The battle to reach the Champions League and Europa League qualifiers will continue this week as teams across Europe play the second legs of the second qualifying round of either competition. Here are five things to look out for.
Celtic to progress
One of Brendan Rodgers’ success points in his time as Celtic manager has been to make the club a fixture in the Champions League group stages. They may have failed to make it past the groups in either of his two seasons in charge, but there is little doubt that they will at least reach the final 32 once again this year.
They beat Rosenborg 3-1 in the first leg of their second qualifying round tie and have more than enough in the tank to finish the job off in Norway tomorrow night.
Ajax to return
Ajax are by all standards one of the most successful clubs in European football history. The Dutch giants have won the Champions League four times in total. To put that into context, they have triumphed more times than the likes of Manchester United (three times) and Juventus (twice).
De Godenzonen have however, gone through a bit of a fallow period, as they have not reached the group stage since 2012. The club have really made a statement of intent in the current transfer window, by bringing players like Daley Blind from United and Dusan Tadic from Southampton. They lead Sturm Graz 2-0 from the first leg and should finish them off at home tomorrow night.
Can Legia Warsaw turn around an embarrassing situation?
Legia Warsaw found themselves in a bit of a tricky situation when they were beaten 2-0 by Spartak Trnava in front of their own fans last week. While they can hardly be described as a seasoned European side, Warsaw undoubtedly have much more experience in the Champions League than their opponents who only made their debut this season. Dean Klafuric’s men have the chance to make amends when they face Spartak in Slovakia tonight.
Gerrard to lead Rangers to Europa League group stages
Steven Gerrard’s appointment as manager of Scottish side Rangers has been one of the main stories of the year. Now that the Liverpool man has got down to business, he will be judged purely on his ability to bring success on the pitch. A huge part of that would be bringing European football proper back to Ibrox. The Gers have not participated past the qualifying rounds of either the Europa or Champions League since 2011.
They beat Osijek 1-0 in Croatia last week. A win in Scotland on Thursday will take Gerrard closer to the goal of getting his side through to the Europa League groups.
Burnley to finish the job at home
Sean Dyche’s exploits as Burnley manager continue apace. The ‘Ginger Mourinho’ led the Clarets to their first European match in 51 years, when they held Aberdeen to a 1-1 draw in the first leg of their Europa League qualifier last week. They welcome the Scottish side to Turf Moor on Thursday night, where a win will see them just two steps away from an exhilarating first appearance in the draw for the group stage.