Europa League Third Qualifying Round draw: Who could Braga, Guimaraes and Wolves face?
The draw for the Europa League Third Qualifying round take place tomorrow - 22nd July -and fans of Portuguese football have three sides to keep an eye on.
Braga have always been guaranteed to enter the third qualifying round, this the point at which the Minho club enter the European competition thanks to their 4th place finish in the Primeira Liga last campaign.
Both Wolves and Guimaraes, though, first have to make it through their second qualifying round ties to join Braga at the next stage of the competition.
Guimaraes will be facing unseeded Luxembourg outfit Jeunesse Esch after they earned a shock victory over Kazakhstan side Tobol, while Wolves will face Northern Ireland’s Crusaders.
All three of Braga, Wolves and Guimaraes will be seeded for the draw tomorrow, Braga the 4th highest ranked side of them all at this stage of the competition, while Guimaraes are the very last seeded team, having just scraped into the top group.
Their coefficient ranking is 9.646, while Fehervar, the highest unseeded team, has a coefficient of 9.000, showing how close they were to missing out on being seeded altogether.
Many may be surprised to hear that Fehervar are the best unseeded side in the draw - many may not have even heard of them - but that is because they are formerly known as Videoton, the side that reached the Europa League group stage last season and drew against Chelsea in the process. With that information, it perhaps becomes a little clearer as to why they are a team to fear in this third qualifying round.
Who can Braga, Guimaraes and Wolves face in the next round?
The third qualifying round has been split into 5 groups, meaning that each seeded team can only play against a subsection of unseeded teams.
Braga have been placed in group 2, Wolves in group 3, and Guimaraes in group 4, meaning that each of them have different possible opponents in the third qualifying round.
Braga’s possible opponents are as follows:
FC Thun (Switzerland)
Lechia Gdansk (Poland) or Brondby (Denmark)
Mlada Boleslav (Czech Republic) or Ordabasy Shymkent (Kazakhstan)
Aris Thessaloniki (Greece) or AEL Limassol (Cyprus)
Lokomotiv Plovdiv (Bulgaria) or Spartak Trnava (Slovakia)
Officially, Spartak Trnava would be the hardest team that Braga could draw, their current club coefficient being 8.500, making them the second highest ranked unseeded side of all 26. They did, after all, reach the group stage of the Europa League last season, something that Braga themselves failed to do.
Additionally, they managed to get 7 points in a tricky group containing Anderlecht, Fenerbahce and Dinamo Zagreb, earning victories against both Anderlecht and Fenerbahce in the process.
They did, however, only beat Bosnian outfit Radnik Bijeljina on penalties in this season’s first qualifying round, and still need to beat Lokomotiv Plovdiv to get to the third qualifying round.
Brondby is also likely one to avoid, the Danish club something of regulars in the latter stages of Europa League qualification, albeit without reaching the group stage of the competition.
As such, Braga would fancy their chances against any of the sides in the draw, although perhaps the most favourable tie would be FC Thun. A trip to Switzerland would be far better than some of the alternatives, while Thun are also, assuming all the favourites win their respective second qualifying round matches, the lowest ranked side Braga could possibly face.
That said, Swiss sides have shown to be good performers in European competitions, and Thun have actually reached the Europa League group stage relatively recently (2014).
One of Mlada Boleslav or Ordabasy Shymkent would also be a good draw for Braga, the former the favourite in the tie, and likely the side Braga would most like to play of the two, Ordabasy offering a lengthy trip to Kazakhstan.
IDEAL DRAW: Mlada Boleslav
DRAW TO AVOID: Spartak Trnava
Wolves’ possible opponents are as follows:
AEK Larnaca (Cyprus) or Levski Sofia (Bulgaria)
FC Pyunik (Armenia) or Jablonec (Czech Republic)
DAC Dunajska Streda (Slovakia) or Atromitos (Greece)
Rangers (Scotland) or FC Progres Niederkorn (Luxembourg)
FC Mariupol (Ukraine)
Wolves arguably have a tougher selection of possible opponents compared to Braga, with a few tricky customers in there.
The standout, particularly for British fans, is Scottish giants Rangers. They have a coefficient of just 5.250, officially making them the worst of all the unseeded teams that Wolves could face, although that is obviously rather misleading.
After a lengthy period of time outside the Scottish top flight, they didn’t have the chance to impress on the European stage between 2012 and 2017, which means they have been unable to accumulate points for their coefficient rankings.
Last season showed that they are far better than their coefficient ranking would suggest, reaching the group stage after having to go through 4 rounds of qualification, and earned draws against both Spartak Moscow and Villarreal to finish 3rd in their group.
Regardless of what the coefficient suggests, they would probably be the hardest team Wolves could get this round.
That’s not to say they are the only difficult team though. Mariupol would provide stern competition too; while they are also quite low in the club coefficient rankings, they play in a much more competitive league than many of the other sides in the pot, which makes it much harder for a side like them to qualify for the Europa League. Ukrainian opposition almost always prove tricky customers.
And AEK Larnaca would also be an awkward opposition to face too. Eventually finishing 2nd domestically, the Cypriot outfit have the highest club coefficient of all the clubs Wolves could face - and they reached the Europa League group stage last season, finishing 3rd in a group containing Bayer Leverkusen, Ludogorets and Zurich.
There are therefore plenty of potential banana skins for Wolves - although they would still go into any of those matches as favourites. For a supposedly easier draw, though, you could argue that Pyunik or Jablonec would be the best possible draw; while the latter did reach the Europa League group stage last season, that was the first time they had ever done so, and they didn’t have to navigate Europa League qualifying rounds that campaign either, qualifying straight to the group stage.
They were also outclassed in a group containing Dynamo Kiev, Rennes and Astana, finishing bottom of the group.
Of course Progres would be the perfect tie for Wolves, or even DAC 1904, but because neither are likely to win their respective second qualifying round ties, drawing Jablonec or Pyunik would likely be considered ideal.
IDEAL DRAW: Jablonec or Pyunik
DRAW TO AVOID: Rangers
Guimaraes’ possible opponents are as follows:
Fehervar FC (Hungary) or Vaduz (Liechtenstein)
Haugesund (Norway) or Sturm Graz (Austria)
Malatyaspor (Turkey) or Olimpika Ljubljana (Slovenia)
Chikhura Sachkhere (Georgia) or Aberdeen (Scotland)
Ventspils (Latvia) or Gzira United (Malta)
Guimaraes will know that they are one of the sides that all of the unseeded teams will be hoping to draw; if all the favourites were to win, the other seeded teams in their pot would be Basel, Partizan, Eintracht Frankfurt and HNK Rijeka. With exception to Rijeka, Guimaraes are perhaps, on paper, the weakest seeded side in the group, so will know that whoever they draw will fancy their chances.
And there are a couple of ties Guimaraes should be looking to avoid. Olimpka Ljubljana are a very decent outfit, one of the best sides in their domestic league, and they have come close to reaching the Europa League group stage on a few occasions, particularly last season, where they only lost at the play-off round. And the'y’re not even the favourite in their tie, with Malatyaspor expected to come out on top against them.
We all know how tricky Turkish sides can be to face, and Malatyaspor would be a real challenge for Guimaraes to overcome.
The hardest team on paper, though, are Fehervar, previously known as Videoton. As said previously, Fehervar are just 0.646 points behind Guimaraes in the club coefficient ranking, being the highest ranked unseeded side of all the sides entering the third qualifying round. If they were to draw Guimaraes, the lowest ranked seeded side in the third qualifying round, bookies up and down the continent would likely struggle to decipher who the genuine favourite to come out on top actually is.
After all, Fehervar (when known as Videoton) reached the group stage of the Europa League last season, beating Greek champions PAOK twice at the group stage - and even earned an impressive 2-2 sraw against eventual winners Chelsea. They have proven themselves to be a quality team - and are most definitely the side to avoid in the draw on the 22nd July.
In terms of the best possible draw for Guimaraes, you could very much argue that one of Ventspils or Gzira United would be the easiest. Playing their domestic football in Latvia and Malta respectively, they play in much weaker leagues than the other sides in the draw, and are also officially the lowest ranked sides, based on club coefficient, that Guimaraes could face.
Ventspils are, unsurprisingly, the favourites to win the match against Gzira. Looking at their record in Europe, Guimaraes shouldn’t be too fearful of them; they haven’t made it to the Europa League group stage since 2010, failing to get past even the 2nd qualifying round of the competition since 2014.
IDEAL DRAW: Ventspils or Gzira
DRAW TO AVOID: Fehervar
What we’re hoping to see:
Braga vs Mlada Boleslav or Ordabasy Shymkent
Wolves vs Jablonec or Pyunik
Guimaraes vs Ventspils or Gzira.