TOMORROW, Rangers will discover their opponents for the first (and hopefully second) qualifying rounds of the UEFA Europa League.
The Light Blues are seeded, and UEFA have already placed the entering teams to the first qualifying round into pots of 10 teams (five seeded and five unseeded).
Each team is assigned a number from one to ten, with the seeded numbers (one to five) in one pot, and the unseeded numbers (six to 10) in the other pot.
The teams Steven Gerrard could face then in his first competitive match as Rangers manager are:
- Progres Niederkorn (Luxembourg)
- Siroki Brijeg (Bosnia)
- Shkupi (Macedonia)
- Stumbras (Lithuania)
- Dunajska Streda (Slovakia)
The process is then later repeated for the second qualifying round, although UEFA, at the time of writing, are yet to announce the groupings. What we do know, however, is Gers will be unseeded for this stage.
Let’s then take a brief look at our five possible first qualifying round opponents for the ties which are scheduled for July 12 and July 19…
Progres Niederkorn (Luxembourg)
Progres will be well-known to Gers fans given they knocked the club out of Europe at this stage last season.
They finished second in last season’s National Division, and missed out on the title and a Champions League place by just five points.
Although from Niederkorn, the tie against the Light Blues was played at the National Stadium in Luxembourg City.
Distance from Glasgow (crow flies): 609 miles
NK Siroki Brijeg (Bosnia and Herzegovina)
Bosnian outfit Siroki Brijeg, which is also the name of the town they hail from, finished third in the Bosnian Premier League last season, thus qualifying them for the six-team “championship round” where they finished fourth and claimed the final Europa League spot.
They were knocked-out of last season’s Europa League by Aberdeen, losing 3-1 on aggregate, while their last entry to the Champions League in 2006 was ended by Hearts, who defeated them 3-0.
Siroki Brijeg has a population of just under 30,000 and is around 150km from the capital, Sarajevo. Their ground, the Pecara Stadium, holds just under 6000 supporters.
Distance from Glasgow: 1295 miles
Based in the capital of Macedonia, Skopje, FK Shkupi are competing in European competition for the first time having finished fourth in the Macedonian First League last season.
They play at the Cair Stadium, which has a capacity of 6000, although only 2000 of that is seated.
Skopje itself has a population of over half a million people, and has history dating back to Roman times.
Distance from Glasgow: 1495 miles
FC Stumbras (Lithuania)
Hailing from Kaunas, the capital city of Lithuania, Stumbras qualified for the Europa League by winning the 2017 Lithuanian Cup.
Playing a summer season, their place in the top-flight was only confirmed this year by winning a relegation play-off with FK Banga, and they currently sit fifth after 16 games.
Only founded in 2013, this is their first foray into continental competition, and they play at the Darius and Girenas Stadium, the site of Gers defeat to Kaunas back in 2008.
Distance from Glasgow: 1100 miles
FC DAC 1904 Dunajska Streda (Slovakia)
Dunajska Streda, also the name of the town, are competing in Europe for the first time in 24 years having finished third in last season’s Fortuna Liga. Dunajska Streda is around 50km from Bratislava, the capital of Slovakia.
Their MOL Arena is currently undergoing a significant renovation, and will hold 12,700 fans once completed this year.
Their best run in Europe took them to Round Two of the UEFA Cup in 1988, where they were defeated 5-1 on aggregate by Bayern Munich.
Distance from Glasgow: 1073 miles