There are just four days to go until we’ll find out our opponents in the preliminary round of this year’s UEFA Europa League, so it’s time to take a look at who we could be facing.
UEFA announced yesterday that teams are likely to be grouped for the draw due to Covid-19 travel regulations, but as that information will not be released until the day before, we’re still running down all eight teams that we could play, thanks to Ian Johnson.
Here’s part one – in order of seeding from highest to lowest.
Lincoln Red Imps – Gibraltar
Lincoln Red Imps of Gibraltar are the top seeds in the Preliminary Round draw, and will also be a seeded club in the First Qualifying Round. They’ve won the Gibraltar League on 24 occasions, including 14 consecutive titles between 2003 and 2016.
In Europe, their biggest moment came when they beat Celtic 1-0 in the home match at the Victoria Stadium, but they’ve also had aggregate victories over FC Santa Coloma over Andorra and Flora Tallinn of Estonia in the Champions League qualifiers. They were defeated by TNS 3-2 on aggregate when they last met Welsh opposition in 2018.
Red Imps were having an uncharacteristically poor season when Covid-19 halted the Gibraltar League in the Spring, in third place, ten points behind leaders Europa FC and five points behind second place St Joseph’s. However, they were still in the semi-finals of the Rock Cup, and would have hoped to win that for the first time in five seasons.
Lincoln Red Imps are the only seeded club from Gibraltar that Barry can play in this season’s Europa League.
FC Santa Coloma – Andorra
FC Santa Coloma are another club who are used to winning their league more than they are used to finishing runners-up.
This season’s Andorran League went to the wire, with FC Santa Coloma hoping that their rivals, Inter d’Escaldes, would drop points on the final day of the season and allow them to win the league, which re-started in July after a Covid19 enforced break. Santa Coloma were also beaten to Andorra’s Copa Constitucio by Inter, losing 2-0 in the final. They’ve won the Primera Division on 13 occasions, including six consecutive seasons before this year.
In Europe, they’ve knocked out Banants of Armenia over two legs, and beat San Marino side Tre Penne in last year’s Champions League Preliminary Round.
Like Lincoln Red Imps, they will be seeded in the First Qualifying Round draw.
B36 Torshavn – Faroe Islands
B36 Torshavn are the highest seeded of the three Faroe Islands clubs to be represented in this year’s Preliminary Round, and the last of the three clubs who will also be seeded in the First Qualifying Round draw.
The Faroese are mid-way through their league campaign, and B36 qualified for the Europa League after finishing second in the table last season. They were top with four games to play, but finished as runners-up, three points behind KI Klaksvík. At the time of writing, they are third in the Faroese League.
In the Champions League, they met TNS in 2016, the Oswestry club winning both legs to go through 6-2 on aggregate. However, they had a better year in the Europa League two seasons ago, knocking out St Joseph’s of Gibraltar on penalties and then beating OFK Titograd of Montenegro before being finally beaten by Besiktas. Last season they were beaten in both legs by Crusaders of Belfast.
B36 have won the Faroese League eleven times, most recently in 2015, and the Faroe Islands Cup six times, 2018 the last occasion.
La Fiorita – San Marino
La Fiorita of San Marino were a surprise addition to the list of Europa League Preliminary Round seeds, only added to Barry’s list of possible opponents last week when Folgore were banned from European competition due to match-fixing.
They’ve won the Campianato Sammarinese di Calcio on six occasions and the Coppa Titano five times, doing the double in 2017-18.
San Marino was one of the countries in Europe that was earliest hit by Covid-19, so it was no surprise when the league there was brought to an early conclusion. La Fiorita were fourth when the league was ended, taking advantage of Folgore’s misfortune to book themselves an unexpected place in the Europa League.
La Fiorita have yet to make it through a European tie, but they did hold Linfield to a goalless draw at home after losing 1-0 in the return. Last year they lost 3-1 on aggregate to UE Engordany of Andorra, another of Barry’s possible opponents this season.