UCL third qualifying round: Who could join the party?
Pre-season is already in full-swing for the clubs involved in qualification for this year’s Champions League campaign.
And the draw for the third qualifying round is here and has thrown up some intriguing match-ups.
So we’re taking a look at the sides that are just one step away from the prestigious group-stages.
Celtic/Rosenborg v AEK Athens
Scottish Premier League winners Celtic were one of six seeded teams on the champions side of the draw.
Brendan Rodgers’ men are 3-1 up from the home-leg of their second qualifying round tie against Rosenborg.
If they stand firm in Norway then they’ll meet Greek champions AEK Athens for the right to enter the competition proper.
A possible first-leg at Celtic Park on Wednesday 8th August could be pivotal with the second-leg in the Greek capital on Tuesday 14th August.
Benfica v Fenerbahce
Perhaps the tie of the round. Both are marquee names in the draw with Primeira Liga runners-up Benfica looking to reach the group-stage for the ninth consecutive season.
19-time Turkish champions Fenerbahce haven’t got past this round for ten years. But did make the last-eight during the 2007/08 campaign.
It’ll be the first time the two sides have met since Benfica’s victory in the Europa League semi-final in 2013.
What you need to know
Other highlights include four-time winners Ajax’s potential game with Standard Liege. The Dutch giants have a two-goal advantage to take to Austria when they play Sturm Graz.
Slavia Prague will take on Dynamo Kiev whilst AEK’s rivals PAOK will play Spartak Moscow if they overcome Basel.
Liverpool did go all the way to the final after knocking out Hoffenheim at this stage twelve months ago.
So a win here could be the platform for an unforgettable campaign for one of these sides.
Benfica v Fenerbahce
Standard Liege v Ajax or Sturm Graz
Slavia Prague v Dynamo Kiev
PAOK or Basel v Spartak Moscow
Celtic or Rosenborg v AEK Athens
Red Bull Salzburg v Shkendija or Sheriff
Red Star Belgrade or Suduva v Legia Warsaw or Spartak Trnava
Kukesi or Qarabag v BATE Borisov or HJK Helsinki
Astana or Midtjylland v Dinamo Zagreb or Hapoel Beer-Sheva
Cluj or Malmo v Ludogorets Razgrad or Vidi
All games will be played over August 7/8th with the return fixtures contested on August 14th.