Llandudno and Bala are both in Sweden ahead of difficult ties against IFK Goteborg and AIK Solna; back at home the Nomads face Stabaek in Rhyl.
A tough test awaits all three of Wales’ UEFA Europa League entrants today in the first qualifying round, first leg. An unfavourable draw has greatly reduced the possibility of a Welsh club progressing but the financial windfall, learning curve and experience will make it a memorable occasion for all involved.
It was just a 12 months ago when we were speculating as to how Cymru Alliance champions Llandudno would fare in the Welsh Premier League; this morning Alan Morgan’s squad are walking up in Stockholm preparing to face IFK Goteborg…
Each of the three clubs’ path to reach Europe is a success story in its own right but when you consider finishing a point above the relegation zone would’ve likely been deemed a successful season at Llandudno, to be competing against a traditional European heavyweight over two-legs will have been beyond the wildest dreams of anyone at Maesdu Park.
Bala Town are becoming well-versed in continental competition making their third Europa League appearance. A desperately unfortunate late away goal eliminated them last year but AIK present a huge obstacle if they are to reach the second qualifying round this time around. Given the size of tne task, should either Llandudno or Bala claim any sort of result in Sweden then it would have to be considered as one of the best performances by a Welsh club in European competition.
And let’s not forget Connah’s Quay who, like Llandudno, also venture into Europe for the first time. The Nomads are the most likely club to get something tonight, on paper at least. Stabaek are enduring a difficult time and find themselves in the bottom two as the Norwegian top-flight nears the halfway mark and they’ll be travelling to North Wales knowing that this is one banana skin they must avoid – you can expect Andy Morrison to have his side fired up and ready to pounce on any aprehension from the Norwegians. Recent signing Michael Wilde will be worth his weight in gold given his European experiences at TNS and the Stabaek defence can expect a physically demanding evening up against him and strike partner Les Davies. Connah’s Quay have a physical streak and I would expect them hassle and try and make it uncomfortable for Stabaek at every opportunity. Could, just could, Connah’s Quay claim something from this home leg?
I wish the very best of luck to all those involved.
IFK v Llandudno (6.30)
AIK v Bala Town (6.30)
Connah’s Quay v Stabaek (7.15)