The UEFA Champions League first qualifying round kicks off this evening, with six title holders daring to dream of embarking on a 20-game voyage to the Olympiastadion.
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The final of the 2014/15 UEFA Champions League on 6 June 2015 seems impossibly far off, but the journey to the Olympiastadion starts tonight with the opening first qualifying round ties.
Should any of the six teams involved in ties over the next two nights make it to that decider, the final would be their 21st game of the campaign, though for the champions of Andorra, Armenia, San Marino, Estonia, Gibraltar and the Faroe Islands, even getting as far as the second qualifying round would be a notable achievement.
First-time UEFA Champions League contenders are involved in all three ties. Having won their maiden Armenian title last season, FC Banants are heading to FC Santa Coloma with more than hope. "Playing in the UEFA Champions League is a success in itself, but the most important thing for us is not just taking part in the competition but taking part well," goalkeeper Artur Toroyan told UEFA.com.
Thirty minutes after Banants' game kicks off, SP La Fiorita will get their first taste of the action in Europe's top club competition as they host FC Levadia Tallinn. "I have always said that I had two objectives in my career as a coach," La Fiorita boss Alberto Manca told UEFA.com. "I wanted to win the league title in San Marino and I did it. My next dream is to lead my side to a historic qualification for the second round of the UEFA Champions League. I have done 50% of my job."
On Wednesday, it is Lincoln FC's turn to make history as the first Gibraltarian representatives in the UEFA Champions League. "For Lincoln it means establishing ourselves as the most successful club in Gibraltar," goalkeeper Jordan Perez told UEFA.com, his side having won a 12th successive national title in 2013/14.
Giants at their own level, all six sides are dreaming of a chance to measure themselves against even bigger opponents in the next phase. Since the advent of the play-off round in 2009/10, only one club has made it from the first qualifying round through to the third – F91 Dudelange in 2012/13. The play-offs and the group stage may seem distant for the six teams involved this week, but with admission to the top club competition in world football comes the right to dream.