For teams that have to qualify for the Champions League, they have nearly reached their goal of the group stages. However, there are still two more hurdles that these sides have to navigate, and there are some big clubs that could still fall victim to the tough qualification process that comes with the Champions League. It is a long route for these teams to make it to the knockout stages, but Ajax proved last season that it isn’t impossible. Let’s take a look at how some of the biggest ties may play out.
PAOK vs Ajax
The beaten semi-finals from lasts season once again have to go through the qualification process to get to group stages, and they will clash with Greek giants PAOK. It has been a summer of departures for the Dutch giants with much of their title-winning side last season being taken away from the club. Matthijs de Ligt has swapped Amsterdam for Turin, while Frenkie de Jong moved to Barcelona and there are rumours that Donny van de Beek could be moving to Real Madrid. However, there remains enough quality in the Ajax side to get through this tricky looking assignment. Hakim Ziyech and David Neres will play crucial roles, but they should successfully navigate past PAOK.
Club Brugge vs Dynamo Kyiv
Once in awhile the third qualifying round throws up a tie that many fans will be intrigued by, and this year this is that fixture. Both of these clubs have proven pedigree in Europe, and a point can be made for either making it all the way to the group stages. Both sides are in the middle of their respective seasons, and while Club Brugge have a chance of landing the Belgium title, Kyiv have begun to falter. It should be a close fixture, but the home side from the first leg could build up a strong advantage that they can hold onto back in Ukraine.
FC Krasnodar vs FC Porto
The arrival of Porto in the Champions League at this stage may be a surprise to many, as the Portuguese side are typically stables in the group stages. However, their poor form last season saw Benfica crowned the Primeira Liga champions and Porto entered at this stage of the Champions League. The Russian outfit does present a sticky assignment for the Portuguese giants, with the Russian league already halfway through, and the Porto yet to begin their league campaign. However, the quality that Porto has should come to the fore and ensure that they safely make it through to the next stage, but the hard work may be done back in Portugal after a draw in the first leg.
CFR Cluj vs Celtic
The Scottish champions missed out on a place in the group stages last season after falling at this stage, and they will be able to right that wrong by overcoming Romanian side CFR Cluj. Both sides were in action in the last qualifying round, with Cluj narrowly avoiding disappointment against Maccabi Tel-Aviv, while Celtic easily got past Nomme Kalju. This should be a close fixture, and the first leg will be crucial in deciding which team goes through. It will likely be a cagey first leg in Romania before Celtic get the result they need in the second leg.
Other Tie Predictions
|APOEL Nicosia vs Qarabag FK||APOEL Nicosia to qualify|
|Dinamo Zagreb vs Ferencvaros||Dinamo Zagreb to qualify|
|Crvena Zvezda vs Copenhagen||Copenhagen to qualify|
|Istanbul Basaksehir vs Olympiacos||Olympiacos to qualify|
|FC Basel vs LASK||FC Basel to qualify|
|Maribor vs Rosenborg||Rosenborg to qualify|