Hearts and Hibs learn their possible European opponents and dates for the Europa Conference League qualifiers
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Saturday’s Edinburgh derby between Hearts and Hibs at Tynecastle Park will decide who finishes fourth and fifth in the cinch Premiership. Both clubs covet fourth after Aberdeen secured third spot and guaranteed European group-stage football, provided Celtic win the Scottish Cup next month against Inverness Caledonian Thistle.
Hearts are currently fourth and two points ahead of fifth-placed Hibs and will remain there if they avoid a derby defeat. Celtic beating Inverness at Hampden would see Aberdeen given the Scottish Cup’s European slot – a Europa League play-off place with parachute into the Conference League groups should they lose that tie.
The club in fourth spot would then enter the Europa Conference League third qualifying round – ties on August 10 and 17 – as an unseeded side. Scotland’s UEFA co-efficient of 7.280 would not permit a seeding, meaning the following seeded opponents are among those who could lie in wait (** denotes assumed progress from the second qualifying round):
Club Brugge** (Bel), Gent** (Bel), Partizan Belgrade (Srb), PAOK Salonika** (Gre), Maccabi Tel-Aviv** (Isr), Viktoria Plzen** (Cze), Bodo/Glimt** (Nor), Lech Poznan** (Pol), Hapoel Beer-Sheva** (Isr), Djurgardens** (Swe), APOEL Nicosia** (Cyp), Besiktas** (Tur), Rijeka** (Cro), FCSB** (Rom), Legia Warsaw** (Pol), Rosenborg** (Nor), Spartak Trnava** (Svk), Omonia Nicosia** (Cyp).
Still to be decided and included are the fourth and fifth-placed clubs from Netherlands, fifth and sixth from Portugal, second or third in Turkey plus the Danish Cup winners.
Victory at that stage brings progress to the Conference League play-off round. That involves another two-legged tie on August 24 and 31 for the right to a place in the tournament’s group phase. Defeat at either stage would mean outright elimination from European competition.
The club finishing fifth in Scotland would – again, provided Celtic win the Scottish Cup – enter the Conference League one stage earlier at the second qualifying round. They may be given a seeding depending on the co-efficients of those progressing from the first qualifying round. That will be decided nearer the time. The second qualifying round ties will take place on July 27 and August 3.
If seeded at that stage, Scotland’s representatives could be drawn against some of the following unseeded sides (* denotes assumed progress from the first qualifying round):
Gzira United* (Mlt), Levadia Tallinn* (Est), Connah's Quay* (Wal), HB Torshavn* (Far), Europa FC* (Gib), NK Domzale* (Slo), FC Santa Coloma* (And), Progrès Niederkorn* (Lux), Beitar Jerusalem (Isr), Hammarby (Swe), Kalmar (Swe), Zalgiris Kaunas (Lit), Pogon Szczecin (Pol), Zalaegerszeg (Hun), Kecskeméti (Hun), Sepsi OSK (Rom), Borac Banja Luka (Bos), Sabah FK (Azb), Ordabasy Shymkent (Kaz), FK Aktobe (Kaz), NK Celje (Slo), FK Auda (Lat).
If unseeded, they could meet any of the double-starred teams listed as possible third-qualifying round opponents above, or one of the following (* denotes assumed progress from the first qualifying round):
Dudelange* (Lux), Riga FC* (Lat), Maribor* (Slo), KuPS Kuopio (Fin), Shkendija Tetovo* (Mac), Neftchi Baku (Azb), Linfield* (Nir), FC Vaduz* (Lie), DAC Dunajska Streda* (Svk), Dundalk* (Irl), Osijek (Cro), Alashkert* (Arm).
In the event of Inverness beating Celtic in the season’s showpiece, they would take the Scottish Cup’s Europa League play-off berth. Aberdeen would then enter the Conference League third qualifying round, and the club finishing fourth would enter the second qualifying round. Fifth place would not qualify for Europe in that instance.