Tallaght. Getting Spurs throws a spanner in the works, in a good way. We’ll have to talk it over.”

Rovers are of the understanding they could bring Tallaght up to the standard required by Uefa, by adding seats and extending the press box, but even if that is the case, it remains to be seen whether it is possible to play group games at two venues.

If not, opting to play Spurs at Lansdowne Road will mean hosting Kazan and PAOK there as well.

Tottenham director of football administration Darren Eales also admitted the six-hour journey to Kazan, a city on the River Volga and a 90-minute flight east of Moscow, would pose challenges, but welcomed the prospect of a meeting with Rovers.

“I must admit after we had Rubin Kazan first out of the hat and then PAOK from Greece I thought I might struggle to go back to White Hart Lane with that draw – but at least we got Shamrock,” he said. “It’s a great fairy tale for them, the first Irish club to get into the group stage of a European competition, and it’s what European football is all about.

“It should be a great night in Dublin. I know their stadium only holds 6,000 so I think they will need to find somewhere with a few more seats than that and it should be a cracking atmosphere there, and a great little trip for our fans.”

Rovers will have to move quickly to sort out contractual agreements with their players ahead of an unexpected European campaign. The club are keen to avoid the sort of stand-off that occurred between players and the boardroom at St Patrick’s Athletic this season, when the squad almost boycotted the home game against Karpaty Lviv because of a payment dispute.

Byrne does not envisage a similar situation with the Rovers squad.

“I’d imagine that that sort of conversation will have to happen but we have an important game on Monday and the wheels have to stay on the wagon,” he said. “We’d be confident that what happened with Pat’s won’t happen to us. There was certainly no sign of it last night anyway the players were just thrilled to be through.

“They all owe me for jerseys anyway, because they keep giving them away,” he joked.

Fulham face Dutch side FC Twente, Odense from Denmark and Wisla Krakow from Poland in Group K.

Stoke will play Dynamo Kiev, Besiktas and Hapoel Tel Aviv in Group E, while Birmingham are in Group H with Club Brugge, Braga and Maribor.

If Celtic are successful in replacing Sion, who are alleged to have breached a transfer ban, they would be in Group I with Atletico Madrid, Udinese and Rennes.

Shamrock Rovers fixtures (Irish times)

Sept 15: Rubin Kazan (H) 6pm

Sept 29: Spurs (A) 8.05pm

Oct 20: PAOK (A) 8.05pm

Nov 3: PAOK (H) 6pm

Nov 30: Rubin Kazan (A) 8.05

December 15: Spurs (H) 6pm

Europa League Group Stages

Group A: Tottenham Hotspur, Rubin Kazan, PAOK Salonika, Shamrock Rovers

Group B: FC Copenhagen, Standard Liege, Hannover 96, Vorskla Poltava

Group C: PSV Eindhoven, Hapoel Tel Aviv, Rapid Bucharest, Legia Warsaw

Group D: Sporting Lisbon, Lazio, FC Zurich, FC Vaslui

Group E: Dynamo Kiev, Besiktas, Stoke City, Maccabi Tel Aviv

Group F: Paris St Germain, Athletic Bilbao, Salzburg, Slovan Bratislava

Group G: AZ Alkmaar, Metalist Kharkiv, Austria Vienna, Malmo FF

Group H: SC Braga, Club Bruges, Birmingham City, Maribor

Group I: Atletico Madrid, Udinese, Stade Rennes, FC Sion

Group J: Schalke 04, Steaua Bucharest, Maccabi Haifa, AEK Larnaca

Group K: FC Twente, Fulham, Odense, Wislaw Krakow

Group L: Anderlecht, AEK Athens, Lokomotiv Moscow, Sturm Graz

Matchday One: Sept 15

Matchday Two: Sept 29

Matchday Three : Oct 20

Matchday Four: Nov 3

Matchday Five : Nov 30/Dec 1

Matchday Six: Dec 14/15

Round of 32: First leg Feb 16, Second leg Feb 23

Round of 16 : First leg: March 8 Second leg March 15

Quarter-finals: First leg March 29, second leg April 5

Semifinals : First leg: April 19, April 26