Contenders eye up play-off target

The UEFA Champions League third qualifying round comes to a conclusion this week and while a few clubs will be confident of making the play-offs, the majority of ties remain in the balance.

Sporting's Liedson and Theo Janssen of Twente were involved in one of many tight first legs
Sporting's Liedson and Theo Janssen of Twente were involved in one of many tight first legs ©Getty Images

The third qualifying round of the UEFA Champions League comes to a conclusion this week and while a few clubs will be confident of progress, the vast majority of ties are in the balance.

Safe bets
After falling to FC BATE Borisov at this stage last season, RSC Anderlecht were not in the mood to leave anything to chance this time round as they soundly defeated Sivasspor 5-0 in the Non-Champions Path side of the draw. While the Belgian side travel to Turkey in good heart, another club who bowed out in the third qualifying round 12 months ago, Olympiacos CFP, return to Greece well set to advance to the play-off round following their 2-0 win at ŠK Slovan Bratislava.

Travelling with confidence
Three teams will take two-goal advantages with them away from home for the deciders. APOEL FC edged FK Partizan 2-0 in a tight game in Cyprus while FC København visit fellow Scandinavian side Stabæk IF holding a 3-1 advantage. Olympiacos's domestic rivals Panathinaikos FC will look to overhaul an identical deficit when they welcome AC Sparta Praha, the side they knocked out this time last year.

Tight ties
Meanwhile, NK Maribor will look to build on last week's stunning 3-2 success at FC Zürich as FC Dinamo Moskva and Debreceni VSC, 1-0 away winners at Celtic FC and FC Levadia Tallinn respectively, will also aim to build on great opening results. Score draws for both NK Dinamo Zagreb and FC Timişoara leave them in a good position ahead of their home deciders while FC Twente and Sporting Clube de Portugal start their second leg in the Netherlands goalless after the Dutch club held out with ten men for over an hour in Lisbon last Wednesday. With three other ties 0-0 at the halfway stage, there is plenty of potential for nervous nights across Europe this week.

Qualifying position
Winning sides from the third qualifying round go on to the UEFA Champions League play-offs, with the winners of those ties earning a place in the group stage of Europe's top club competition, while losers will forge on in the new UEFA Europa League group stage. The losing sides after this week's third qualifying round ties will have another chance to secure group stage football as they move on to the UEFA Europa League play-offs. The draws for both the play-off rounds will be held in Nyon on Friday.