Benfica to play Fenerbahce in Champions League third qualifying round; Braga also discover Europa League fate
Benfica have been handed a difficult draw in the third qualifying stage of the Champions League, having today discovered that they will be playing Turkish side Fenerbahce for a place in the play-off round.
With the draw taking place earlier today, Benfica knew that their opposition would be one of Standard Liege, Slavia Prague, Spartak Moscow or Fenerbahce, and Benfica have perhaps ended up with the trickiest tie of them all.
Benfica, who finished second in the Primeira Liga last season, would have, in previous years, earned a place directly in the group stage of the Champions League for their league placing. However, with Portugal slipping below Russia in the UEFA coefficient rankings to seventh overall, Portugal have had their allocation places in European competitions reduced.
As such, Benfica know that, even if they do manage to get past the Turkish outfit, they will still need to win an additional two-legged fixture against another opposition to qualify for the main stage of Europe's biggest tournament.
However, they also know that, even if they are defeated by Fenerbahce in their upcoming Champions League qualifying tie, they will still be guaranteed a spot in at least the Europa League group stage for this upcoming campaign after there was a slight alteration in the UEFA qualifying system.
Braga also found out their Europa League opponents today, being drawn against Ukrainian outfit Zorya Luhansk for the third qualifying stage, a side who competed in the Europa League group stage at the last two tournaments. If Braga do win the tie, they know they would then still need to navigate a further round to qualify for the Europa League main draw.
Additionally, Rio Ave, who have to face Jagiellonia Białystok in the second qualifying round of the Europa League, with the first leg of the tie occurring this Thursday, know that a clash with Gent awaits them should they secure victory over their Polish opponents. While Gent are sure to give Rio Ave a stern test, the Portuguese side will still take comfort in the fact that they managed to avoid RB Leipzig and Besiktas in the draw, who were both competing in the Champions League proper last season.
Porto and Sporting have already guaranteed a space in the group stage of the Champions League and Europa League respectively, and we now wait to see who, if any, will be joining them on the European stage.
Benfica kick off their qualification campaign against Fenerbahce in Lisbon on either the 7th or 8th August, before travelling to Turkey for the reverse fixture a week later. Braga, meanwhile, play their first leg against Zorya on the 9th August in Luhansk.