The likes of Borussia Dortmund and Sampdoria are among those starting their campaigns in this week's UEFA Europa League third qualifying round first legs. Our team of correspondents mark your cards.
Wolfsberg-Dortmund in spotlight
A UEFA Europa League third qualifying round tie involving a German side is usually of interest only to the team or region itself, not the talk of the nation. But that is different this time as Borussia Dortmund play Austrian debutants Wolfsberg. Dortmund, a club with Germany's biggest attendances, found themselves outside the UEFA Champions League places last term, yet now boast a new coach in Thomas Tuchel, one of the country's up-and-coming trainers. So how will BVB fare this season? How will they cope with the new system which values possession over quick transitions? And will Marco Reus really operate as a false nine?
Midfielder İlkay Gündoğan said: "Tuchel started with the simple things: Which foot do I control the ball with? Which foot does my team-mate like to receive the ball with? These details seem small but can make our game a bit faster; I think our progress is clear. Defending so bravely and being so brave in possession feels good." Wolfsberg have switched this game to Klagenfurt, some 60km away: the stadium, a UEFA EURO 2008 venue, will host a 30,000-plus sell-out, making it the club's record home attendance.
Željezničar set for Standard
Željezničar have just suffered their first defeat in nine months but the Sarajevo side remain upbeat as they prepare to visit Standard Liège. Victorious in all four UEFA Europa League games this season – against Balzan and Ferencváros – without conceding a goal, Željezničar were beaten 1-0 at Borac their league opener on Sunday, with coach Milomir Odović commenting: "We'll need to play better than against Ferencváros yet we can hope for a favourable result." Standard have long held a special place in Željezničar fans' hearts as two club greats went on to play for the Belgian club – Drago Smajlović and Josip Bukal.
Vojvodina tie stirs Sampdoria memories
After being paired with Vojvodina for the third qualifying round, newly appointed Sampdoria coach Walter Zenga said: "Life is strange. Sampdoria are back in Europe and will face a team where two of our former coaches, Vujadin Boškov and Siniša Mihajlović, spent several years as players [Boškov was also in charge of Vojvodina for seven seasons]."
A former Inter and Sampdoria goalkeeper, Zenga has become a well-travelled technician since hanging up his gloves, coaching in Romania, Turkey, the United Arab Emirates and Abu Dhabi, and also has fond memories of Serbian football. "I spent a single campaign at Crvena zvezda [in 2005/06] and we won the double", he added. "[This draw] is a sign of fate."
Vaduz's domestic affair with Thun
Normally teams from the same championship cannot meet until the last 16 – but here in the third qualifying round is an all-Swiss Super League affair. Vaduz, entering Europe as Liechtensteiner Cup holders (they are ineligible to qualify via Switzerland), tackle a Thun outfit from whom they took just one point in four matches last season. However, in their previous European tussle with Swiss opposition, then second-division Vaduz only exited on away goals to FC Basel in the 2006/07 UEFA Cup second qualifying round, losing 1-0 away and winning 2-1 at home. After this double-header, Thun and Vaduz meet again in the league on 21 August.
Hajduk's changing fortunes
Three days after beating Koper 4-1 in the second qualifying round, Hajduk Split were themselves defeated by the same scoreline against Istra in the Croatian league. "There was nothing positive for us," said coach Damir Burić. "It was a sad night for Hajduk Split. We have to be, and will be, much better in our next match on Thursday."
Van den Brom waiting for Istanbul
For AZ Alkmaar coach John van den Brom, this duel with Turkish debutants İstanbul Başakşehir holds a special meaning. The ex-Vitesse and Ajax midfielder played in Turkey's largest city for İstanbulspor in 1995/96 under Dutch coach Leo Beenhakker. "It will be special for me to return to Istanbul next week [for the second leg]," Van den Brom said. "After the draw I immediately Googled to see what kind of team they have. I immediately noticed their youngest defender is 28. I have been in touch with former colleagues in Belgium [from his old club Anderlecht who faced İstanbul in a recent friendly]. They confirmed what I already envisaged: they are physically strong players who know what they stand for. It will not be easy."
Târgu Mureș take a bow
Almost 40 years after the Transylvanian city of Targu Mures was last represented in UEFA competition – Asociația Armata Târgu Mureș figuring in three straight UEFA Cup campaigns between 1975/76 and 1977/78, losing in the first round on each occasion and winning only one fixture – the city's new team ASA 2013 Târgu-Mures tackle Saint-Étienne. While it is also a first European assignment for coach Vasile Miriuță, the club are not short of experience with Eduard Stăncioiu, Pablo Brandan, Paweł Golański, Ousmane N'Doye and Gabriel Mureșan having featured for other Romanian sides in Europe.
"What can we say and what can we do? Obviously they're the toughest possible opponents but anything is possible," Miriuță told UEFA.com. "There are two matches and we'll do our best to qualify. We're playing a very good club with a big tradition, but Lyon are also a top French team and were eliminated last year by Astra. It doesn't matter that we're making our European debut; despite few believing in our chances, we're optimistic."
Kovář's Liberec advice
"Liberec travelling to Israel? Do not forget towels and swim-wear," Hapoel Haifa's Czech goalkeeper Přemysl Kovář tweeted when seeing his old club Slovan Liberec had been drawn with Hapoel Kiryat Shmona. More seriously Kovář, who played for Liberec in the 2013/14 group stage, added: "Shmona have a new coach and are building a new team after several key players left. Timing is on Liberec's side, Slovan are clear favourites for me," he told Czech daily Sport.
Rabotnicki's reason for optimism
Four years ago Rabotnicki became the first club from FYR Macedonia to reach the play-off round of a European competition and midfielder Dusko Trajcevski is hoping history will repeat itself when the Skopje side face Trabzonspor. "Normally Trabzonspor are big favourites, but we have to dare to believe that we can repeat the success from 2011 when we surprisingly eliminated Anortosis at this stage in this competition," he said." We know we need to improve at least 30% from the games against Flora and Jelgava in Skopje. If we manage to win at home first without conceding, everything is possible in the second match."
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