Ironi Kiryat Shmona still has plenty of work to do to stay alive in the
Champions League, but its route to an historic participation in the group stage
got a whole lot clearer with Friday’s draw for the third qualifying round in
Should the Israeli champion manage to overturn a 1-0
defeat to MSK Zilina when it hosts the return leg at Kiryat Eliezer Stadium in
Haifa on Tuesday it will likely next face Azerbaijan’s Neftci PFK.
holds a 3-0 lead over Georgia’s FC Zestafoni.
Kiryat Shmona more than
held its own in the first leg of the second qualifying round in Slovakia last
week, but faces a tricky second leg after Jozef Piacek gave Zilina a 1-0 win
with an 82nd-minute header.
The first leg of the third qualifying round
will be played on July 31/August 1, with the return leg to take place a week
Progress to the third qualifying round this week will also
guarantee Kiryat Shmona a place in the Europa League playoffs, while reaching
the Champions League playoffs with a victory over Zilina followed by another
triumph will book the northerners – at the very least – a place in the Europa
League group stage.
Bnei Yehuda and Maccabi Netanya will encounter tough
obstacles in the third qualifying round of the Europa League, should they make
it that far.
Bnei Yehuda, which took a significant step to reaching the
third qualifying round with a 2-0 home victory over FC Shirak of Armenia on
Thursday, is set to face PAOK Thessaloniki.
Netanya was drawn to play
Bursaspor of Turkey, but it will first need to erase the humbling 2-1 home loss
it suffered at the hands of KuPS Kuopio of Finland in the first leg of the
second qualifying round.
The ties will be played on August 2 and
Hapoel Tel Aviv will enter the Europa League at the playoff round.
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