Cross-Channel challenges - how Irish League clubs have fared against English sides in Europe

Crusaders
Crusaders faced Fulham in the Europa League in 2011
Europa League second qualifying round: Wolverhampton Wanderers v Crusaders
Venue: Molineux Date: Thursday, 25 July Kick-off: 19:45 BST
Coverage: Live commentary on BBC Radio Ulster MW and online. Live text commentary on BBC Sport website.

European football often takes Irish Premiership sides to some of football's not-so-glamorous outposts.

This summer, for example, has seen Belfast rivals Linfield and Crusaders both playing in the Faroe Islands.

But negotiating such tricky encounters can lead to more exciting assignments.

For example, Crusaders' reward for beating Faroese side B36 Torshavn is a date with Premier League club Wolves in the Europa League on Thursday night.

And given that Manchester United, Liverpool, Arsenal and Chelsea lost at Molineux last season, the Crues will be up against it from the outset.

But it won't be the first time a Northern Irish club faces a team from across the Irish Sea. Ahead of Thursday's clash, we look at five previous NI v England encounters.

Wolves knocked Liverpool out of last season's FA Cup in the third round
Wolves knocked Liverpool out of last season's FA Cup in the third round

Linfield v Manchester City (European Cup Winners' Cup, 1970)

In arguably the most impressive performance from a Northern Irish side against English opponents, Linfield came agonisingly close to eliminating holders City, drawing 2-2 on aggregate but going out on the away goals rule.

After losing the first leg 1-0 at Maine Road to a late Colin Bell goal, Billy Bingham's Belfast Blues produced a stirring performance in front of 24,000 fans at Windsor Park.

Billy Millen's early opener levelled the tie before Francis Lee's equaliser on the night swung the momentum back in City's favour.

Millen's second-half free-kick handed Linfield victory on the night but it wasn't enough as City progressed, falling to eventual champions Chelsea in the semi-final.

Crusaders v Liverpool (European Cup, 1976)

A fully-packed Seaview was treated to a high-quality display from Liverpool as Bob Paisley's Reds ran out 5-0 winners.

Kevin Keegan, David Johnson (two), Steve Heighway and Terry McDermott scored to complete a 7-0 aggregate victory over Billy Johnston's Crues.

Crusaders gave a good account of themselves though, twice hitting the woodwork and holding Liverpool to 1-0 until 10 minutes from time.

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BBC archive footage of Crusaders v Liverpool in the 1976 European Cup

Liverpool went on to win the first of six European Cups that year, beating Borussia Monchengladbach in the final.

Carrick Rangers v Southampton (Cup Winners' Cup, 1976)

A shock Irish Cup triumph over Roy Coyle's much-fancied Linfield brought European football to Carrick for the first - and only - time.

And Jimmy Brown's Rangers were determined to make the most of it. They beat FC Aris Bonnevoie in the first round to set up a mouth-watering clash with FA Cup holders Southampton.

The Saints, led by future Northern Ireland manager Lawrie McMenemy, ran out 9-3 winners on aggregate after 5-2 and 4-1 victories.

Coleraine v Tottenham Hotspur (Cup Winners' Cup, 1982)

It was a year to remember for Northern Irish football as Bingham's side beat Spain on their own patch in the World Cup.

A few months later, Coleraine had their own giant-killing aspirations when they took on Tottenham in the Cup Winners' Cup.

The Bannsiders qualified after losing the Irish Cup final to Linfield who, as league champions, entered the European Cup.

Coleraine had quality players but they were no match for a Spurs outfit containing Ossie Ardiles and Ricky Villa, who recorded an emphatic 7-0 aggregate victory.

Crusaders v Fulham (Europa League, 2011)

Crusaders' most recent tussle with an English club was a two-legged encounter with Martin Jol's Fulham.

The Cottagers, finalists in 2010 under Roy Hodgson, counted Northern Ireland internationals Aaron Hughes and Chris Baird among their travelling party to Belfast as they ran out 3-1 winners at Seaview, with new signing Timmy Adamson scoring for the Shore Road side.

The Crues faithful were in fine voice at Craven Cottage but, despite their chants of 'we're going to win 3-0', the west Londoners secured their passage to the second round with a 4-0 win courtesy of goals by Andrew Johnson, Damien Duff, Bobby Zamora and Steve Sidwell.

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