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Champions League - Football: First qualifying round preview

The first qualifying round of this season's Champions League continues with second leg matches spread out over Tuesday and Wednesday and there is some UK and Irish interest with Linfield and The New Saints going head-to-head again.

WhatLinfield v The New Saints, Champions League first round qualifier, second leg
WhereWindsor Park, Belfast
WhenWednesday 13th July, 19:45
How to stream
OddsLinfield 23/20, Draw 11/5, The New Saints 19/10

The New Saints hold slender advantage

Wednesday's stand-out fixture in terms of British involvement is Northern Irish giants Linfield hosting Welsh champions The New Saints in their second leg clash, with the tie 1-0 in The New Saints' favour following the first leg.

Ryan Brobbel's goal in Oswestry last week ensures it's Anthony Limbrick's side who are in the driving seat but this clash looks far from over.

Linfield are well used to these early preliminary games in the Champions League and, even though they have not progressed past the first qualifying round since 2018, they will be up for the challenge of taking on the Welsh champions.

The first leg was, as the scoreline suggests, a tight affair and this should play out similarly. Linfield are favourites in front of their own fans to win on the night at 23/20, The New Saints are 19/10 while a draw - which would be enough to see the visitors progress - is a tempting 11/5.

Shamrock Rovers on the up

Irish side Shamrock Rovers are also in Champions League qualifying action this week when they face Maltese outfit Hibernians. This should be a routine evening for the League Of Ireland champions as they already have a 3-0 advantage from the first leg and a trip to Malta is unlikely to hold too many fears.

Rovers enter the second leg in fine form, with four wins on the bounce in all competitions. They sit comfortably top of the League Of Ireland Premier Division table again, 10 points ahead of next-best Dundalk and had the weekend off after the first leg.

Hibernians, in contrast, are without a win in their last five, losing four, although that run does include a couple of friendly matches.

It's no surprise to see the Irish side as short as 8/11 to win on the night, with Hibernians 4/1 to win the second leg, while a draw is 5/2. Rovers have kept six clean sheets in their last nine competitive games and another win to nil appeals at 7/4.

Tight games galore

Elsewhere across Europe on Tuesday and Wednesday, there are plenty of clubs who would fall into the category of 'minnows', who are attempting to do their best and enjoy as lengthy a run as possible in the continent's premier club competition.

Several of the matches remain finely poised after the first legs last week with six of Tuesday's 10 games either level or having just one goal in it, while four of Wednesday's five ties remain goalless after the first games.

Among the better-known teams playing on Tuesday, Finnish side HJK Helsinki should have enough to progress past Latvian outfit Rigas Skola.

HJK are 1-0 up from the first leg at home, while Moldovan champions Sheriff Tiraspol - who famously won at Real Madrid in last season's group stage - will expect to get the job done in their second leg when they host Bosnia and Herzegovina team Zrinjski Mostar following a goalless first leg.

HJK should progress

HJK Helsinki are a very tempting 11/5 to win on the night, while Sheriff are available at odds of 5/4 to secure a victory in their second leg.

On Wednesday, it wouldn't be a surprise to see CFR Cluj, who have made the Champions League group stage three times in their history, see off Armenian underdogs Pyunik Yerevan and seal a spot in the second qualifying round. After the first leg was 0-0, Cluj are 2/9 to win the second leg at home.

Finally, Hungarian stalwarts Ferencvaros should be too good for Kazakhstan Premier League side Tobol Kostanay when they welcome them to Budapest for the second leg. Ferencvaros are 1/3 to win the second game after that was also goalless last week.

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