Mon 15 Jul by Mark Gleeson
There’s big money on offer in TAB’s Soccer 13 pools this week - tomorrow’s Soccer 13 pool is expected to reach R10 million as a result of a R1.6-million carryover and this Saturday’s pool should be more than double that.Tomorrow’s Soccer 13 includes several preliminary stage matches for the 2019-20 UEFA Champions League that kicks off in September.It is unlikely any of the clubs competing in this week’s first preliminary round will still be in the competition at that point, but the likes of Scotland’s Glasgow Celtic, Serbia’s Red Star Belgrade (both former winners of the European Cup) and Rosenborg of Norway will all feel they have a decent chance of bucking the odds.Red Star did it last year, but it will not be easy. While they all should come through tonight and tomorrow, when they compete in the second leg of their first preliminary round tie, they must get through another three knockout rounds before the group stage - each one progressively harder than the previous.But it is not unheard of for a team to start right at the back of the pile and make their way through.
Last season, Red Star Belgrade became the first team to progress to the group stage from the first qualifying round since the competition format was altered for the 2009-10 season.They are attempting the same again and host Suduva of Lithuania tonight, having drawn away in last week’s first leg for what should be a routine assignment.Ajax Amsterdam last season entered the Champions League at the second preliminary round, getting past Sturm Graz of Austria, Standard Liege from neighbouring Belgium and Ukraine’s Dynamo Kyiv before they got to the group stage. That they went right to the semi-finals was a Herculean feat.
Since the addition of a third qualifying round in the 1999-2000 campaign, four clubs have negotiated three rounds of qualification to reach the group phase - Liverpool (2005-06), Artmedia Bratislava (2005-06), Anorthosis Famagusta (2008-09) and BATE Borisov (2008-09).Liverpool went on to become the first team in the history of the competition to reach the knockout phase from the first qualifying round.The Slovaks have another representative this time round in Slovan Bratislava, but they look to be in some trouble against Sutjeska from Montenegro.BATE Borisov of Belarus are also facing elimination after drawing 1-1 at home last week against Piast Gliwice of Poland, who are in Champions League for the first time.Some of tonight and tomorrow’s Champions League ties are one-sided, but there are enough ties still delicately poised to offer some good payouts in TAB soccer pools.The same is true for the Europa League games on Thursday.
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