The Champions League qualifiers enter the third round with exciting matches in store including PAOK against Ajax and Club Brugge and Dynamo Kyiv. Here are some of the things to look out for. Bet on the Champions League here.
Battle of Champions: PAOK v Ajax
After winning the Greek league for the first time in 34 years, PAOK Thessaloniki face Eredivisie champions Ajax in the third qualifying round of the Champions League first leg. Ajax were the story of the season in the Champions League a few months ago. For them to play in next season’s competition, they have to navigate a tricky qualifying route. With some of their best players gone, Ajax are still rebuilding. PAOK, on the other hand, are on a horrible run in Europe. They won just one of their Europa League group matches last term, losing five out of six. That came after a failed attempt to make the Champions League group stage. Can they get going with a win over last year’s semi-finalists?
Strong home showing by Crvena Zvezda?
Zvezda, or popularly known as Redstar Belgrade, built a reputation last season in the Champions League. In a tough group last season which consisted of eventual champions Liverpool, PSG and Italian giants Napoli, they collected four points which included an impressive 2-0 win over Liverpool on home soil. Therefore, they’re heading into this clash against FC Copenhagen very confident. Unlike their hosts, Copenhagen have taken part in just one qualifying round so far. Tuesday’s visitors go to Belgrade off the back of a comfortable 3-0 aggregate win over Welsh side New Saints. Copenhagen are yet to be seriously tested in qualifying, but the Serbians are well equipped to give them a match.
Complicated away outing for Celtic?
Celtic have registered four straight victories in this competition, with Sarajevo beaten 5-2 on aggregate and Nomme Kalju crushed 5-0 and 2-0. The Hoops then hammered St Johnstone 7-0 in their Scottish Premiership opener this weekend. Their away form in Europe hasn’t been that great. They’ve won three out of five in qualifying. However, those wins have come against minnows. Romanian side CFR Cluj will definitely test the Scots. They have won their last two home matches in the qualifying and are looking to make it three in a row. Nevertheless, Celtic have a lot of experience and quality. Who will come out on top?
Krasnodar’s tough task against Porto
Perennial Champions League team Porto visit Russian side Krasnodar, a team that is yet to taste Champions League football. How will they fare against the Portuguese giants? In fact this will be their first taste of qualifying. Porto, on the other hand, reached the quarter-final last season and reached the Round of 16 in the last three seasons, making them a force to reckon with. Krasnodar will have to put up their best performance in order to get something in this two-legged tie since things always get tougher in the next round.
Basaksehir elusive Champions League dream
Turkish side Basaksehir will be attempting to reach the Champions League group stages for the first time when they face Greek giants Olympiacos in the third qualifying round. In 2017, they reached the playoffs where they narrowly lost 4-3 on aggregate to Sevilla. Although they face a difficult Olympiacos side, they’re still a capable team. Last season in the Turkish Super League, they finished second to Galatasaray a testament to their competitiveness. As a result, the Greeks should be wary of Okan Buruk’s men who are just entering the qualifying round. If the Turks win the first leg, they’ll have to adjust considering they’ll have to face a more established team. Can they do it?