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Minnows take on UEFA Europa League big boys

The UEFA Europa League starts anew on Tuesday with the likes of Crusaders FC and FC Irtysh Pavlodar ready to cause a stir against some of Europe's more storied sides.

Rosenborg are no strangers to European competition
Rosenborg are no strangers to European competition ©Getty Images

For a host of teams striving to rekindle joyous memories of their past, the 2013/14 UEFA Europa League first and second qualifying rounds represent nascent steps to doing just that. Some of the competition's less illustrious names, meanwhile, have an opportunity to defy the odds and write a new chapter in their history when the action begins next week.

Crusaders FC must bridge a daunting gulf in European experience and overcome the weight of history to get past Rosenborg BK. The four-time Northern Irish champions have fallen at the first qualifying hurdle in their last six forays into continental competition and succumbed 4-0 on aggregate to the same side at this juncture last season.

Their opponents – coached by former Norway Under-21 boss Per Joar Hansen – have rubbed shoulders with Europe's elite in the UEFA Champions League group stage 11 times in the last 18 years. They memorably vanquished AC Milan in the 1996/97 edition before a last-eight defeat by Juventus.

Glentoran FC finished fourth in the 2012/13 Northern Irish Premiership, 26 points shy of runners-up Crusaders. A look at the record books nonetheless suggests a team capable of rising to the occasion against KR Reykjavík. Indeed, the Glens enjoyed their finest hour against SL Benfica in the 1967/68 European Champion Clubs' Cup first round.

The home team were dreaming when John Colrain struck from the spot, only to be denied a famous win by the legendary Eusébio four minutes from time. Expected to crumble in the return fixture in Lisbon, Glentoran held firm to draw 0-0, bowing out on away goals.

R. Standard de Liège stand between KR and Glentoran and the third qualifying round. The Reds flirted with European Cup glory in 1962, eventually losing to Real Madrid CF in the last four. More recently, they eliminated FC Salzburg and Panathinaikos FC en route to a UEFA Europa League quarter-final finish in 2010. 

European champions in 1991, FK Crvena zvezda have been absent from the group stage of UEFA competition since 2007. They will encounter either ÍBV Vestmannaeyjar or one of the oldest and most successful clubs in the Faroe Islands, HB Tórshavn.

Meanwhile, two-time UEFA Cup winners IFK Göteborg come up against Slovakia's FK AS Trenčín in the second qualifying round, at which stage FC Rubin Kazan face FK Jagodina, who won their first Serbian Cup in May. 

All 38 first qualifying round ties are played on 4 and 11 July, with the reward for the winners a place in the second qualifying round on 18 and 25 July.

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