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British rivals head for Slovenia

The key to the central/west preliminary group in Slovenia may be a contest between British teams.

The tournament may be being held in Slovenia, but the key to the central/west preliminary group may be a contest between British teams.

Home side
Coached by 48-year-old Danilo Sirgas, the host side, Primorska Amateur, start the tournament as favourites, with home advantage having proved decisive in both previous UEFA Regions' Cup mini-tournaments this year, but their guests - starting with opening-day opponents Mid Cheshire Amateur, can pack a punch.

English champions
Winners of the FA National League Systems Cup in England under the name Barnton AFC, Mid Cheshire league secretary Rob Goodwin-Davey was proud to tell uefa.com: "We are very strong at the back and in central midfield and we have creativity and pace both out wide and with our forwards."

Professional opponents
A team that includes a postman, construction workers, a mortgage advisor, a social worker and an accountant as well as the odd sports coach, Mid Cheshire have tested themselves against a range of amateur, semi-professional and even fully professional sides before travelling to Slovenia.

'Schoolboy dream'
Barnton won their English title in style at Cambridge United FC's Abbey Stadium, and now they are hoping that their excellent team spirit can help them progress in Slovenia. "Now to Slovenia to represent England," said Goodwin-Davey. "It is everybody's schoolboy dream - we hope the dream continues."

Northern Ireland hope
On the same day that Primorska face Mid-Cheshire, Northern Ireland Amateur will take on Malta Amateur. Coached by 62-year-old Mervyn Bell, they are largely composed of players from Northern Ireland's second flight, and have had pre-tournament practice with a couple of 0-0 draws against their counterparts from the Republic of Ireland.

Limited resources
"[The Republic of Ireland] spend a lot of time and money on their junior international squads, playing a lot of tournaments; we play only the Regions' Cup and the Statoil Triangular tournament," Bell told uefa.com. "They also used two entirely different squads [in the friendly games], while we have difficulty naming 30 players for UEFA!"

Strong squad
Nonetheless, Bell - who led Northern Ireland in a Regions' Cup preliminary tournament in the Netherlands two years ago - has faith in his team. "We're quite happy," he said. "We think the squad we have is better than anything we've had before." Northern Ireland will take on Mid-Cheshire in their second game on 22 September before facing the hosts in what could be a winner-takes-all final game on 24 September.

Maltese power
On the same day, Malta will take on Mid-Cheshire in their final game, and coach Joseph John Aquilina - who is also coach of Maltese Premier League side Valletta FC - insists that his men are not travelling to Slovenia to make up the numbers. "I really believe that my boys can achieve good results in the forthcoming Regions' Cup," he told uefa.com.

Homework counts
"We have been preparing really hard for this tournament. The boys have responded well with great dedication in training, and I believe that when you do your homework well you can pass your exams. We have done our fair share of work, and I believe we can bring one or two good results back home."

Tournament rules
The team that finishes top in the mini-tournament on 24 September will qualify for Group 3 of the Regions' Cup, facing sides from Bosnia-Herzegovina, San Marino and the Republic of Ireland. The best runners-up from the two preliminary rounds will face teams from Croatia, Liechtenstein and Switzerland in Group 2.