As Celtic crashed out of the Champions League last night, a close friend of Rangers’ in Belfast’s Linfield was making a much better impression in Europe.
The Windsor Park club defied the odds to beat Montenegrin outfit FK Sutjeska 3-2 on the night and 5-3 on aggregate to reach the Playoff Round of the Europa League.
An incredibly challenging tie against Azerbaijan’s Qarabag awaits, but what’re the chances of the Belfast Blues meeting Rangers should both sides qualify for the groups?
— Linfield FC (@OfficialBlues) August 14, 2019
It would certainly be one hell of a party, but the chances remain slim.
Not that we’re writing Linfield or Rangers off.
But the Ibrox club’s lack of participation in European competition over the last five years means that last season Rangers found their way into the competition’s fourth pot.
Rangers are now ranked 206th in the UEFA club rankings after qualification and as a result, it is unlikely that they’d outrank the other sides in the competition enough to make it into pot three.
Linfield are ranked 344th. Make no mistake, this is a monumental achievement for them and the money their European run has already generated – close to £780k from EL Qualifiers and £220k from CL Qualifiers – is huge for the Northern Irish champions.
No Northern Irish side has ever qualified for the Europa League group stages either.
But whilst both sets of fans – who generally share a strong bond and friendship – can revel in each other’s success to this point, the chances of a competitive meeting are slim.
Should they both qualify, the Northern Irish and Scottish club’s supporters will just have to make do with cheering each other on instead.
They just have to get there first.