Motherwell FC in Europe – 2012/13

The draw for the Champions League 3rd Qualifying Round will take place on Friday at 11am, with Motherwell making their debut in the competition.  Stuart McCall’s side qualified as a result of their 3rd placed finish in last season’s SPL, with Rangers being ruled ineligible due to their failure to submit accounts (and their later liquidation).  Their matches will take place on 31st July/1st August and 7th/8th August.

While Motherwell are playing in Europe’s premier competition for the first time, they have competed in Europe on 6 previous occasions (5 times in the UEFA Cup/Europa League, and once in the Cup Winners’ Cup).  They made their debut in 1991/92, and have become regular qualifiers in recent years, with this season’s campaign being their 4th in the last 5 seasons.  In total, they have played 11 ties against opposition from 11 different countries, including a complete tour of the Nordic nations (even the Faroes).

The countries and cities/towns Motherwell have visited in European competition.


Their first taste of Europe was in the Cup Winners’ Cup after that famous 1991 Scottish Cup win, and their campaign started inauspiciously with a 2-0 defeat to GKS Katowice in Poland.  That made it a tough ask for the 2nd leg at Fir Park, but Stevie Kirk scored their first ever European goal to give them a 1-0 half-time lead.  Unfortunately, Katowice scored just after the hour mark, and despite two goals in the last 5 minutes the Steelmen lost out on away goals.

They had to wait 3 years for another chance, this time in the UEFA Cup.  HB Torshavn were thrashed home and away in the Preliminary Round, setting up a glamour tie against Borussia Dortmund.  The first leg in Germany finished just 1-0 to the Germans, but any hopes of a shock result were extinguished by a 2nd half Karl-Heinz Riedle double at Fir Park.  The Motherwell midfield for those games featured Paul Lambert, who impressed enough to win a move to Dortmund, where he would go on to win the Champions League.

The following season saw Motherwell qualify again – as Premier Division runners-up – but the Preliminary Round tie would see one of the club’s most embarrassing European defeats.  They were drawn against Finnish side MyPA, and despite taking the lead through Shaun McSkimming after 9 minutes at Fir Park, things swiftly unravelled, and they lost 3-1 in front of a shellshocked home crowd.  In the 2nd leg in Finland, they restored a bit of pride with a 2-0 win, but it wasn’t enough to prevent a defeat on away goals.

After a long 13 year wait, they returned to European competition in the 2008/09 UEFA Cup – the final season before it was rebranded.  They had a tough draw against Nancy, but a 1-0 defeat away defeat gave them a fighting chance at Fir Park.  Their hopes were short-lived though, as future Celtic striker Marc-Antoine Fortune scored an early goal in a 2-0 win for the French side.

They redeemed themselves the following season in the first ever Europa League, but only after suffering early ignominy.  Their qualification came via Fair Play, so they had to enter at the 1st Qualifying Round, which started on the 2nd July.  Due to pitch improvements at Fir Park, their opening match at home to Llanelli was played at the Excelsior Stadium, Airdrie, but even the early start and unfamiliar surroundings couldn’t excuse an embarrassing 1-0 defeat.  They rescued the tie with a 3-0 win in the 2nd leg in Wales.

The 2nd Qualifying Round saw a 1-0 defeat in Albania against Flamurtari Vlore, but they turned things round emphatically in Airdrie with an 8-1 win.  Jamie Murphy scored their only European hat-trick (to date), as they rushed into a 6-0 half-time lead.  The next round was a step too far, as a Steaua Bucharest side featuring Dorin Goian crushed them 3-0 in Romania and 3-1 in Airdrie.

A 3rd consecutive qualification was secured for the 2010/11 season, and the European experience from previous seasons paid off.  After a 1-0 win over Breidablik at Fir Park, they secured a nervy 1-0 win in Iceland through a Jamie Murphy goal.  The following round saw them comfortably defeat an Aalesunds side which had Anders Lindegaard in goals.  Murphy scored his 6th European goal in a 1-1 draw in Norway, making him the club’s all-time top European scorer, and he took his tally to 7 with another goal in a 3-0 2nd leg win at Fir Park.

Despite being unseeded for the play-off round, they were handed a winnable tie against Odense which gave them a chance of making the lucrative group stage.  After going 2-0 down in Denmark, Tom Hateley scored a stoppage time free-kick to secure a crucial away goal ahead of the match at Fir Park.  A crowd in excess of 9000 turned out, but Odense scored a crucial goal midway through the first half.  Despite dominating the 2nd half, and seeing their opponents reduced to 9 men, Motherwell couldn’t find any way through, even squandering a penalty as Jamie Murphy hit the post.

2012/13 Campaign

Motherwell are guaranteed two ties in Europe this season – even if they lose in their Champions League qualifier, they will drop down to the Europa League play-off.  They are only two ties away from the holy grail of the Champions League group stage, but that would require two wins over seeded opposition.  A place in the Europa League group stage could be slightly more attainable.  For that to happen, they would only need to win one of their two guaranteed European ties, albeit still against seeded opposition.

Champions League 3rd Qualifying Round

Matches: 31st July/1st August & 7th/8th August

Motherwell are in the “non-Champions” path, which means they will face the lowest ranked qualifiers from the bigger nations.  Their 3rd Qualifying Round contains just 8 teams, with 4 seeded and 4 unseeded.  Motherwell are unseeded, so their only possible opponents are Dynamo Kyiv, Panathinaikos, FC Kobenhavn and Fenerbahce.

Champions League Play-off Round

Matches: 21st/22nd August & 28th/29th August

The 4 winners from the previous round will join 6 clubs from the nations ranked 2-7 by UEFA league coefficients (England’s 4th entrant, Chelsea, get directly into the group stage as holders).  If the previous round goes by seeding, then Motherwell will not make it to this stage, but that outcome isn’t worth including in a piece which is exclusively about the Scottish side!

Let’s assume that every other match in QR3 goes by seeding, but that Motherwell make it through.  In that case, Motherwell’s potential opponents would be Braga and Spartak Moscow plus the other 3 seeded teams from the previous round.  I’ve illustrated this below by assuming that Motherwell face and beat Fenerbahce in the 3rd Qualifying Round, but the same applies if they beat Dynamo Kyiv, Panathinaikos or Copenhagen (simply replace the beaten side with Fenerbahce).

If any the other ties in the previous round go in favour of the unseeded teams then Motherwell could potentially face Udinese or Lille.  It is not possible that they could face Malaga or Borussia Monchengladbach though – both of these sides are guaranteed to be unseeded in the Play-off Round.

Europa League Play-off Round

If Motherwell lose in their Champions League 3rd Qualifying Round match, they would go into the Europa League play-off round, one match away from the group stage.  Motherwell will almost certainly be unseeded in this round.

This round is drawn after the previous round is completed, so the seedings will only be known at that stage.  The table below is merely speculative, and assumes that every single seeded side wins in the previous round, and that every single unseeded team loses in the Champions League 3rd Qualifying Round.  The teams who have to win an earlier Europa League match to reach this stage are in white italics, while the sides who would drop down from the Champions League are coloured in blue.

About SPLstats
Providing statistics and trivia about Scottish football. Main focus is the SPL, but all Scottish football will be covered. Not affiliated to the SPL.

4 Responses to Motherwell FC in Europe – 2012/13

  1. Pingback: Celtic FC in Europe 2012/13 « SPLstats

  2. No idea why they call it a “Draw” !!! It’s a fix to protect the big and the powerful.

    Mon the Well.

  3. Calum says:

    To be fair, the first leg 1-0 loss to Llanelli was probably more “embarrassing” than the MyPa defeat. Motherwell certainly underrated the Finns that day, but they were no mugs — a young chap called Jari Litmanen was playing for them at the time. Other than his contribution, the tie is probably most memorable for Lee McCulloch hitting the post in the last minute of the second leg, which had it gone in would have seen Motherwell through to the next round.

    • Anonymous says:

      Pretty sure Litmanen was at Ajax by then although I take your point. Sami Hypia definitely did play for them.

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