Former European champions FK Crvena Zvezda are among the sides facing an early end to their continental travails this season as the UEFA Europa League third qualifying round concludes on Thursday night.
The Belgrade giants won the European Champion Clubs' Cup in 1991, but are 2-0 down as they look ahead to the home leg of their tie against FC Dinamo Tbilisi, winners of the 1981 UEFA Cup Winners' Cup. There looks to be no danger for most of the bigger sides in the round – the likes of Galatasaray SK, Fenerbahçe SK, Fulham FC and 1986 European champions FC Steaua Bucureşti all seemingly in control – but there are exceptions, with Club Brugge KV, FC Basel 1893 and Athletic Club Bilbao confronting uncomfortable tasks in the concluding legs of their ties.
Athletic lost 1-0 at home to BSC Young Boys last week, and must now win the return in Berne to have a chance of going on to the play-offs, while YB's Swiss rivals Basel – 2008/09 UEFA Champions League group-stage participants – still have work to do against Iceland's KR Rejkyavík, though they came back from 2-0 down to earn a 2-2 draw in last week's away leg. A last-gasp Jonathan Blondel goal earned Club Brugge a 3-2 win at home last week against FC Lahti, but with two away goals against them, they face a difficult trip to Finland.
Qarabağ on top
Meanwhile in Baku, Lahti's Veikkausliiga rivals FC Honka Espoo will look to avoid becoming the next victims of FK Qarabağ, who ousted Norwegian giants Rosenborg BK in the last round. The homeless Azeri side are 1-0 up from the first leg and have a foot in Friday's play-off draw, where the winners of the 35 third qualifying round ties will be joined by the losers of the 15 ties from the same stage of the UEFA Champions League in addition to 26 new entrants, including Werder Bremen, Everton FC, Villarreal CF and S.S. Lazio. The winners of the 38 play-off ties will be joined by the losers of the ten UEFA Champions League play-offs in the inaugural UEFA Europa League group stage.
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