This is the final installment of a 3-part preview on Hungary’s representatives in the UEFA Europa League this season. The clubs that qualified out of Hungary’s top flight will start in the First Qualifying Round of the Europa League and will face other domestic top finishers or cup winners from around Europe starting on 29 June with the first leg. The second leg will be played the following week on 6 July and the team with the highest aggregate score will advance to the Second Qualifying Round. The losers will be eliminated from the competition.
Ferencváros qualified by winning the Magyar Kupa and on Monday, 19 June, the draw for the Europa League was held at UEFA headquarters in Nyon, Switzerland where they were drawn against Latvian side Jelgava.
Ferencváros vs FK Jelgava
First leg: at Groupama Aréna, Budapest, Hungary (cap. 22,000)
Date: Thursday, 29 June
Second leg: at Zemgale Olympic Center, Jelgava, Latvia (cap. 1,560)
Date: Tuesday, 6 July
Ferencváros (UEFA coefficient: 3.900, ranked 304)
Manager: Thomas Doll (since 18 December, 2013)
This past campaign can only be seen as a disappointment by the club after finishing as runaway champions the year before. Ferencváros finished fourth this season, 13 points off the pace, and never seemed settled throughout the campaign. After a slow start to the season they brought in a number of signings during the winter break including Hungarian international László Kleinheisler but despite the talent at Thomas Doll’s disposal they weren’t able to put together a strong run to challenge for the title.
Ferencváros experienced just as much disappointment in Europe as they crashed out to Albanian side Partizan Tirana on penalties after a 2-2 aggregate score in the Second Qualifying Round of the Champions League. Fradi were only able to convert one of four spot kicks at home and saw the end of the their European season finish before it started, much to the dismay of 8,700 fans.
They did manage a silver lining to their season, however, winning the Magyar Kupa for a third consecutive season.
Thomas Doll had plenty of talent at his disposal last season with forward Daniel Böde leading the way with 16 goals in all competitions. Another exciting attacking player was winger Moutari Amadou who joined the club in February and scored 7 goals in 21 games. Roland Varga was another player that improved as the season went on, amassing 5 goals and 13 assists in 25 games. With a number of players and coming and going this summer, including Kleinheisler, Doll will be fortunate to have veteran Zoltán Gera in his side to provide experience and leadership. Add veteran forward Tamás Priskin and Uruguayan midfielder Fernando Gorriarán to the mix and Fradi are looking good in terms of depth.
Ferencváros have a rich history as one of the most successful football clubs in Hungary. They are easily one of the most commonly recognized Hungarian clubs outside of Hungary because of their size and pedigree. Domestically they have won the league 29 times and the Magyar Kupa on 23 occasions .
In Europe Ferencváros were most successful in the 60’s and 70’s when they won the Inter-Cities Fair Cup (1965), runners up in the same competition 3 years later, and then runners-up in the UEFA Cup Winners Cup in 1975. The last time they were in the group stage of a major competition was the UEFA Cup in 2004-05 but didn’t advance beyond that stage. Since then they’ve failed to advance beyond the qualifying rounds in any European competition they’ve been in.
FK Jelgava (UEFA coefficient: 2.975, ranked 339)
Manager: Alexandru Curteian (since 21 December, 2016)
(Latvia football expert Graham Williams shares his insight on the Jelgava’s players, history, and their chances in this tie. Graham is the academy leader at Riga United FC.)
“Jelgava finished runners-up last season, level on points with FK Ventspils. This was the highest position the club has ever finished in the Virslīga.”
“The Hungarian league is perceived as stronger than the Latvian league. This season the Virslīga started with 8 teams however due to match fixing allegations one team was disqualified. There have been a few Latvian players try their luck in the Hungarian league but none of them have achieved much.”
“Jelgava have improved their squad over the past few years, currently their stand out players are defender Mārcis Ošs who has scored 6 goals in 13 games. Also goalkeeper Ikstens is a main stay in the 1st team.”
The club came to be know as FK Jelgava when FK Viola and RAF Jelgava merged to become one team back in 2004 and they were promoted to the Virslīga five years later. Since then they’ve won four Latvian Cups and have qualified for European competition on five occasions. This year will be the first year they did so based upon their league position.
Jelgava had their best European run last season when they got past Iceland’s Breiðablik and Slovan Bratislava before falling to Beitar Jerusalem in Third Qualifying Round of the Europa League.
Graham Williams – “A win for Ferencváros at home and a draw in Jelgava.”
Chris Barrett – Boy it’s difficult to predict what Ferencváros will do. Their revolving door of players and lack of cohesion could make for an interesting tie. Jelgava are in the middle of their season which gives them a slight advantage due to match fitness but they are currently six points off the pace after 11 games. I’m backing Fradi to win strong at home and travel to Latvia already looking to the next round.