Friday, January 9, 2009

No. 196: Partizani Tirana (Albania)

Some interesting tidbits come up with the inclusion of Partizani Tirana of Albania at No. 196 on our list.

First, this is the first team from the bottom that comes from a league that actually had a team win a European tie this year. Albania's Vllaznia Shkoder won its UEFA Cup first qualifying round tie with Koper of Slovenia before promptly losing 8-0 aggregate to Napoli (Italy) in the next round. But we won't mention that (again). Albania's league is ranked 42nd by UEFA, meaning no team from leagues 43-52 won a European tie.

The second interesting note is that Partizani Tirana is the first team we've come across that played in Europe but is in relegation position in its league this year. Partizani is a dreadful 11th of 12 teams with a -8 goal differential. The club is four points from safety in the Albanian Superliga with 16 matches to play.

The poor season comes after a solid performance in a losing effort in the UEFA Cup first qualifying round. Partizani lost 3-1 aggregate to Siroki Brijeg of Bosnia & Herzegovina. That league is ranked 32nd by UEFA.
One bright spot for Partizani - the team can still get back into the UEFA Cup through its domestic cup. The club is in the quarterfinals where it meets Flamurtari Vlore over two legs beginning Feb. 25.
One of Partizani's top talents is midfielder Elis Bakaj, who was an unused substitute in the Albanian national team's 3-0 win over Malta in a World Cup qualifier on Sept. 10.

Rankings so far
1. Manchester United
2. Barcelona
3. Liverpool
4. Chelsea
5. Bayern Munich
6. Inter
7. Juventus
8. Real Madrid

196. Partizani Tirana (Albania)
197. NSI Runavik (Faroe Islands)
198. Shakhter Karagandy (Kazakhstan)
199. Cliftonville (Northern Ireland)
200. Bangor City (Wales)
201. CS Grevenmacher (Luxembourg)
202. FC Santa Coloma (Andorra)
203. Racing FC (Luxembourg)
204. Zeta (Montenegro)
205. Murata (San Marino)
206. Juvenes/Dogana (San Marino)
207. Birkirkara (Malta)
208. Marsaxlokk (Malta)
209. UE Sant Julia (Andorra)

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