Europa League: Meet the teams awaiting Scottish sides in third qualifying round

By Jordan ElgottBBC Scotland
Motherwell manager Stephen Robinson
Motherwell travel to face Hapoel Be'er Sheva with Israel in national lockdown following a spike in Covid-19 cases

A third qualifying round of a European competition with four Scottish teams involved is a rare treat.

But how much do you know about the sides who stand between Aberdeen, Celtic, Motherwell and Rangers and the Europa League play-off round?

Meet the Latvian club who are less than a decade old, the Dutch 'Super Jugs', the Portuguese side whose captain has Scottish ancestry, and the Israelis who have been forced to play way from home...

Riga FC

It is not often Celtic face a side younger than Karamoko Dembele, but that is what will happen in Latvia. Riga FC were only founded six years ago after a merger between FC Caramba Riga and Dinamo Riga.

Since then, they have won two Latvian titles, a domestic cup, and played in the Champions League qualifying stages.

However, their coach - former Spartak Moscow boss Oleg Kononov - may not even be at the game after he returned home to Russia for family reasons prior to their second qualifying round victory over Tre Fiori.

Their squad features former Hamilton Academical defender Antons Kurakins, who spent time in Celtic's academy without breaking into the first team.

Antons Kurakins
Riga's Antons Kurakins played for Celtic's youth sides but never made a competitive first-team appearance

Willem II

First of all, Rangers' opponents are pronounced VILL-EM T-VAY. They are currently eighth in the Eredivisie, but have won the Netherlands' top league three times in their 124-year history.

One of their nicknames is 'Superkruiken', which translates into English as 'Super Jugs'. That stems from the city of Tilburg's textile fabrics industry, in which factory workers were given jugs to fill up with urine, as the ammonia in it was used as a cleaning agent. The workers would then receive a small fee.

Notable past players include Marc Overmars, Frenkie de Jong, Sami Hyypia and Virgil van Dijk.

Former Hibernian defender Miquel Nelom is a member of their current squad, but the Dutch side have several players missing for this tie.

Sporting CP

Sebastian Coates
Sporting captain and Uruguay defender Sebastian Coates has Scottish ancestry

We've called them Sporting Lisbon for years but, officially at least, that is not their name. They are 18-time winners of the Portuguese top flight and can match Aberdeen's European Cup Winners' Cup title with their own triumph in 1964.

Their captain is former Liverpool and Uruguay defender Sebastian Coates. His surname is pronounced CO-AH-TES but, three or four generations ago, a Scottish ancestor travelled by boat from Liverpool to Uruguay and the rest is history. So it is probably supposed to be pronounced 'COATS'.

They are in a tough spot, too, with head coach Ruben Amorim, three members of his coaching staff, and nine first-team players absent against Aberdeen after returning positive Covid-19 tests.

Hapoel Be'er Sheva

You may remember this Israeli side from when they were knocked out of Champions League qualifying by Celtic a few years ago. Motherwell manager Stephen Robinson said he would get in touch with former Parkhead counterpart Brendan Rodgers to try to obtain an insight.

Be'er Sheva finished fourth in Israel's top-flight last season, but won back-to-back titles in 2017 and 2018.

Israel is currently in a national lockdown, but their FA have given assurances that the game will go ahead, though it will not be in their usual home stadium due to work being carried out on the ground.

Their top two scorers from last season will not be playing. Nigel Hasselbaink, who played for Hamilton Academical, St Mirren and St Johnstone, is now a free agent, while former Chelsea man Ben Sahar is on loan at Cypriot side Apoel. Their dangerman is Portuguese midfielder Josue.

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