Belfast Telegraph

Europa League play-off draw: Linfield discover potential opponents in final hurdle to sealing place in the group stage

Andy Waterworth celebrates scoring against HB Torshavn last week to seal his side's place in the Europa League third qualifying round.
Andy Waterworth celebrates scoring against HB Torshavn last week to seal his side's place in the Europa League third qualifying round.
Gareth Hanna

By Gareth Hanna

Linfield will face a team that played in the Champions League group stage just two years ago if they make it to the Europa League Play-Off.

The Blues, of course, take on Montenegrin side FK Sutjeska in the third qualifying round and they now know the prize on offer in the final hurdle to making it into the competition proper.

Should the make it to the Play-Off, Linfield will take on the losers of the Champions League third qualifying round tie between Cypriot side APOEL and Azerbaijani champions Qarabag.

Either way, Linfield would be facing a fearsome task against a side that played in the Champions League group stage just two years ago.

There most favourable outcome of the draw would have been a tie against the winners of the Europa League third qualifying round clash between Dundalk and Slovan Bratislava.

Should they progress past Sutjeska, Linfield will host their Play-Off opponents at Windsor Park on Thursday, August 22 before travelling away for the second leg a week later.

Working off the UEFA club rankings, APOEL, at 59th, are slight favorites to make it through in the Champions League, dumping 70th placed Qarabag into the Europa League.

Sign In

It would be the Azerbaijani side's second visit to the island of Ireland this summer, having beaten Dundalk 4-1 on aggregate in the Champions League second qualifying round. The League of Ireland champions secured a 1-1 draw at Oriel Park before losing the away leg 3-0.

Qarabag have also seen off Albanian champions Partizani Tirana in this season's Champions League campaign.

They became the first Azerbaijani side to play in the Champions League group stages in 2017, when they drew against both Roma and Atletico Madrid.

APOEL would be even more prestigious opponents for the Blues, having qualified for the Champions League group stages on four occasions, most recently in 2017, when they drew home and away with Borussia Dortmund.

The Cypriot side have already seen off Linfield's third qualifying round opponents Sutjeska 4-0 on aggregate in the Champions League this summer.

League of Ireland champions Dundalk will play the losers of Ajax's tie against PAOK if they can see off Slovan Bratislava.

Should Rangers safely progress to the Play-Off round by beating Midtylland, Steven Gerrard's side will play either Legia Warsaw or Atromitos Athens.

Celtic play CFR Cluj for a place in the Champions League Play-off, where they would take on Slavia Prague for a place in the group stage. Should they be ousted by Cluj, the Hoops would take on either FC Sheriff Tiraspol or AIK in the Europa League Play-Off.

Wolves will face Torino for a place in the group stage, if the English side beat FC Pyunik and the Italians see off Shakhtyor.

If Aberdeen beat HNK Rijeka, they will be rewarded with a Play-Off against either AEK Larnaca or Gent.

Here's the Europa League play off round draw (Champions path) as it happened:

Belfast Telegraph Digital

Popular

From Belfast Telegraph