Rangers could face Cork City, old foes Progres Niederkorn or a team of Welsh students following yesterday’s Europa League second qualifying round draw – providing the Ibrox men can eliminate either Prishtina or St Joseph’s in the first round.
Uefa’s policy of making the draw so far in advance means there are several possibilities lying in wait for Steven Gerrard’s side should they reach the second stage as expected.
One of them involves travelling to Republic of Ireland, where Rangers have not played a competitive fixture since a Uefa Cup tie against Dublin side Bohemian FC 35 years ago. The match was overshadowed by the violence that flared off the field.
Rangers lost 3-2 in Dublin with manager Jock Wallace having to plead with away supporters to stop climbing over the high fences erected around the pitch. The Ibrox side won the second leg 2-0 thanks to goals from Craig Paterson and Ian Redford and progressed to face Inter Milan, who they beat 3-1 at Ibrox having already lost 3-0 in Italy.
Cork City are known as The Leesiders and play at their 7,365 capacity Turner’s Cross stadium. Managed by John Cotter, they currently sit seventh in the League of Ireland Premier Division. Former Celtic player Colin Healy is a coach. If they are to meet, then Cork City would host their Scottish visitors on 1 August at Turner’s Cross – provisionally at least.
Rangers were drawn against another Irish side in Shelbourne in 1998 but the away tie was moved to Tranmere Rovers’ ground, Prenton Park, for security reasons. Remarkably Shelbourne raced into a 3-0 lead but Rangers then scored five times without reply to win 5-3 and prevent a huge embarrassment in Dick Advocaat’s first game in charge.
Given their recent experience against Progres, Rangers know nothing can be taken for granted. The Ibrox side fell to their worst ever European defeat at the hands of the Luxembourg part-timers two years ago. Having won the first leg 1-0 at Ibrox, Pedro Caixinha’s side fell to a shock 2-0 defeat in Luxembourg City. Caixinha, pictured, left the club in October of that season having never fully recovered from the humiliating result.
Rangers would welcome the chance to right this wrong if it came to that. In order for this re-match to occur, Progres would need to negotiate a preliminary round tie with the students of Cardiff Metropolitan University and then overcome Cork City.
Rangers, meanwhile, would require to get past either Kosovan side Prishtina or St Joseph’s from Gibraltar. Kosovo only became a member of Uefa three years ago. Prishtina beat another team from Luxembourg, Europa FC, at the same stage last year.
Aberdeen could join Rangers in Luxembourg after the draw pitched the Pittodrie side or RoPS Rovaniemi against either Fola Esch or Georgia’s Chikhura Sachkhere.
Aberdeen came up against Fola Esch just three years ago. Although they fell 1-0 in the away leg in Luxembourg their 3-1 win in the opening game at Pittodrie saw Derek McInnes’ side advance. In order to seal a place in the second round Aberdeen must negotiate a tricky tie with Finnish club RoPS Rovaniemi, based four miles south of the Arctic circle.
If they do this and Chikhura Sachkhere beat Fola Esch then it will be the 27,000 capacity Lokomotivi stadium in Tbilisi which will feature next on Aberdeen’s itinerary. This is where the Georgians play their Europa League matches – 130kms from their hometown and own 2,000 capacity ground. Chikhura Sachkhere knocked out Turkish club Bursaspor in the second round of the Europa League five years ago in their greatest European success to date.
Kilmarnock already know their first European adventure in 18 years will start next month in Wales, against Connah’s Quay Nomads. If it continues after that Angelo Alessio’s side will head further afield to face a side with considerable European heritage in former European Cup finalists Partizan Belgrade.
The Serbians reached the final in 1965-66 – the same year Kilmarnock featured in the competition having won the Scottish League title for the first time and only time to date in their history.
The Rugby Park side were knocked out in the first round by Real Madrid, who went on to beat Partizan 2-1 in the final at the Heysel stadium in Brussels. More recently Partizan became the first Serbian side to reach the group stage of the Champions League. They finished third in Serbia’s Superliga last season.