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Coleraine, Glenavon and Cliftonville face tough Europa League ties

By Adam McKendry

Northern Ireland's three Europa League representatives have all been handed tough draws in their first round qualifying ties.

Coleraine have a trip to Serbia to face FK Spartak Subotica, while Glenavon and Cliftonville both have Scandinavian opposition in Molde (Norway) and Nordsjaelland (Denmark) respectively.

Steven Gerrard's first European assignment with Rangers will be in Macedonia having been drawn against FK Shkupi, while Derry City are off to Belarus to play Dinamo Minsk.

And Neil Lennon will travel to the Faroe Islands after his Hibernian side were paired with NSI Runavik.

Coleraine, off the back of a hugely successful season, will fancy their chances against their Serbian opponents, who finished fourth in the Serbian SuperLiga last season.

This is only the second time Subotica have been in European competition, and will be an intriguing match-up for Oran Kearney's Bannsiders.

Glenavon, meanwhile, will take on Norwegian runners-up Molde, who are coached by former Manchester United striker Ole Gunnar Solskjaer.

The club were involved in a long-standing battle with Rosenborg in the 1990s and early 2000s for league titles, however in recent seasons they haven't been as successful.

Molde did manage to reach the knockout stages of the 2015-16 Europa League, where they lost to Sevilla, so they do have European pedigree.

Barry Gray's Reds' reward for defeating Glentoran in the playoffs is FC Nordsjaelland, who have Champions League experience in previous years but generally have not been so successful in Europe.

Last year's third-placed finishers in the Danish Superliga, Nordsjaelland are known for playing a very attacking brand of football so that could be a high-scoring tie.

Rangers, meanwhile, will travel to Cair in Macedonia to take on FK Skhupi, who finished fourth in the Macedonian league last season and are making their European debut.

And Derry will be thrilled at drawing Dinamo Minsk, who finished second in the Belarusian league and have plenty of Europa League experience having featured in the group stages in 2014-15 and 2015-16.

The first legs will be played on July 12, with the second legs a week later on July 19.

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