It’s the international break this weekend, so not much top flight football but that doesn’t mean you should ignore the lower divisions. We’ve picked out the most interesting Euro 2012 qualifier and a couple of potential crackers from the FA Cup third qualifying round. Add a couple of top-of-the-table battles and a city derby and you’ll barely notice that there’s no Premier League games over the next few days.
Melbourne Heart v Melbourne Victory
Hyundai A-League, Friday 8th October, 9.30am
A historic day for football in Melbourne sees the first ever A League meeting between Victory and new franchise Heart. Moved from last weekend, due to the AFL final replay, this match sees the opportunity for the first chapter in a city rivalry in what promises to be a sell out at the AAMI Park.
On paper this should be Victory’s game, but they’ve recorded three consecutive goalless draws, while Heart come off the back of the wrong end of a 4-0 rout against Brisbane Roar. That said, don’t discount the newcomers – our spies in Melbourne say the Heart have a young, hungry squad. Due to the nature of the A League, both teams are just a few good results away from a decent playoff berth, although surely no team can catch Adelaide at the top of the table.
Portugal v Denmark
Euro 2012 Group H qualifier, Friday 8 October, 8.45pm
It might be a bit hyperbolic to say one of the current big names of international football could be all but out of the reckoning for Euro 2012, but there’s no doubt if Portugal lose to Denmark at home this weekend then they face a huge struggle to make it to Poland and the Ukraine.
New boss Paulo Bento has confirmed that Cristiano Ronaldo will remain as captain but will be without Liedson and Miguel Veloso. Denmark, meanwhile, will have to cope without Nicklas Bendtner. The Danes showed at the World Cup they are no mugs and will be as strong an well-organised as you’d expect a Scandinavian team to be. This is probably the most interesting international fixture this weekend (although Germany v Turkey comes a close second).
Chelmsford City v Bromley
FA Cup third qualifying round, Saturday 9 October, 3pm
A fixture that immediately stood out when the draw was made, this FA Cup qualifier sees two form teams from the Blue Square South battle out to get ever closer to the First Round proper.
Bromley have got off to a flyer this season and top the Blue Square South. Mark Goldberg’s men have yet to lose a game with striker Warren McBean in fine form. Yet there are frailties and Chelmsford, who haven’t dropped a single point at home this season, will fancy their chances. Striker Sam Higgins already has 10 goals in all competitions this season and will provide a real test for the Lilywhites’ defence.
Guiseley v Whitley Bay
FA Cup 3rd Qualifying Round, Saturday 9 October, 3pm
Don’t let Whitley’s lowly Northern League Division One status fool you – the Bay are seriously good in knockout competitions and have won back to back FA Vases and go into this game as the form team in their division, having won five of their last six games.
But Northern Premier champions Guiseley will be no pushovers and sit fifth in a very competitive Blue Square North and come into this tie off the back of a four nil victory over Corby. Steve Kittrick’s men will fancy their chances of getting through to the final qualifying round but don’t be surprised if Bay make life difficult for their higher-placed opponents.
Lowestoft Town v Sutton United
Ryman Premier League, Saturday 9 October, 3pm
Last week this would have been a fixture where the league leaders travelled to second place. Now, it’s the first hosting second following Kingstonian’s unexpected victory over Sutton on Monday, although the Trawler Boys failed to take full advantage of this by only managing a draw against Canvey Island a day later.
Nonetheless, United have a healthy budget and remain the team to beat this season and manager Paul Doswell has said he’ll resign if the U’s failed to get promoted. Lowestoft, as we highlighted two weeks ago, are upwardly mobile and are aiming for a third successive promotion. This one’s impossible to call.
Cruzeiro v Fluminese
Campeonato Brasileiro Serie A, Sunday 10 October, 8pm
Rounding off the weekend is this tasty-looking fixture from Brasil featuring two teams most definitely in the title hunt. Both teams will be playing a few hours after this article is published, so the picture could change slightly ahead of Sunday but as things stand Flu sit atop the table with Cruzeiro four points behind in third.
Despite being one of Brazil’s bigger teams, Fluminese haven’t won the title since 1984 but have held onto coach Muricy Ramalho despite the overtures of the Brazilian national team. Although the Rio team have a goal difference of +22 at the top of the table they could only manage a draw against bottom side Gremio. With second place Corinthians also dropping points, this fixture is a great chance for Cruzeiro to reel in their rivals.