With so many clubs playing in the first qualifying round of Europa League – 94 clubs in all, so 47 different matchups, we’ve split our brief preview into three parts. Click here for Part 1. The link to Part 3 will be at the bottom.
The draw is presented in the match order, and with matches not kicking off until 9 July, we will use these reference numbers when we take a look at the draw for the second qualifying round next week (the draw was done on Wednesday, but we’ll be writing about it next week). The club listed first will host leg one.
Click here to see how the various clubs qualified for the tournament.
Match 17: Brøndby v Inter Turku
Brøndby has a relatively lengthy history in Europe, appearing in every Europa League competition since the 2014-15 season. Last season, after beginning in the third qualifying round, they ended just short of the group stage, falling to Genk 9-4 on aggregate in the playoff round. They have not played in a group stage in Europe since an appearance in the 2005-06 UEFA Cup. Inter Turku returns to Europe for the first time since the 2013-14 Europa League. In its three previous Europa League appearances (2013-14, 2012-13, and 2010-11), they have an 0-2-4 record with a -11 goal differential.
Molde is coming of an appearance in the playoff round last season, its first trip to European competition since the 2015-16 season. They won the first match in the round against Zenit Saint Petersburg, but failed to advance to the round of 32 like they had in 2015-16. KR booked a return trip to Europe after taking last season off, which ended a nine season run in Europe. In their past three visits to Europa League, they have advanced to the second qualifying round and will have their work cut out for them with this match up.
Match 19: St Joseph’s v Rangers
With a 2-0 win against a nine-man Prishtina, St Joesph’s advances 3-1 on aggregate to face the Rangers. The victory marks the clubs first win in their brief European history, and they will enter this matchup as severe underdogs. After a five season hiatus earlier this decade, Rangers returned to Europa League in 2017-18 and have now qualified three seasons in a row. Last season, they advanced all the way from the first qualifying round to the group stage, where they finished third behind Villarreal and Rapid Wien. In the more distant past, they’ve found quite a lot of success in Europe, reaching the final in the UEFA Cup (now Europa League) as recently as 2007-08, and winning the European Cup Winners’ Cup (abolished in 1998-99) way back in 1971-72.
Match 20: Cork City v Progrès Niederkorn
This will be the fifth consecutive season in Europe for Cork City, and they started last season in Champions League, losing to Legia Warsaw in the first qualifying round. They found the most success in 2016-17, reaching the third qualifying round before succumbing to Genk. Progrès Niederkorn advanced out of the preliminary round on away goals after drawing with Cardiff Metropolitan University 2-2 on aggregate. After winning leg one 1-0 at home, they travel to Wales and lost 2-1 in leg two, but that goal served as tiebreaker. Last season, Progrès Niederkorn advanced to the third qualifying round (they began in the first qualifying round), but they lost the only previous time they’ve faced an Irish team in Europa League, a 3-0 loss (on aggregate) to Shamrock Rovers in the 2015-16 competition.
Match 21: Ružomberok v Levski Sofi
Ružomberok has a fairly limited history in Europe, with this making their fifth appearance in UEFA competition. They made the most of their last trip two seasons ago, however, advancing through two rounds before losing to Everton in the third qualifying round. Levski Sofia hasn’t qualified for Champions League since the 2009-10 season, but has played at least one round in Europa League in most seasons this decade. Alas, they have not reached the group stage in Europa League since 2010-11, and were eliminated in last year’s competition by Vaduz in the first qualifying round.
Match 22: Akademija Pandev v Zrinjski Mostar
A younger club (founded in 2010) Akademija Pandev will celebrate their tenth anniversary with their first trip to European competition. They will face an opponent in Zrinjski Mostar that has been in European competitions every season since 2013-14 with a respectible 4-6-6 over that time – though they have yet to advance past the third qualifying round in any competition.
Match 23: Speranța Nisporeni v Neftçi Baku
Speranța Nisporeni of Moldova will be making its European debut in this matchup. Neftçi Baku is back in Europa League for the second consecutive season, and fifth time in six years. Last year, its visit ended during the first qualifying round with a loss to Újpest, but they have reached the group stage as recently as 2012-13.
Match 24: Zeta v MOL Fehérvár
Zeta returns to Europa League for the first time since 2017-18, a one-and-done affair after losing in the first qualifying round to Željezničar Sarajevo. During the 2012-13 iteration of the tournament, Zeta reached the playoff round, which to date has been their farthest advance in European competition. The club formerly known as MOL Vidi, MOL Fehérvár reached the playoff round in Champions League last season, succumbing to AEK Athens a round short of the group stage. Then, in the group stage of Europa League, the club finished third behind eventual champion Chelsea and BATE Borisov after entering matchday six with an outside chance of finishing in second place.
Match 25: Shakhtyor Soligorsk v Hibernians
This year marks nine straight for Shakhtyor Soligorsk in Europa League, with their best result coming during the 2014-15 competition. They reached the playoff round that year, losing to PSV Eindhoven a round short of the group stage. Last season, they went home after a loss to Lech Poznań in the second qualifying round. Hibernians sat out European competition last year, but have otherwise qualified in six of the past seven seasons. Its last time in Europe was a trip to Champions League in 2017-18, where it defeated FCI Tallinn in the first qualifying round and lost to Red Bull Salzburg in the following round.
Match 26: Olimpija Ljubljana v RFS
Olimpija Ljubljana is no stranger to the Europa League, with this qualification marking their seventh appearance in the tournament. Last season was their most successful foray into Europe, which saw them advance all the way to the playoff round before losing to Spartak Trnava after they began the season in Champions League. RFS will be making their debut in Europe this season, their third season in the top league in Latvia.
Honvéd finds themselves in Europe for the third consecutive season, while Žalgiris makes it eight in a row. Honvéd managed to win a round in Europa League last season, defeating Rabotnički in the first qualifying round before losing to Progrès Niederkorn. Žalgiris reached the third qualifying round, falling to Sevilla, and is still seeking its first trip to the group stage.
Match 28: Alashkert v Makedonija GP
Alashkert has qualified for UEFA competitions for five straight seasons, and it’s been a mix of Champions League and Europa League. Last season, it began in the “senior” tournament, losing to Celtic pretty convincingly. But the club won its first round back in Europa League against Sutjeska Nikšić… before being obliterated by CFR Cluj in the third qualifying round. Neverthless, they’ve never played less than two rounds in Europe over the past four seasons, a stretch they hope to extend. Makedonija GP, on the other hand, is back in Europa League for the first time since the 2009-10 season, where they lost in the second qualifying round to BATE Borisov.
Radnik Bjileljina has to feel pretty bad about this draw. It will be playing in its third and fourth matches ever in Europe, while Spartak Trnava had quite a run last season, reaching the third qualifying round of Champions League (a loss to Red Star Belgrade), and then a trip through the group stage of Europa League (3rd place finish in Group D). They’ve also played in Europe in eight of the past 11 seasons, and haven’t been eliminated after one round since 2008-09. If the Bosnian squad somehow prevails, it would be a minor upset for sure.
Match 30: Fola Esch v Chikhura Sachkhere
It’s six straight European trips for Fola Esch, and eight trips since 2011-12, though five prior trips did not extend past the first round. Its most successful run came two years ago, when the club reached the third qualifying round of Europa League. Its six Europa League qualifications in seven seasons for Chikhura Sachkere, including four in a row. They have also reached a third qualifying round (in 2014-15), and have kept things relatively close across all their Europa League matches, compiling a 4-8-6 record with only a -4 goal differential.
Match 31: Dinamo Tbilisi v Engoradany
Dinamo Tbilisi is one of the most successful Georgian football clubs, and returns to European competition for the second consecutive year. They lasted one round in Europa League last season, falling to DAC Dunajská Streda in the first qualifying round. Engordany never trailed in their preliminary round matchup against La Fiorita, advancing 3-1 on aggregate. The win makes them 2-0 in rounds versus clubs from San Marino, though they did lose 10-1 on aggregate to Kairat in this round last season, their only previous appearance in Europe.
Match 32: Široki Brijeg v Kairat
For 16 of the past 18 seasons, Široki Brijeg has participated in European competition. However, they’ve only once one more than two rounds in any season during that run (the 2005-06 UEFA Cup), and were eliminated in heart-breaking fashion last season, losing on away goals to Domžale. Kairat extended a streak of their own, and will be appearing in Europa League for the sixth consecutive season. In each of the prior five competitions, they’ve won at least one round, so we’ll have to wait and see if that trend continues for the Kazakh club.
Be sure to check out Part 3 for the remaining 15 matchups of the first qualifying round.
Until next time…
Last update: 5 July 2019