Albanian clubs learn Champions, Europa League qualifying campaign opponents

Tirana Times
By Tirana Times June 19, 2017 15:49

Albanian clubs learn Champions, Europa League qualifying campaign opponents

Story Highlights

  • Four Albanian clubs will play in the qualifying campaigns of the Champions League and the Europa League next July

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TIRANA, June 19 – Albania’s newly crowned Superliga champions Kukes have been drawn against Moldova’s Sheriff in the second qualifying round of the 2017-2018 Champions League campaign.

The Albanian champions making their debut in the toughest European club competition will face a difficult challenge against Sheriff, the club who has dominated Moldovan football in the past 16 years.

Kukes have regularly played in the less prestigious UEFA Europa League qualification campaign in the past four years. The north-east Albania club with not much history in Albanian football were unlucky to make it to the UEFA Europa league in the 2013-14 season after beating the first three qualifying campaign opponents before being eliminated by Turkey’s Trabzonspor in the play-off round.

Having played in the top flight of Albanian football for only the past five years, Kukes made history in the Albanian Superliga in late May when they claimed their first Superliga title.

In the Uefa Europa league campaign, Skenderbeu was the only Albanian club that had been seeded in the draw thanks to their Europa League European competition in 2015-16 when they became the first-ever Albanian team to play in the group stage of the UEFA Europa League.

Skenderbeu, whose six-year domination of Albanian football came to an end only this year when they finished third, will face an easy test against Andorra’s Sant Julia in the first qualifying round.

Skenderbeu return to European competition after a one-year ban imposed by European football governing body, UEFA, on match-fixing allegations in the 2015-2016 Champions and Europa League campaigns.

Partizani, who last year replaced banned Skenderbeu in the Champions League qualifying campaign, were drawn against Bulgaria’s Botev Plovdiv in the first Europa League round. The Reds finished second for the second straight year in the Superliga, failing to make a comeback after more than two decades of trophyless seasons.

Newly relegated Tirana, the historically most successful Albanian club, are playing the UEFA Europa league thanks to their Albania Cup victory in late May, following a shameful season that saw them suffer their first-ever relegation after almost a century in the top flight of Albanian football.

Tirana, who have recently hired Brazilian coach De Maria, face a tough test against Israel’s Maccabi Tel-Aviv in the Europa League campaign.  Tirana, who have won the Albanian championship a record 24 times, are set to become the first-ever relegated Albanian team to play at a European club competition.

The Albanian teams will play their first round qualification matches in late June and early July.

Teams have to pass through three qualifying rounds and a play-off before making it to the group stage of the Europa League. Champions League play-off losers automatically make it to the Europa League group stage like Skenderbeu did in the 2015-16 campaign.

 

Champions League: First qualifying round draw (matches 27/28 June & 4/5 July)

Sheriff (MDA) v Kukës (ALB)

 

Europa League: First qualifying round draw (matches 29 June & 6 July)

Skënderbeu (ALB) v Sant Julià (AND)

Partizani (ALB) v Botev Plovdiv (BUL)

Maccabi Tel-Aviv (ISR) v Tirana (ALB)

Tirana Times
By Tirana Times June 19, 2017 15:49