International club competitions Champions League and Europa League continue this month as the preliminary stages of continental tournaments reach their conclusion with a play-off round.
The momentum is building up nice and slow as clubs today learned their faith through a draw in Nyon which resulted in some rather exciting matches.
Champions League Play-Offs
The Europe’s brightest stage is getting ready to welcome the total of ten qualifying sides that will progress to the group stage after the play-off stage is complete following first leg on Tuesday 15 August and return legs scheduled to Tuesday 22 August.
The group stage draw is to be staged on August 24 when national champions and automatic participants will be joined by play-off winners to start their road to the final which will be played at NSK Olimpiyskiy national Sport Complex in Kiev in May 2018.
To put things into perspective from the play-offs draw, Premier League side Liverpool face Hoffenheim, the fourth-placed side in last season’s Bundesliga, which will be a tricky test for Jurgen Klopp’s men. The Reds are looking at the 2/5 betting odds to qualify, but such low price will need to be worked for as Premier League side know better than to underestimate the Germans.
Scottish champions Celtic face a long trip to Kazakhstan in a tricky tie against Astana. Brendan Rodgers’ men are given the same 2/5 betting odds just as Liverpool to emerge victorious from the two legs.
Among other notable match-ups, La Liga sides Sevilla and Athletic Bilbao were paired with Istanbul Basaksehir and Greek side Panathinaikos, respectively.
Napoli and Nice are pitted against each other in another highly-anticipated clash which will see Mario Balotelli return to Italy and to a club once linked with a move for the Italian striker. The French club are standing as the outside favourites to qualify with 7/4 betting odds slapped on them.
Full Champions League draw
Qarabag vs FC Copenhagen
APOEL vs Slavia Prague
Olympiacos vs Rijeka
Celtic vs Astana
Hapoel Beer Sheva vs Maribor
Istanbul Basaksehir vs Sevilla
Young Boys vs CSKA Moscow
Napoli vs Nice
Hoffenheim vs Liverpool
Sporting Lisbon vs Steaua Bucharest
Europa League Draw
Europa League play-off legs are scheduled to Thursday 17 August and Thursday 24 August, respectively. Winners will go to the group stage draw set to be held in Monaco on 25 August.
Perceived as a competition with lower value and quality to Champions League, Europa League has significantly improved its stature and reputation over the past few years, especially starting from last year when winners were granted automatic Champions League berth which Manchester United have to thank for this season.
The total of 22 ties were decided today with Premier League side Everton and Italian heavy spenders AC Milan learning their faiths, together with some other European great clubs such as Ajax, Marseille and Athletic Bilbao.
Ronald Koeman’s men will face Croatian side Hajduk Split. The Toffees were seeded in group two of the draw and have thus avoided the likes of AC Milan and Ajax. Everton are fighting for their place in Europa league for the first time in three years.
Talking about AC Milan, they got Macedonian Shkendija who pose no real threat for Vincenzo Montella’s heavily reinforced side.
Full Europa League draw:
Shkendija vs AC Milan
Vardar vs Fenerbahce
Ajax vs Rosenborg
Osijek vs Austria Vienna
Crvena Zvezda vs Krasnodar
Altach vs Maccabi Tel-Aviv
BATE Borisov vs Olexandriya
Club Brugge vs AEK Athens
Maritimo vs Dynamo Kiev
Dinamo Zagreb vs Skenderbeu
Ludogorets vs Suduva
Panathinaikos vs Athletic Bilbao
Apollon Limassol vs Midtjylland
Domzale vs Marseille
Partizan Belgrade vs Videoton
FH Hafnarfjordur vs Braga
Everton vs Hajduk Split
Utrecht vs Zenit St Petersburg
Legia Warsaw vs Sheriff Tiraspol
Viitorul vs Salzburg
Viktoria Plzen vs. AEK Larnaca
PAOK Salonika vs. Ostersund