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Here's What Dundalk Must Do Tonight To Qualify For The Europa League Knockout Stage

Here's What Dundalk Must Do Tonight To Qualify For The Europa League Knockout Stage
By Darren Holland

Dundalk travel to Israel aiming to become the first Irish side to ever reach the knockout stages of a European competition. Securing qualification would seem like a fitting way to finish off the season for a team that have consistently gone one step beyond under Stephen Kenny's guidance.

However, having failed to get a result against AZ Alkmaar, the Lilywhites fate is out of their hands. Bear in mind, it gets rather complicated.

As things stand, the League of Ireland champions remain only a point behind the Dutch side who welcome Zenit St.Petersburg to the AFAS Stadion this evening.

While their opponents, Maccabi Tel Aviv - who are currently in fourth place - still have an opportunity to qualify themselves, aiming to reach the knockout round for the second time in four seasons.

A Victory For Dundalk Against Maccabi Tel Aviv...

- If AZ Alkmaar defeat Zenit St.Petersburg  - 

Dundalk's best efforts in Tel Aviv will mean absolutely nothing in the grand scheme of things as victory for Stephen Kenny's side would put them on seven points - one behind Alkmaar in second place.

Result: Dundalk fail to qualify.

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- If AZ Alkmaar draw  -

Ridley's nightclub will have a queue a mile long in the event of a Dundalk win and Alkmaar dropping points at home. Such a result would mean the Lilywhites would end one and begin the next season with European football as the round of 32 fixtures are scheduled for next February.

Result: Dundalk supporters can ask for Ryanair gift vouchers for Christmas as their focus shifts to the next round of the Europa League.

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- If AZ Alkmaar lose  -

Same as above. If the FAI Cup finalists manage to capitalise upon a Zenit St.Petersburg victory then they will move above Alkmaar into second place.

Result: The party continues.

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A Draw For Dundalk This Evening...

- If AZ Alkmaar draw and Dundalk draw -

In what seems like the most likely scenario as Zenit will more than likely rest some key players for their encounter with Alkmaar, it still would not be enough for Kenny's team to progress beyond the group stage despite an admirable point in Israel.

Result: The journey home from the Middle East would seem that bit longer knowing their European journey has come to an end.

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- If AZ Alkmaar lose and Dundalk secure a score draw -

This is where it gets slightly more complicated. If John Van Den Brom's team taste defeat at home and Maccabi hold Dundalk to a score draw then the three respective clubs enter into a three way head-to-head situation. However, due to the fact that Dundalk will fare best of the three, they will certainly reap the rewards.

Result: Dundalk advance to the knockout stage.

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- If AZ Alkmaar lose and Dundalk draw 0-0 -

Once again head-to-head will factor into proceedings. However, on this occasion - as it only features the two aforementioned sides - Alkmaar will be the beneficiaries. Having failed to defeat the Dutch club in their past encounters this season, Dundalk would crash out in heartbreaking circumstances.

Result: Dundalk players and supporters alike may put their passports back in the drawer until the following season as they exit in the group stage.

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A Dundalk Loss In Israel...

They're out. Plain and simple.

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