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Who Are Dundalk's Possible Opponents In The Champions League Playoff Round?

Who Are Dundalk's Possible Opponents In The Champions League Playoff Round?
By Conor Neville Updated

The Champions League qualifying round is divided into two sections, the Champions Route and the League Route.

The Champions Route consists, entirely logically, of teams who won their domestic leagues last season. The League Route consists of teams who finished 2nd or 3rd in their respective leagues - Ajax and Anderlecht being classic examples.

Dundalk are in the Champions Route and in the playoff round, they will meet teams who have also progressed through the Champions Route.

By contrast, the five teams who proceed through the League Route over the next couple of days will meet the third and fourth placed teams from the elite European leagues - Man City, Roma, Villarreal, Porto, Borussia Monchengladbach.

Contrary to what some sources are saying, Dundalk CANNOT draw Man City or any of the above mentioned teams.

Here is how the Champions Route games are shaping up.

Games played tonight

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APOEL Nicosia (beat Rosenberg 4-2 on aggregate)

Dinamo Zagreb (beat Dinamo Tblisi 3-0 on aggregate)

Viktoria Plzen (beat Qarabag FK on away goals)

Ludogerets (Likely - currently beating Red Star Belgrade 4-2 in extra-time.) 

Games tomorrow

Celtic v Astana (Celtic drawing 1-1 after first leg away from home)

Hapoel Be'er Sheva v Olympiacos (0-0 after first leg in Greece)

Legia Warsaw v Trencin (Warsaw lead 1-0 after winning away from home)

Copenhagen v Astra Giurgiu (1-1 after first leg)

Red Bull Salzburg v Partizan Tirana (Salzburg winning 1-0 after first leg)

However, Dundalk can not be drawn against all these sides. They will be unseeded in the playoff and thus can't play other unseeded teams.

Here are the predicted seeded teams according to the rankings: Olympicos, Viktoria Plzen, Celtic, Red Bull Salzburg, APOEL Nicosia

Only Viktoria Plzen and APOEL Nicosia are definitely through, meaning they are one of Dundalk's five possible opponents. Celtic and Red Bull Salzburg are also deemed likely to progress.

If, for example, Olympiacos fall against Be'er Sheeva (and they head for Israel having drawn 0-0 at home), then Zagreb would be seeded as their coefficient beats the Israeli side.

So, Dundalk's most likely opponents based on rankings are: Viktoria Plzen, APOEL Nicosia, Celtic, Red Bull Salzburg, and Olympiacos. 

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Of these, Olympiacos are the most vulnerable meaning Dinamo Zagreb will take their place in the seeded pot.

A glimpse at the coefficients of the already qualified sides, and the seeded sides in the remaining third round Champions Route ties shows just how much Dundalk have overachieved thus far.

The most sumptuous and culturally contentious tie would obviously be Celtic (think of the LOI/barstooler arguments! My God!).

Whatever about these concerns, Dundalk now have a real chance of reaching the Champions League group stages. Incredible stuff and it could be a game changing moment for Irish football.

Read more: What Was The Greatest League Of Ireland Team Ever Assembled? - We Ask The Experts

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