Liverpool and Juve excite European minnows

Shamrock Rovers FC reflected on a "magic draw" after discovering they were only one game away from a tie against Juventus, with Liverpool FC a prospect for FK Rabotnicki or FC Mika.

Juventus could be visiting Shamrock's Tallaght Stadium in the third qualifying round
Juventus could be visiting Shamrock's Tallaght Stadium in the third qualifying round ©Sportsfile

A UEFA Europa League meeting with a former European champion is the mouthwatering prize awaiting two of the continent's minnows should they advance from the second qualifying round next week.

The draw for the third qualifying round in Nyon on Friday pitted Irish club Shamrock Rovers FC or Israeli outfit Bnei Yehuda Tel-Aviv FC against Serie A giants Juventus, while giving FK Rabotnicki or FC Mika the chance to take on five-time European Champion Clubs' Cup winners Liverpool FC.

The lure of lining up against such high-profile opponents has given the four sides extra motivation ahead of the second legs on Thursday, with Rovers chairman Jonathan Roche − whose club are level at 1-1 heading to Israel − describing Juventus as a "dream draw".

"Shamrock Rovers have played some very big clubs in Europe over the years but this would be one of the biggest games in our history," said Roche, whose side have met FC Bayern München and Manchester United FC in the past. "It really is a magic draw. It would be a great stage for our players to take on a club like Juventus."

Rabotnicki, meanwhile, are nicely poised to be Roy Hodgson's first opponents as Liverpool manager after defeating Armenia's FC Mika 1-0 in the first instalment of their tie in the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia. Tus Zefik, the Rabotnicki assistant coach, told UEFA.com: "I wished for Liverpool, my favourite club since I was a kid, and today's draw saw my wish come true.

"Realistically, the chances of beating Liverpool are minimal but I'll be more than happy with the knowledge that if we defeat Mika we will welcome to Macedonia one of the best clubs ever to have played here."

Mika sporting director Armen Petikyan was equally as jubilant, saying: "If we manage to get past our Macedonian opponents we will bring a football celebration to Armenia. The arrival of such a team will be a holiday regardless of the outcome and we will try to rise to the occasion."

Serbia's OFK Beograd and Belarusian representatives FC Torpedo Zhodino will reconvene for their second leg level at 2-2, an appetising encounter with 2000 UEFA Cup winners Galatasaray AŞ in store for the victors. While the duo are fully aware of their opponents' history, Galatasaray assistant coach Johan Neeskens concedes the tie represents a trip into the unknown for the Istanbul club. "We don't know either team very well," he said. "We'll see the video of the first match then our scouts will watch the second leg in Belarus."

With two away goals, Torpedo Zhodino will be regarded as favourites to progress, though coach Aleksandr Lisovski is entertaining no such thoughts, saying: "Galatasaray are a top-class team with a brilliant coach in Frank Rijkaard. However, before we face them we have to get past OFK. So for now we're only thinking about the return leg."

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