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 Nyon, Switzerland.

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.

Neftci 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 later.

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 9.

Hapoel Tel Aviv will enter the Europa League at the playoff round.

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