The Europa League third qualifying round is upon us, kicking off with a few matches tomorrow and continuing through 15 August. Twenty-six new clubs enter this round – 11 losers from Champions League and 15 secondary qualifiers from various European leagues – joining the 46 winners from the second qualifying round. Teams coming over from the Champions League will only play other clubs that did the same until we reach the group stage.
By the time you are likely reading this post, the draw for the playoff round will also be completed, which will feature the 36 winners from this round and six clubs from the Champions League third qualifying round. Like we’ve done with the previous three rounds, we will break the round into three separate posts (click here for Part 2 and Part 3) due to the vast number of matches to be played. We are a little over 6 weeks from the group stage, and that draw will happen at the end of the month upon the conclusion of the playoff round.
Again, you can check here to see how all the new clubs qualified for Europa League. And away we go…
Sutjeska Nikšić surprised Slovan Bratislava on penalties in the first qualifying round of Champions League, but their journey in the tournament ended last week on a 4-0 loss (on aggregate) to APOEL. That first qualifying round victory, however, has allowed the champions of Montenegro to advance further in Europe than they ever have before, and they will be rewarded with their first trip ever to Northern Ireland for competitive football.
Linfield was one of the biggest losers in the Champions League first qualifying round, losing 6-0 on aggregate to Rosenborg. Thanks to a favorable draw in the Europa League second qualifying round – a match against HB Tórshavn – they are still alive in the tournament. They have yet to win two rounds in a single European season, but this matchup against Sutjeska – their first against a Montenegran club – is probably their best chance.
The last time Maccabi Tel Aviv played in Champions League (2015-16), they reached the group stage. Their stay this season was much shorter, losing in the second qualifying round to Romanian champion CFR Cluj 3-2 on aggregate. A win in this round will allow them to match their playoff round appearance from last season, and they enter the match with a 3-0-1 record against clubs from Lithuania.
Sūduva held Red Star Belgrade to a scoreless draw in leg one of the Champions League first qualifying league, but couldn’t take advantage in leg two, losing 2-1 in a match that wasn’t as close as the final score indicated. They followed that up with a 10-0 drubbing of Tre Penne in Europa League’s second qualifying round, taking advantage of the champion of an association that went home pointless this season in Europe. Maccabi will likely pose a much more difficult test, but it will be the Lithuanian champions’ first trip to Israel on Thursday.
Ararat-Armenia was recently reformed, so their appearance in the Champions League first qualifying round was the first UEFA appearance for the club. They opened the round with a win at home against AIK, only to fall in the second leg in Sweden, and lost 4-3 on aggregate. Meeting the Lincoln Red Imps during the Europa League second qualifying round was not early as tough, with the club winning 4-1 in their Europa League debut.
Saburtalo Tbilisi followed up a stunning first qualifying round victory over Sheriff Tiraspol in their Champions League debut by struggling mightily against Dinamo Zagreb in the second round, a 5-0 loss on aggregate. Nevertheless, the winner of this match will likely have advanced further than anyone really expected them to, so it should make for compelling football.
After losing on penalty kicks in the Champions League first qualifying round (to Dundalk), Riga FC again played it close in the last round, advancing on away goals after drawing Piast Gliwice 4-4 on aggregate.
They face a club in HJK with a much longer history in Europe, though it has been a few seasons since in Finnish champs won more than two rounds in any seasons. They were eliminated from the Champions League by Red Star Belgrade, coming up just short in leg two and losing 3-2 on aggregate. They are, however, won four straight matches against Latvian clubs in Europe, a streak that they hope to continue against the relative newbie Riga FC.
Ludogorets reached the Europa League group stage the last two seasons, and reached the Champions League group stage three seasons ago. In fact, they’ve reached at least the group stage in five of the past eight seasons since first participating in UEFA competition beginning with the 2012-13 Champions League. They easily defeated Valur in the last round, winning 5-1 on aggregate after a 1-1 during the first leg.
The New Saints used an advantageous draw to advance to Champion League’s second qualifying round, defeating preliminary round winner Feronikeli. Their Champions League run end, however, with a 3-0 loss (on aggregate) to Copenhagen last week, and the Welsh champs are still looking for a European season where they manage to win two rounds.
Sarajevo lost to Celtic in the Champions League first qualifying round, and through the luck of the draw, they get to advance directly through to the third qualifying round of Europa League. Therefore, they have not played a match in two weeks, so we’ll have to wait and see if that adds a little rust (though they have played three matches back in league play). By reaching the third qualifying round, Sarajevo has their best performance in Europa League since they reached the playoff round in 2014-15, and they are now two matches away from matching that. They have never played in the group stage. This will be their first match against a club from Belarus.
After reaching the Champions League playoff round last season, BATE Borisov was surprisingly defeated in the second qualifying round last week by Rosenborg, so the champions of Belarus join Europa League earlier than they have since the 2007-08 season. They reached the Round of 32 last season, marking the second straight season they reached at least the group stage, but they will have an extra round this year to match that performance. This will be their first match against a Bosnian squad in competitive play.
F91 Dudelange reached the group stage of Europa League last season, and continue on that path after defeating Shkëndija in the second qualifying round last week. A 2-1 victory in North Macedonia two weeks ago gave them an advantage when the action returned to Luxembourg, and they held on for a 3-2 victory (on aggregate). Next week will mark their first trip to Estonia in European competition.
Nõmme Kalju was a big loser in the second qualifying round of Champions League, falling 7-0 to Celtic. However, during the first qualifying round, they defeated Shkëndija as well, though they did so on away goals after a 2-2 draw on aggregate, meaning that F91 Dudelange holds a small advantage based on like competition. Thursday will mark their first trip to Luxembourg in UEFA competition.
Astana had little difficulty last round with FC Santa Coloma, advancing 4-1 on aggregate thanks to a home victory by that score. They have reached at least the group stage in the past two Europa League tournaments, and will likely be favored in this matchup against Valletta to reach the playoff round. They have yet to play a Maltese club in UEFA competition.
Valletta is coming off a 4-2 loss to Ferencváros in the Champions League second qualifying round, and have exceeded any prior UEFA season by playing in the third qualifying round of Europa League. Their visit to Kazakhstan this week will mark their first trip there during UEFA competition.
Sheriff Tiraspol is a round away from matching last season’s trip to the playoff round of Europa League, where they lost to Qarabağ. They’ve reached this point by defeating Partizani in the second qualifying round, winning leg one 1-0 on the road in doing so. Next week’s match in Sweden will be their first trip to Sweden for competitive football.
AIK will prove a tough matchup this round, barely losing to Maribor in the second qualifying round of Champions League last week on away goals. In a European history going back to 1964-65, they have never played in Moldova, so this week will be their debut in that country. They have also not advanced past the third qualifying round in Europa League since reaching the group stage – and finishing 4th – during the 2012-13 competition.
Slovakian champion Slovan Bratislava had little trouble with Kosovan champion Feronikeli last round, winning 4-1 on aggregate and winning both legs. With the victory, they matched their performance from last season, and they are looking to extend their tournament beyond the third qualifying round for the first time since they played in the group stage in the 2014-15 Europa League. They have previously found success against Irish clubs, winning their only previous matchup – against University College Dublin in 2015-16 – by a 6-1 aggregate score.
Dundalk lost to Qarabağ last round, falling 4-1 on aggregate after losing 3-0 in Azerbaijan in the second leg. Scoring once over the course of four matches is not generally the recipe for success, and this matchup is not on Dundalk’s side. Slovan Bratislava seems to be the stronger club in this one, though Dundalk reached the group stage more recently – during the 2016-17 competition – than the Slovakian champion. It also marks the first match for Dundalk against a Slovakian club.
IFK Norrköping continues on in Europa League after defeating Liepāja 3-0 on aggregate during the second qualifying round. In their last trip to Europa League two seasons ago, they lost to Riterai on penalty kicks in the second qualifying round, and this will mark their first matchup against an Israeli club.
Hapoel Be’er Sheva will be playing a Swedish club for the first time in a major European competition after defeating Kairat in the second qualifying roundLast season, they lost to APOEL in the Europa League third qualifying round, which had to be a disappointment after reaching the group stage the prior two seasons (as well as a trip to the Round of 32 in 2016-17).
Torino had little difficulty in the second qualifying round, despite being a late addition to the tournament, defeating Debrecen 7-1 on aggregate. With minimal European appearances – only one prior appearance this century – Torino has yet to play a club from Belarus.
Shakhtyor Soligorsk won leg one against Esbjerg 2-0 at home last round, and held them off in leg two to advance on that score on aggregate. With the win, they have now won two rounds in the tournament for the second time ever, with the last time being in a season that they reached the playoff round. Can they do the same again in their first matchup against an Italian club?
Be sure to click here to move on to the second part of this preview of the Europa League third qualifying round!
Until next time…
Last update: 5 August 2019