Yesterday’s draw groupings made sure that a Welsh club weren’t going to be able to get a huge glamour draw, that honour eventually landed on the lap of Shamrock Rovers, who got the tie of the round after drawing Milan at home.
From a Welsh perspective however, we cannot be too disappointed and have reasons to be hopeful. Two home draws out of three, and out of the three ties, two of which can be considered winnable for our clubs.
Bala Town were rewarded for their first ever European win by pulling Standard Liege out of the
hat bowl. The Belgians aren’t the force they once were on the continental stage nor domestically, having finished fifth last season, but should certainly be superior to Bala in every department.
The occasion however will be a memorable one for Bala Town and to now be rubbing shoulders with a club of such pedigree epitomises how successful their journey has been through the ranks of Welsh football under Colin Caton. The fact it will be played behind closed doors does dampen the occasion slightly, but it cannot be helped of course and it will take nothing away from the players and staff at the club, for which it will be a huge occasion.
The New Saints follow in the footsteps of Barry Town to the Faroe Islands and you would fully expect them to fare better. B36 Torshavn, currently third and a place above above NSI Runavik in their domestic league, possess a young squad entirely made up of Faroese players and logistical difficulties aside, The New Saints should be the stronger and more experienced team, which will bode similarities to their tie with MSK Zilina.
Connah’s Quay have another home draw on the back of their frustrating defeat to FK Sarajevo in the Champions League qualifiers and host Georgia’s Dinamo Tbilisi.
Andy Morrison’s team will do well to replicate Dinamo’s previous visit to Wales, when a brace from Jordan Follows saw Llanelli defeat them 2-1 at Stebonheath back in 2014.
Dinamo are 10 games into their domestic season and, like the Nomads, drop into the Europa League qualifying stages after being eliminated from the Champions League qualifiers, where they were dealt a 2-0 home defeat to Tirana.
Dinamo Tbilisi will likely be a stern test for Connah’s Quay, but with positives and learning to take from their encounter against Sarajevo, it’s not an impossible tie for the Nomads, especially with them not having to travel to Georgia.
With two teams being drawn at home and ties scheduled for Thursday 17 September, there will need to be consideration given to where the two home ties will be played with neither Maes Tegid or the Deeside Stadium able to host games.
Cardiff City Stadium was used successfully by the Nomads in their previous outing and with The New Saints’ Park Hall not being required, it’s possible that it host Bala’s game with Standard Liege after it was used by Saints in their game with MSK last week.
All three clubs have something to look forward to going into these ties and they each will have had a competitive game under their belts with the Cymru Premier season starting the weekend before.