UEFA Champions League Qualifying: Who goes on to the big stage?
On Tuesday and Wednesday, twelve European teams will meet in the first leg of the UEFA Champions League qualifiers to determine who qualifies for the UCL group stage and who has to make do with Thursday night football this season.
The Champions League qualifying stage started on June 21st and will conclude when the final qualifying round matches are played on the 15th/16th of August and 23rd/24th, after which the group stage draws will be held on August 25th.
These teams have come a long way and need to give their all in these two matches if they want to hear that thrilling Champions League anthem played in their stadium.
Here are our previews of these matches and some betting odds.
Qarabağ vs Viktoria Plzeň
Viktoria Plzeň and Qarabağ have both had impressive runs to get to this stage. Viktoria knocked out Sheriff in the last round, while Qarabağ won away at Ferencvaros.
Of the two sides, Viktoria is the slightly stronger side and should be able to edge their opponents over two legs. However, Qarabağ have shown they can win away from home; this contest will be a tightly contested one.
Prediction: Viktoria Plzeň win by a one-goal aggregate advantage.
Our picks: Over 2.5 goals first leg @2.30
Qarabağ wins first leg @2.30
Bodø/Glimt vs Dinamo Zagreb
Dinamo Zagreb are no strangers to this position but have quite the tall task ahead of them against Bodø/Glimt. The ambitious Norwegian side will be eager to improve on their performance last season when they made it as far as the quarterfinals of the UEFA Conference League.
Even though Bodø were eventually eliminated by AS Roma in the quarterfinal, they can still look back at their 6-1 humiliation of Roma in the group stage fondly and use that for inspiration against Dinamo.
To get to this stage Bodø beat Zalgiris 6-1 on aggregate and will be riding high on the confidence that win gave them.
Dinamo on the other hand got to this stage thanks to a 3-0 aggregate win over Ludogorets.
Prediction: Bodø/Glimt to win over two legs.
Our picks: Bodo/Glimt to win first leg @ 2.30
Over 2.5 goals scored @ 1.70
Maccabi Haifa vs Crvena Zvezda
Maccabi had two back-to-back 4-0 results to get here. First, they beat Apollon, then followed that up by beating Olympiacos by the same scoreline.
Crvena Zvezda have not been goal shy either, over two legs they beat Pyunik Yerevan by 7 goals, setting up what should be a goal-fest in this qualifying match.
Prediction: Maccabi Haifa has had the tougher path to get here and should be better prepared over two legs. Maccabi Haifa to qualify.
Our picks: Maccabi Haifa to win first leg @ 2.60
Over 2.5 goals scored @ 2.15
FC Copenhagen vs Trabzonspor
Going by the matches both teams have played in the build-up to their clash, we should expect a high-scoring affair from this fixture. Trabzonspor won the Turkish Super Cup 4-0, while Copenhagen beat Brøndby IF 4-1 and demolished Feyenoord 7-0 in a preseason friendly.
Prediction: The decider over two legs could be the front three of Trabzonspor. Andreas Cornelius, Mahmoud Trezeguet and Edin Višća are a dangerous trio that should provide enough firepower for the Turkish side to go through.
Our picks: First leg draw @3.35
Under 2.5 goals @1.80
Dynamo Kyiv vs Benfica
Benfica might have sold their star striker, Darwin Nunez, to Liverpool but that hasn’t slowed down their goal-scoring one bit. They beat Midtjylland 7-2 on aggregate to reach the final qualifying stage and will look to do the same against Kyiv.
Prediction: Benfica are the clear favourites in this tie. While Dynamo Kyiv might be able to sneak a slim win or draw in the first leg, Benfica should have enough talent and experience to steamroll them at the Estádio da Luz in the second leg.
Our picks: First leg draw @ 3.75
Over 1.5 goals @ 1.33
Rangers vs PSV Eindhoven
Possibly the most mouth-watering tie of them all. This pits a Europa League finalist last season against a red-hot PSV side.
Both teams will field quality players in their teams tonight. Even though Rangers have let two key players in Calvin Bassey and Joe Aribo go in the off-season, they still have enough firepower to trouble a PSV side that have started the season excellently.
To get this far, PSV won a 4-3 aggregate affair against Monaco and started their domestic season by beating Ajax 5-2 to win the Johan Cruyff Shield.
Rangers, on the other hand, had to battle back from a 2-0 deficit in the first leg to beat Union Saint Gilloise 3-0 in the second leg to qualify.
Prediction: These teams look evenly matched, but PSV should edge it over two legs.
Our picks: Rangers to win the first leg at @2.65
Under 2.5 goals scored @2.00
*Odds are subject to change at any time