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PAOK, Wolfsberger on course to face Ħamrun, Gżira in Europa Conference League

Hibernians could face 2021 Latvian champions FR RFS

A stern test awaits Ħamrun Spartans and Gżira United should they progress from the second qualifying round of the UEFA Europa Conference League.

In Monday’s draws of the third qualifying round of this competition, both Maltese sides were drawn in the league path and were pitted against high-profile sides in European football.

After their spectacular comeback at the expense of Armenia’s Alashkert, Ħamrun will now face Velez Mostar of Bosnia-Herzegovina this week. Should Branko Nisevic’s team advance, they would face either PAOK of Greece or Bulgaria’s Levski Sofia.

PAOK, whose president Ivan Savvidis was banned from football for three years in 2018 after storming onto the pitch with a gun during a league game, have won the Greek championship three times including most recently in 2019.

Read: PAOK’s president gets 3-year ban for gun incident.

Last season, they were also in the Europa Conference League as their impressive run saw them reach the quarter-finals before being eliminated by Olympique Marseille.

On the other hand, Levski Sofia – 26-time winners of the Bulgarian championship, are making their return to European football for the first time since the 2019/2020 season.

In that season, they were eliminated in the second qualifying round of the Europa League by AEK Larnaca of Cyprus.

Gżira United, the other Maltese team in the league path, would face Austria’s Wolfsberger if they overcome Radnicki of Serbia.

Wolfsberger, who are one of the teams who have participated in the TipSport Malta Cup in recent years and who were linked with a potential transfer of Malta international Kurt Shaw, played in the Europa League group stages twice in a row.

Read: Shaw’s transfer to Wolfsberger falls through as clubs fail to reach agreement.

The Austrian side also faced Tottenham Hotspur in the round of 32 in the 2020/2021 edition after qualifying from their group which involved the likes of CSKA Moscow, Dinamo Zagreb and Feyenoord.

In the champions path, Hibernians will face another Latvian side in the third qualifying round should they overcome Levadia Tallinn of Estonia.

In fact, Andrea Pisanu’s side would face FK RFS who won the Latvian championship in 2021. Last season, Hibernians saw their European run halted by Latvia’s Riga FC in a controversial two-legged affair in the third qualifying round.

Hibernians dropped in the Europa Conference League after being eliminated by Ireland’s Shamrock Rovers in the first qualifying round of the UEFA Champions League.

The third qualifying round games will be played on August 4 and August 11.

Meanwhile, Malta international Teddy Teuma will make his Champions League debut in the third qualifying round following Monday’s draws.

His Belgian side Royal Union St Gilloise will face last season’s Europa League finalists Rangers.

They will host the first leg on August 2 or August 3 before travelling to the Ibrox Stadium the following week for the second leg.

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