UEFA EUROPA LEAGUE QUALIFYING – The possibilities are endless it would seem after the draws for the qualifying rounds of the next season’s Uefa Champions League and Europa League were concluded in Nion, Switzerland today.
The four Welsh representatives will no doubt be contemplating the ‘what ifs’ and scrutinising the finer complexities of the projected draws. Possible ties for the later qualifying rounds include clubs of fine repute on the continental stage. Malmo, Rangers, Sturm Graz, Partizan Belgrade could all potentially face Welsh clubs this summer but that is for another day.
Essentially all four clubs face daunting first hurdles with Barry Town and Cardiff Met both up first.
The season for these two starts as early as next Thursday, with Barry Town hosting their preliminary first-leg tie with Cliftonville at the Leckwith Stadium and Cardiff Met facing Progres in Luxembourg. Both opponents are expected to difficult overcome and it is far from certain that possible ties against Haugesund (for Barry Town) and Cork City (Cardiff Met) will transpire.
Connah’s Quay will have a no less formidable task when they come up against Kilmarnock in the first qualifying round. The Nomads are no strangers to Scottish opposition following their exploits in the Irn-Bru Cup, and Rhyl’s 1,700 capacity Belle Vue stadium makes for an interesting choice of host venue for the first-leg, with an estimated 3,000 Scots prepared to travel. Partizan Belgrade will await the winners.
In the Champions League, it’s a less straightforward affair for The New Saints, who must wait to see who wins the four-team preliminary round play-off. We do know it’ll be one of Feronikeli (Kosovo), Lincoln Red Imps (Gibraltar), Tre Penne (San Marino) or Santa Coloma (Andorra), but the winner will not be confirmed until 28 June.
Of the four Welsh Premier clubs, The New Saints appear best placed to progress from their tie and advance to face Copenhagen in the second qualifying round, where they would drop into the Europa League qualifiers should they fail to progress past the Danes.