The third round draw for the Champions League has taken place. The games will be played over two legs with the first round July 26-27 and concluding on August 2-3. The losers of this round will be entered into this year’s Europa League play-offs as the winners will continue to compete for a place in the group stage in Europe’s most prestigious soccer tournament. Here is a look at the five most exciting match-ups at this stage in the competition in no particular order:
1) FC Dynamo Kyiv (UKR) v FC Rubin Kazan (RUS): This third round draw is a rematch of the 2009-10 group stages where Dynamo won 3-1 at home and grinded out a 0-0 draw in Kazan. Kyiv finished in second behind Shaktar Donetsk in the Ukrainian Premier League. They are no strangers to the Champions League competition and will hope the results from 09-10 will repeat themselves. However, Rubin will hope to avenge their clash in their previous group stage meeting. Rubin Kazan finished third in the Russian Premier League behind Zenit St. Petersburg and CSKA Moscow. The 2010 Russian League winners will hope to hit top form and get one step closer to qualifying for this years Champions League group stage.
2) R. Standard de Liege (BEL) v FC Zurich (SUI): Belgian Pro League runners-up Liege will look to move past Zurich in their third round tie. Liege will hope to get back to the Champions League group stage as they did for the 2009-2010 edition of the tournament. They will be going up against a tough Zurich side that also finished runners-up in their respected league. They will also be looking to head back into the group stages after their last appearance in the 09-10 season.
3) FC Twente (NED) v FC Vaslui (ROU): FC Twente will be looking to head back to the group stages after making their first appearance in the 2010-11 season after winning the Dutch Eredivisie in 2009-10. They will look to beat their Romanian counterparts and take one step closer to getting back to the group stages. FC Vaslui wasn’t originally supposed to be in the qualifying stages, but were added after fellow Romanian cub FC Politehnica Timisoara were relegated to Liga II in Romania for accumulated debt. Nonetheless, Vaslui will look to move past a tough FC Twente squad and get closer to qualifying for the group stage.
4) SL Benfica (POR) v Trabzonspor AS (TUR): Benfica is a familiar face in the Champions League group stage and will hope to get closer to returning after finishing second in the Primeira Liga behind FC Porto. Their opponent will be runners-up from the Super Lig, Trabzonspor. Trabzonspor had good form in the 10-11 season after finishing the previous season in fifth missing out on European competition. They will have a tough task moving past Benfica in this eye-catching tie.
5) Rangers FC (SCO) v Malmo FF (SWE)/ HB Torshavn (FRO): Rangers in 2010-2011 season won their third consecutive Scottish Premier League title. Last year they struggled in the group stages of the Champions League, which they again are trying to qualify for this year. Their opponent will either be Malmo FF of Sweden’s top-flight or HB Torshavn of the Faroe Islands. Malmo have a 2-0 aggregate lead and will look to push on in the second leg of their second round group match. The Swedish champions will look to move past HB Torshavn and set up an exciting third round match-up between them and the Scottish champions.
The rest of the match-ups from the third round draw can be found here.