Tension is assured on Tuesday as the first qualifying round concludes, with FC Pyunik ruing misses, FC Levadia Tallinn seeking home comforts and B36 Tórshavn up against history.
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Pyunik's point to prove
Armenian teams have never experienced such a successful start to a European club season as they enjoyed last week, when none of their four entrants suffered defeat across the two UEFA competitions. Among the sides to prosper were domestic champions FC Pyunik, who won 2-1 at home against SS Folgore. However, the result brought disappointment given that the hosts recorded 26 efforts on goal to their opponents' three.
Having held a two-goal lead, Pyunik may yet regret failing to put the tie beyond the reach of the Sammarinese outfit, who will fancy their chances after José Hirsch's 71st-minute reply. "We wasted a number of great opportunities," said Pyunik coach Sargis Hovsepyan. "We were head and shoulders above [them] and deserved a better scoreline. We are going to prove our superiority by getting an impressive away win."
Folgore don't trip up
Last week's trip to Armenia was a kind of odyssey for Folgore. With the team bus stuck in traffic after an accident blocked the motorway to Bologna, the squad only just avoided missing their flight. Then, once in Armenia, the coach leading them to their hotel was too tall to go through a city tunnel. Fortunately nobody was hurt in the collision, but the players were forced to take their bags, walk out of the tunnel and call taxis.
The travails did not affect Folgore's performance, the minnows scoring their away goal when down to ten men. "We have a 20% chance of progressing," coach Nicola Berardi said. "Pyunik are very strong, but we will have some key players back from injury. If we play as we did in the first leg, anything is possible."
B36 looking to make history
The omens would appear unfavourable for B36 Tórshavn after they succumbed 2-1 at home to The New Saints FC last week – only one club from the Faroe Islands has progressed in Europe after losing a first leg.
The team they are looking to emulate can hardly offer inspiration either. They went through on a technicality, HB Tórshavn being awarded a 3-0 victory – and thus a 3-1 aggregate win – after RAF Jelgava failed to travel to the Faroes for a UEFA Cup Winners' Cup qualifying round tie in 1993/94. Still, B36 remain optimistic they can break new ground, with "Difficult, but not impossible" the verdict of the club's website.
Hans Pauli Joensen
Levadia leading the charge
FC Levadia Tallinn set a record at this stage of the UEFA Champions League last term, following up their 1-0 success at SP La Fiorita with a 7-0 triumph – the biggest margin of victory for an Estonian club in Europe. The First League champions will be hoping for another strong home performance on Tuesday when they welcome Crusaders FC, the teams having played out a goalless draw in Belfast.
Win that fixture and the Meistriliiga leaders will continue a fine start to the European club season for Estonian outfits, with sides from the Baltic nation winning two and drawing two of their four games last week. Such is the interest in the match, in fact, that Levadia will host Crusaders at the A. Le Coq Arena, home of the national team, rather than their usual Kadriorg home.
Crusaders push for new territory
Northern Irish entrants Crusaders are targeting history when they face Levadia. Stephen Baxter's men successfully navigated a round of a UEFA competition for the first time in 2014/15 when they defeated FK Ekranas 5-2 in the UEFA Europa League, but they have yet to advance in the UEFA Champions League. Crusaders striker Jordan Owens said: "It meant a lot to the club to progress in the Europa League last season, but it would be an even bigger achievement if we managed to make it through a round of the Champions League."