DAVID SMITH - Tuesday, July 19, 2016
Potential matchups for the third round of Europa League qualification were drawn Friday, as John Brooks and Hertha enter the competition.
The draw also set potential opponents for Perry Kitchen and Hearts, as well as Will John and his Finnish employers RoPS.
Since the draw took place between the first and second leg of the still-ongoing second round of qualification, all of the exact matchups are still entirely contingent upon who successfully comes through Thursday's second legs.
John Brooks appears to have recovered from the minor knee problem that was a cause of concern, and is in the process of joining his Hertha teammates after a post-Copa break.
The team is set to play either Scottish team Hibernian or Danes Brøndby over two legs on July 28 and August 4. The Danish team nabbed a 1-0 away victory and do have the slight upper hand to advance, although it is far from certain.
Perry Kitchen will not play in Hearts home-leg game against Maltese team Birkirkara, and must hope that his team can pull through a tie which is delicately balanced with a scoreless aggregate.
Should they be successful, they will have a tough third-round matchup with Russian fourth-place finishers Krasnodar, who have made the competition's group stage in each of the last two seasons.
For Will John and Finnish team RoPS, the road to the third round is a rough one, as they are in a must-score and possibly a must-win situation due to their Croatian opponents Lokomotiva holding the away goals advantage after their 1-1 draw in Finland.
Should they prove successful, they too have a challenging third-round opponent in Ukrainian team FC Vorskla Poltava, who finished fifth in the country's domestic competition last season, and will be looking to return to the group stage after a five year absence.
Europa League third qualifying round draw
Hertha Berlin - Hibernian/Brøndby
RoPS/Lokomotiva - Vorskla Poltava
Birkirkara/Hearts - Krasnodar