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Caspian Football Clubs Pair Rivals In Next Qualifying Stage Of UEFA Tournaments

By Timucin Turksoy September 1, 2020

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FC Astana players celebrate a goal against Manchester United, November 2019 / Reuters

Six football (soccer) clubs from the Caspian region matched their rivals in the next UEFA Champions League and Europa League qualifying rounds after the draw that took place in the Swiss city of Nyon on August 31.

Azerbaijan's Qarabağ FC, the only club from the region in the Champions League campaign, will square off against Norwegian Molde FK in the third qualifying round of the elite club-level championship. The game will take place in the capital Baku of Azerbaijan on September 16. Due to the pandemic, it will be played in a one-off tie, meaning the winner will make it through the play-off stage. Qarabağ FC has eliminated Northern Macedonia's Sileks (4:1) and Moldova's Sheriff (2:1) football clubs in the first and second qualifying phases in August respectively.

The next squad from Azerbaijan playing in the European football tournaments is Neftçi PFK, which has been paired with Turkish giant Galatasaray in the second qualifying round of the Europa League. The game will be played in a one-leg tie in Baku on September 17.  Neftçi PFK booked second qualifying round tickets after beating Northern Macedonia's Shkupi 2:1 in a home game in August.

Kazakhstan is represented in UEFA Europa League with three football clubs. Caspian country's most renowned squad FC Astana, which was relegated to the Europa League after a defeat in the first qualifying round of the Champions League, will play against Budućnost Podgorica of Montenegro. The one-off game will be played in Kazakhstan's capital city Nur-Sultan on September 17.

The country's next two teams playing in Europa League second qualifying stage are Kaisar Kyzylorda and Kairat Almaty. Rival of Kaisar is APOEL from Cyprus, while Kairat will square off against Maccabi Haifa of Israel. Both games will be played on September 17, with Kaisar playing at home and Kairat traveling to the Middle East.

Caspian Sea region's largest country Russia has Dynamo Moskva playing in the Europa League second qualifying stage. In a one-leg game, Moscow's Dynamo will play against Locomotiv Tbilisi of Georgia in Tbilisi on September 17.

The winning sides of the second qualifying round will advance to the third stage - the last qualifying round before the play-off phase that guarantees to play in the group stage in case of a victory.