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Sir Kenny Dalglish: UEFA’s third-tier cup should avoid third-rate pitches

Andrew Considine is tended to by Aberdeen’s medical team after going down injured in Baku
Andrew Considine is tended to by Aberdeen’s medical team after going down injured in Baku

Aberdeen manager, Stephen Glass, and his chairman, Dave Cormack, both lambasted UEFA for the state of Qarabag’s pitch last midweek.

The Dons lost 1-0 in Baku. And as if that wasn’t bad enough, they also lost Andy Considine after he picked up a knee injury, which Stephen thinks was linked to the playing surface.

I’ve looked at some of the photos of the Qarabag pitch, and I was genuinely surprised to see one so poor being used in a UEFA competition.

The European game’s governing body need to look at this, and make sure clubs raise their standards.

The match delegate should have been there days before kick-off, and maybe there should have been a request to move the game to a stadium with a surface more fitting to European competition.

Like the Baku Olympic Stadium, that was used for the Euro Finals during the summer.

The UEFA Conference League is a new competition. It might be third on the list in terms of importance behind the Champions League and the Europa League, but third-rate standards can’t be tolerated.

Stephen was spot-on to brand the surface a disgrace.

You would think in this day and age, that clubs would have much better.

I’m not expecting every stadium to contain a bowling green, but it should be better than what was inside the Tofiq Bahramov Stadium.

The Dons are desperate to qualify, and they will look to overturn the deficit when they get their opponents back to the Granite City on Thursday evening.

Qualification is vital. There is £3-million up for grabs, and that is a huge payday for the club.

It is the same for St Johnstone, and they have an excellent chance of making the group stages of the same competition after their 1-1 draw in Austria against LASK.

That should make for an exciting game at McDiarmid Park in midweek.

Both games are on a knife-edge, and could go either way. But I’m quietly confident both Aberdeen and St Johnstone will go through.

Celtic and Rangers are also in action on Thursday, and it looks as though Ange Postecoglou’s men are in the strongest position.

They defeated AZ Alkmaar 2-0 at Celtic Park, but the tie is far from over. Despite the defeat, the Dutch side played well and created chances.

Joe Hart made one or two excellent stops and, already, he looks to be an outstanding signing.

AZ will be confident they can turn things around, but Celtic are really motoring, and in Kyogo Furuhashi, they have a matchwinner.

He can turn things in the Hoops’ favour in any company. What an asset he is.

Celtic's Kyogo Furuhashi © Rob Casey / SNS Group
Celtic’s Kyogo Furuhashi

The Old Firm have both missed out on the £35m riches of the Champions League, but the Europa League can be worth in the region of £10m. That’s a significant amount of money.

Rangers have competed very well in the Europa League in the past couple of years, and they need another big display this week.

Steven Gerrard’s players still look as though they have to find their rhythm but, despite the ropey displays, they take a 1-0 lead to Armenia for the second leg.

Alfredo Morelos scored the winning goal and he will be required for Thursday. He can be the difference.

However, it looks as though it’s going to be a really tough 90 minutes for Rangers, and they’ll need to be right on it to progress.

From there, they will travel back a long way to face Celtic on Sunday at Ibrox. What a game that is going to be.

By then, we will know the European fate of the four Scottish sides.

I wish them all well – and have a feeling all of them might just make it.