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Champions League and Europa League draws - all you need to know

By Adam McKendry

Today and tomorrow will determine what path each Irish League side will take in their respective European competitions.

The Champions League draw, which will be held at UEFA headquarters in Nyon, Switzerland at 11am, sees Northern Ireland represented by Crusaders, while tomorrow's Europa League draw will feature Coleraine, Glenavon and Cliftonville.

Big-hitters Celtic were the side the Crues would have been hoping for, however they have been split into different groups for the draw and therefore cannot face each other.

The same applies to Rangers in the Europa League, who have been assigned a different group to the three Northern Irish sides.

Derry City and Shamrock Rovers are in the Europa League draw too, while Cork City and Welsh side The New Saints join Crusaders in the Champions League draw.

How does it work?

Before the draw begins, all the sides have been split into groups. In the Champions League there are three groups (two of 10 teams and one of 12), while in the Europa League there are nine groups (seven of 10 teams and two of 12).

Both draws take the same format, which one group being drawn at a time.

In each group, the teams are split evenly into seeded teams and unseeded teams. The seeded teams are placed into one bowl and the unseeded teams are placed into another.

One ball is drawn out of each bowl and placed into a central bowl, where they are shuffled. One ball is selected, and this team will have home advantage in the first leg of the tie. The other ball will be their opponents, who will be at home in the second leg.

When will the ties be played?

Champions League: 10/11 July & 17/18 July

Europa League: 12 July & 19 July

Key men: Crusaders celebrating the league title

Who can Crusaders draw?

It's a tough, tough draw for Crusaders, who have been lumped into a group with Ludogorets Razgrad (Bulgaria), Legia Warszawa (Poland), Malmo (Sweden), Rosenborg (Norway), and HJK Helsinki (Finland).

Once powerhouses of the European game, Malmo and Rosenborg are the two sides that leap out of that group, while Legia Warszawa are known for being able to hold their own against Europe's premier sides in the past.

Arguably the two sides Crusaders will be wanting are Ludogrets Razgrad or HJK Helsinki, but of course neither of those will be easy draws either, particularly the former, who have faced Arsenal in the past.

Coleraine's Eoin Bradley celebrates scoring

Who can Coleraine draw?

A lot less recognisable names here as Coleraine's potential opponents are Gornik Zabrze (Poland), Vardar (Macedonia), Dinamo Minsk (Belarus), Spartak Subotica (Serbia) and OFK Titograd (Montenegro).

Minsk stand out as the team to avoid, however they aren't the team they once were - as reflected by the fact they're in the Europa League - while Vardar are perennial qualifiers and will pose a strict test.

Sammy Clingan celebrates

Who can Glenavon draw?

There'll be some familiarity on this side of the draw as the Lurgan Blues can face Zalgiris Vilnius (Lithuania), Molde (Norway), Nomme Kalju (Estonia), Fola Esch (Luxembourg) or Slavia Sofia (Bulgaria).

Molde are the ones to avoid here, the Norwegians have a lot of experience in Europe and are managed by former Manchester United striker Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, while Zalgiris Vilnius will be familiar to the local area as they played Portadown back in 2004.

Fola Esch may sound familiar too, and rightly so - Northern Ireland winger Niall McGinn scored when they faced Aberdeen in 2016.

Cliftonville celebrate

Who can Cliftonville draw?

If you're looking for the hardest names to pronounce, they belong to Cliftonville's group: Hafnarfjordur (Iceland), Nordsjaelland (Denmark), AIK (Sweden), Ventspils (Latvia) and Shakhtyor Soligorsk (Belarus) are the potential opponents for the Reds.

Off the back of success for the national team, Hafnarfjordur could be riding a national high and could be one to avoid, while AIK are no strangers to European competition either.

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