Saturday 22 September 2018

Cork City handed tough Champions League encounter against Legia Warsaw - but Rebels also receive lucky break

Cork players celebrate the title last year. Photo by Seb Daly/Sportsfile
Cork players celebrate the title last year. Photo by Seb Daly/Sportsfile
Daniel McDonnell

Daniel McDonnell

CORK CITY have been handed a stiff task in the Champions League after the draw for the first qualifying round pitted them with Polish champions Legia Warsaw.

The Rebels did receive one lucky break however. Should they lose to Legia, they will receive a bye into the third qualifying round of the Europa League instead of the second round, after their clash with Legia was selected in a draw.

John Caulfield's side will meet the team that ended Dundalk's hopes of making the group stages on their historic run in 2016.

The difference for Cork is that they will meet the Poles at the earliest stage possible - similar to St Patrick's Athletic who encountered Legia in 2014.

Caulfield's men will have an advantage in the area of fitness as the tie will take place in the Poles' pre-season window.

But it's still an extremely difficult draw compared to several of the alternatives.

The first leg will take place on July 10/11 with the decider pencilled in for a week later.

In contrast with Dundalk's recent Champions League campaigns, Cork will need to go through four rounds to get to the group stage rather than three.

However, as part of those changes to the competition, teams that lose at the first hurdle now get another chance in the Europa League.

Under the old rules, teams needed to win a tie before they became eligible for a parachute into the the secondary competition.

Cork are already guaranteed €800,000 for their European efforts due to another increase in UEFA prizemoney.

Celtic face a trip to Armenia to open their Champions League qualifying campaign.

Brendan Rodgers' side were drawn to face Alashkert in the first qualifying round as they seek to reach the group stages for a third consecutive year.

Alashkert, who knocked St Johnstone out of the Europa League three seasons ago, are due to play at home in the first leg, although selections are subject to change.

Celtic begin the first of what they hope are four qualifying rounds on July 10-11.

Northern Irish champions Crusaders were paired with Bulgarians Ludogorets, the highest-ranked team in the draw.

The New Saints will face Macedonian champions Shkendija. The seeded Welsh side are due to play the first leg away.

Shkendija drew twice with Aberdeen in the Europa League three years ago - their most recent European experience - with the Scots progressing on away goals.

Selected Champions League First Qualifying Round ties:

Alashkert (Armenia) v Celtic

KF Shkendija (Macedonia) v The New Saints

Ludogorets (Bulgaria) v Crusaders

Cork City v Legia Warsaw (Poland)

Ties will be played on July 10-11 and 17-18.

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