Saturday 21 October 2017

Anderlecht face-off hands Rovers extra incentive for Lithuania raid

Ruaidhri O'Connor

Ruaidhri O'Connor

RSC ANDERLECHT await Shamrock Rovers in the Champions League third qualifying round -- if the Hoops can overcome FK Ekranas on Tuesday.

Rovers travel to the Lithuanian city of Panevezys after being held scoreless in the first leg, knowing that they will face a date with European royalty for a place in the final qualifying round.

Victory over Anderlecht would hand Rovers a shot at the group stages, while also guaranteeing them a place in the Europa League group stages for a second successive year, but they will be rank outsiders if they get past the challenge of Ekranas. Defeat would leave them in the final qualifying round for Europe's secondary competition.

Anderlecht may be a shadow of their former selves, but the two-time European Cup Winners Cup winners and one-time UEFA Cup champions are regulars at this level.

The Belgian champions got out of the group stages of the Europa League last season and were quarter-finalists in the tournament in 2010/11. They have not reached the Champions League group stages since 2006/7.

Meanwhile, St Patrick's Athletic and Sligo Rovers missed out on the real plum draws in the Europa League, but both could receive lucrative payouts if they can progress past the second qualifying round next Thursday.

Unlucky

The Saints were unlucky to only draw one-all with Bosnians NK Siroki Brijeg in their first leg tie and will take on Bundesliga side Hanover 96 if they can complete the job at Richmond Park on Thursday.

Pat's last faced German opposition in the form of Hertha Berlin in 2008 and could be in for a pay-out on top of the €100,000 prize money if they can hammer out a good television deal for the home leg.

Sligo have it all to do in their second leg against Spartak Trnava at the Showgrounds after losing the first leg 3-1 in Slovakia, but a tie against Steaua Bucharest awaits the Bit O'Red if they can turn things around this week.

And there could be an added bonus for the north-westerners if they can get through, judging by the massive following the Romanians brought to the RDS for their 2009 clash with St Pat's.

Scottish champions Celtic will play either HJK Helsinki or KR Reykjavik in the third qualifying round of the Champions League, while Motherwell face Greek side Panathinaikos.

Liverpool will face either FK Renova or FC Gomel in the third qualifying round of the Europa League, while SPL sides St Johnstone -- 2-0 down to Turkish side Eskisehirspor after the second round, first leg -- and Dundee United were drawn with Marseille and Dynamo Moscow respectively.

Irish Independent

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