Europa League: play-offs vs. Partizan Belgrad
FC Thun made it to the Europa League playoffs by beating Georgian side Chikhura Sachkhere in the second round and BK Häcken Göteborg from Sweden in third round. FC Thun now will face Serbian league champions Partizan Belgrad. The Swiss reached the play-offs via four victorys (8-2 on aggregate) and another victory would see the side earn a place in the Europa League group stages. But Partizan Belgrad definitely has to be seen as the odds-on favourite.
As in 2011/12 FC Thun reached the Europa League play-offs again. Two years ago, Thun eliminated FC Vllaznia Shkoder and US Palermo (results: three draws and a victory) and then lost against premiere league club Stoke City in the play-offs. In this year, the swiss side first played Chikhura Sachkhere (3-1 / 2-0) and then FC Häcken Göteborg (2-1 / 1-0), triumphing 8-2 on aggregate on their march to the play-offs, and they were paired this year with Partizan Belgrad in the draw at UEFA's headquarters in Nyon.
The Serbian league champion first played the Champions League qualification, and initially faced FC Schirak Gjumri from Armenia in the second round (1-1 / 0-0) and Ludogorets Razgrad in the third round. Partizan lost the two-legged tie against the bulgarian side 3-1 on aggregate and therefore the Serbians continue their Europacup campaign in the Europa League play-offs against FC Thun.
Now and then
Although FC Thun reached the 4th round of the Europa League qualification again - as in 2011/12 - there are not many striking parallels to that past season. Non but the teamspirit and the rediness to fight, which are basically strong points of FC Thun. Todays Thun-coach Urs Fischer knows his players better than former coach Bernard Challandes did in 2011 (he was employed two weeks before the first EL-match against Vllaznia Shkoder). Only four regular players are left from Challandes team: Benjamin Lüthi (scored 2011 against Vllaznia Shkoder and Palermo), Dennis Hediger, Andreas Wittwer (scored 2011 against Stoke City) aswell as Junior Sanogo (who intermediately played for Lausanne Sport). Whereas there is also to mention Christian Schneuwly who played for FC Thun in 2011/12 on loan and then returned to his regular club BSC Young Boys for one season. Now he signed a two-year-contract with FC Thun and is eligible to play the play-offs.
At the head of the EL-scorerlist of FC Thun in 2013/14: Luca Zuffi and Junior Sanogo - both scored twice. Enrico Schirinzi, Cassio and Christian Schneuwlys brother Marco (third of the scoring charts of swiss Raiffeisen Super League in 2012/13) succeeded aswell. Although in the championship 2013/14, Josef Martinez and Dennis Hediger currently are the topscorers of FC Thun. This means: in Thun goals are not necessarely scored by one or two strikers only. FC Thun is staffed by teamplayers. There are no stars and no leaders, that repeatedly decide a match single-handed. This makes it difficult for opponents (regarding assignements). In Thun each member of the collective can crucially influence a game. In five championship-matches and four Europa League matches FC Thun allready scored 18 goals... and they were bagged by nine (resp. ten) different players. If there is a factor, that can help to provide a victory over Partizan Belgrad, then it is this one. But if FC Thun wants to reach the group stage of the Europa League, then the club also needs some luck and a good form on the day of both legs.
Apart from that, Partizan Belgrad (market value approx. 28 mio CHF) is vastly superiour to FC Thun (market value approx. 13 mio CHF). Partizans individually stronger players have more experience in playing football in a major international competition (for many players of FC Thun its the first Europacup-participation), and Partizan Belgrad has a wider squad to its disposition (squad rotation). The first leg will take place on August 22 in Belgrad with the return fixture a week later. Victory would see FC Thun earn a place in a Europacup group stage for the second time in its history.