It’s easy to lose track of where exactly we are in the football season amid constant issues and interruptions due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
The season started at different points across Europe, with Scottish football resuming in the Premiership on August 1st after the last campaign was curtailed early.
The Scottish Cup from last season still hasn’t been played and there will be no winter break this term as authorities look to fit in all the games required.
It doesn’t feel like that long ago when Bayern Munich beat PSG in the Champions League final – just days after Sevilla beat Inter Milan to lift the Europa League.
And somehow we’re now at the third qualifying stage of the Europa League already, with Scottish teams – who you can bet on with bet365 bonus code UK – already well into their campaign to make the group stages of the competition.
Celtic are in the mix for the competition after dropping out of Champions League qualifying at the hands of Ferencvaros.
They play Latvian side Riga tonight in what is a game they’ll be very confident of winning. If Neil Lennon’s side do, it’ll be either Sarajevo or Buducnost Podgorica in the next round – two teams Celtic should have no problem with to make the group stages.
For Rangers, they face Willem II tonight and a victory will set up a playoff clash with either Galatasaray or Hajduk Split.
While both potential opponents are well-known European names, they certainly aren’t at the same level as they have been in recent years and Steven Gerrard’s men will feel like they’ve beaten bigger and better before.
Celtic and Rangers have consistently performed for Scotland in Europe over recent seasons and there should be no concern over their place competing on the continent.
It’s with Motherwell and Aberdeen where the pressure lies.
Both teams are in Europa League qualifying after strong Premiership campaigns last term.
Motherwell have already beaten Glentoran and Coleraine to make it to the third qualifying round.
And they’ll face their toughest task yet in the form of Hapoel Be’er Sheva – a team who caused Celtic problems in Champions League qualifying back in 2016.
If Stephen Robinson’s men overcome the Israelis, it’s either Viktoria Plzen or SonderjyskE in the playoff round – two tough potential ties, but ones Motherwell could win.
For Aberdeen, it’s the Portuguese giants Sporting Lisbon in their way tonight.
Derek McInnes’ men have overcame NSI and Viking without shipping a goal in Europa League qualifying so far and should take confidence from their consistent performances against Celtic and Rangers over recent years and apply that to a similar test in Sporting.
After that, it’s LASK or Dunajska Streda – with LASK the favourites there and a really tough opponent considering their great run in last season’s Europa League.
While all matches will be difficult, four teams participating at this stage of qualifying gives Scotland a great chance of having their best group stage representation in years.