DAVID SMITH - Sunday, July 18, 2010
The draw for the third round of Champions and Europa League qualifying has been made, giving Americans such as Sacha Kljestan and Michael Parkhurst a peek at their first action in European competition.
Some question marks still remain over opponents since the draw was made prior to the completion of the second round of both competitions.
Sacha Kljestan and Anderlecht are set to face a team from the British Isles, having drawn the eventual winner between Irish Premier Division champions Bohemian FC and Welsh Premier League winners The New Saints FC.
The Irish lead their Welsh counterparts 1-0 after the first leg, with the second to be contested on Tuesday at the Saints' 2000-seat home of Park Hall Oswestry. Kljestan and co. will host the second leg, with the loser of the series headed into the play-off round of the Europa League.
Anderlecht are yearly fixtures in the qualifying rounds of the Champions League, but have not advanced to the group stage since a four-season run beginning with the 2003-04 season, finishing last place in the group in each of the four seasons with an embarrassing three wins out of 24 total games.
Celtic backup keeper Dominic Cervi will likely not see any action on the field when the Scottish runners-up take on Portuguese second-place team Sporting Braga, with the first leg to take place in Portugal.
Cervi was promoted from third string to backup for the Scottish giants after the sale of starter Artur Boruc to Fiorentina, however team coach Neil Lennon will not risk playing the largely untested American in the difficult two-game series.
American youth international Gale Agbossoumonde's status with Braga following the completion of his six-month loan is still being determined, and is unlikely to make an appearance even should he remain on the roster.
Michael Parkhurst's first foray into continental competition will begin in style, as Danish Cup winners FC Nordsjælland have been paired with classic Portuguese team Sporting CP, with the Wild Tigers hosting the first leg of their Europa Cup series in Farum.
Parkhurst and his fellow defenders will be tested against several members of the Portuguese World Cup squad, namely midfielders Pedro Mendes and Miguel Veloso, along with forward Liédson.
Mikkel Diskerud and his teammates at Stabaek will first need to overcome their Belarusian opponents Dnepr Mogilev in Belarus, with whom they are tied 2-2 after the home leg, should they hope to face Czech team Baník Ostrava, holders of a 6-0 first-leg lead over WIT Georgia.
Finnish Cup winners Inter Turku, home of defender Daniel Antunez, face a tough road to the group stage against Belgian team Genk, with the first leg to take place in Finland on Thursday, July 29. Likewise, Nate Weiss and Latvian Cup winners Jelgava will be major underdogs in a potential face-off with German team Stuttgart, should they overturn their 1-0 first-leg deficit to Molde in Thursday's home leg.
While on-loan midfielder Freddy Adu still contractually remains with Greek team FC Aris, questions remain surrounding his future with the club for the upcoming season, making him unlikely to appear for the Greek team when they take on Polish team Jagiellonia Białystok.
Champions League third-round qualifying matches will take place on July 27-28 and August 3-4, while Europa League games are to be played on July 29 and August 5.
Champions League third qualifying round
Bohemian/TNS - Anderlecht
Braga - Celtic
Europa League third qualifying round
Stabaek/Dnepr - WIT Georgia/Baník
FC Nordsjælland - Sporting CP
Inter Turku - Genk
Molde/Jelgava - Stuttgart
Jagiellonia Białystok - FC Aris