A title decider on the first matchday?
Sunday will see the first of the league clashes between eternal rivals Lincoln Red Imps and Europa. This will be the second time both teams face each other already this season with Europa taking the honours in the first match with a 3-1 victory in the Pepe Reyes Cup.
For Lincoln Red Imps the cup victory, although a dent to their pride will not have dented their own confidence as they continue to ride high with the Europa Conference League success in reaching the group stage.
The match takes on an additional significance this year following last year’s results where Lincoln Red Imps had the upper hand, leading them to take the title in what was one of the closest run battles between the top three.
Success in the league guaranteed a pathway which has since led to playing in the group stage of the Europa Conference League and with it a £3million jackpot which could tilt the financial balance in Lincoln’s favour for the next few seasons.
Toppling Lincoln Red Imps potential supremacy in the league will now become one of the central focal points for all clubs with the 2021/22 season probably the most important time to challenge for the title as the Red and blacks juggle for the first time managing a squad across three fronts, the domestic league, the Europa Conference league and the national squad.
For Lincoln Red Imps home grown players walking onto the field the match will be an additional extension to what has been a long summer which has only seen them rest for the short period between the end of the league and the start of the UEFA club competition matches.
Lincoln Red Imps head coach Mick McElwees record against Europa has seen his selections play five times with three wins and a draw, all five whilst Rafael Escobar has been at the head of Europa.
The Europa coach’s record against Lincoln has seen him grab five wins from eleven matches played since his appointment in 2019. With two draws and four defeats.
Whilst the battle will be on the field, it will be the selections and decisions by the club’s respective head coaches which have in the past been crucial to the final result.
Rafael Escobar will have only played with his full newly reinforced squad in one competitive match before this Sunday’s encounter against Lincoln Red Imps. This a deep contrast to Lincoln Red Imps whose players have been playing during most of the summer due to their success in their European club competition matches.
Although Europa have played preseason friendlies they will not have had the same intensity and competitive experience this summer as their opponents have had possibly giving Lincoln Red Imps that edge to make them favourites for this weekend.
Both clubs will have new and additional pressures off the field.
Europa, who have extra pressure to try and win the league title this season have already made changes behind the scenes including this summers announcement of Eddie Yome becoming the new CEO, former Liverpool player David Thompson coming in as the new Director of Football, and former Mons Calpe executive Kaylie Napoli only this week announced as the clubs new Chief of Operations Officer.
Lincoln Red Imps have also seen their behind the scenes changing as the club adapted to coping with the requirements of playing group stage matches. What is a small compact team behind the scenes have seen their focus moving away from on the field issues to the administrative maze they are now working through as they juggle between normal domestic season issues and UEFA group stage requirements. This, including, managing players some of whom have already seen their work commitments outside football come in direct conflict with their commitments for the club.
Sunday’s match has already been billed as one of the top encounters this weekend, whether it fills the stands as it once used to will, however, still remain to be seen with neither club yet repeating the type of crowds they both attracted when the faced each other.
Commenting on Lincoln Red Imps official website youngster Kian Ronan, who has become one of the established senior players at the club this season said, “I think that we have a very strong squad this year, and that has been tested already during the summer with some people picking up injuries or suspensions,” he said. “We’ve been able to make changes and still produce a strong performance against some top European teams.
“This can only benefit us heading into the domestic season as we have plenty of games from now until Christmas so we will have to use our squad accordingly.
“Our adventures in Europe over the summer have definitely benefitted our preparations for the new domestic season.
“Playing the games we’ve played this summer and some of the teams we’ve come up against has certainly been beneficial for the team.
“Coming up against high quality opponents has meant that we’ve had to step up our levels all over the pitch and that’s been evident in our performances.
“If we can keep those performance levels in training and transfer them into League games, then we will be a real force this season.
“We know only well what a tough start to the season it is. Any game against Europa is huge, whether it be a friendly, cup or league encounter.
“They got the better of us in the Pepe Reyes Cup the other week and it was sore. We didn’t have a particularly great game across the 90 minutes, but we’ve identified areas where we can be better and we’ll be ready for the game on Sunday.
“Even though it’s the first game of the season, these points could be crucial come next May as we experienced last season with the title going right down to the wire.
“Thankfully in our encounters with Europa last season we got the job done and got over the line.”
Also coming up soon is our next UEFA Europa Conference League group game as we make a return to Slovan Bratislava on October 21st.
“Obviously having faced Slovan before, we know what we’re up against and that’s a really high level opponent again,” continued Ronan. “Over the two games we’ve played previously against them we do go into this latest clash with some confidence, especially knowing that we created chances and scored goals and even came away from Bratislava with a 1-1 result.
“We’d all love nothing more than to get some points on the board in the group stages and create a little bit more history again.
“Looking at the group, it’s a steep task for us to qualify into the knockout rounds. Nonetheless we will be aiming to cause problems for our opponents and win games, like we have done all summer.
“Of course it’s still possible and we are enjoying every occasion for what it is and take it game by game.”
Sep 22, 2021 Lincoln FC 1-3 Europa FC
May 1, 2021 Lincoln FC 3-1 Europa FC
Apr 20, 2021 Lincoln FC - Europa FC (3-0 on pens)
Mar 10, 2021 Europa FC 0 -3 Lincoln FC
Oct 31, 2020 Europa FC 2-2 Lincoln FC
Feb 1, 2020 Lincoln FC 0-2 Europa FC
Aug 16, 2019 Europa FC 4-1 Lincoln FC
Aug 11, 2019 Lincoln FC 0-1 Europa FC
May 11, 2019 Lincoln FC 2-0 Europa FC
Feb 16, 2019 Europa FC 1-1 Lincoln FC