The draw for the first qualifying round of the Europa Conference League takes place four weeks from today and, as anyone who’s been consulting our regularly-updated guide will know, the list of Cliftonville’s potential opponents continues to narrow.
There are just 11 vacant places remaining in the seeded pot but, in a change to the information presented last week, a recalibration of the entry coefficients means Maltese representation has now been added in the form of Gzira United, who finished fourth in this season’s Premier League.
Continuing our countdown to next month’s draw, cliftonvillefc.net today examines how the 2021/22 campaign panned out for our five most recent European adversaries, starting with Haugesund of Norway.
The Seagulls recorded a 6-1 aggregate victory over the Reds in the second qualifying round of the Europa League in 2019 and, after getting the better of Sturm Graz thereafter, were eliminated by PSV Eindhoven in what has proved to be their last continental action to date.
An 11th-placed finish in last season’s Eliteserien saw them miss out on Europe by some 14 points, while the 2022 campaign does not appear to be offering any hope of respite with Jostein Grindhaug’s side currently in the relegation zone with just three points from their first six fixtures.
One team that has already slipped through the relegation trapdoor, meanwhile, are Barry Town United, who were demoted from the Welsh Premier League last month.
The Dragons’ 4-0 defeat at Solitude in the summer of 2019 is Cliftonville’s biggest ever European win and the Jenner Park outfit’s hopes of a continental return were scuppered when they lost out to Newtown in last year’s Play-Offs, but they found themselves some distance out of the Euro picture this time around before joining Cefn Druids in the domestic table’s bottom two.
In 2018, meanwhile, the Reds suffered a narrow aggregate loss to Danish side Nordsjælland, who find themselves marooned in the bottom half of the current Superliga.
With one game of the season remaining, The Tigers are ninth in the standings and, while a comfortable nine points clear of the relegation zone, they are also mathematically out of the European Play-Off equation.
Cliftonville’s 2016 conquerors, AEK Larnaca, are guaranteed at least a Conference League second qualifying round berth next season but could still qualify for the Champions League.
Though they cannot catch table-topping Apollon Limassol, they sit just a single point behind APOEL with one match left in the race for the Cypriot First Division runners-up position.
The Reds secured that tie with Larnaca courtesy of a fine aggregate win over Differdange in the weeks prior and the Luxembourgish side’s continental form hasn’t improved since then, with Zira (Azerbaijan) and Zrinjski (Bosnia-Herzegovina) meting out Europa League first qualifying round defeats in 2017 and 2020.
After missing out last year, they are currently on course for a Conference League place with one fixture remaining in the National Division.
Sitting in third – sandwiched two points either side of Fola Esch and Swift Hesperange – they will confirm qualification with a home win over Progres Niederkorn on Sunday.
As various Leagues and domestic Cup competitions across Europe draw to a close in the coming days and weeks, be sure to maintain a regular check of our European Guide to keep up to speed on all of Cliftonville’s next potential opponents on the UEFA stage.