The draws for the third qualifying rounds of both the Champions League and Europa League took place this morning, and for many Chelsea loanees, this was a huge day. There are several youngsters (and Marko Marin) whose clubs will be fighting for a place in Europe, and all of them were certainly hoping for a relatively easy draw as they attempted to add fixture congestion.
On the Champions League side, Thorgan Hazard was not so lucky. Hazard and his Zulte Waregem side are involved in what's probably the marquee matchup of the round, drawing former Chelsea man Jeffrey Bruma and his PSV Eindhoven side. The two legs of the tie will be played on July 30/31 and August 6/7, with the specific time and date yet to be set.
On the Europa League side of things, Chelsea have a few more players involved. Patrick van Aanholt and Gael Kakuta may yet be joined by a third Chelsea teammate at Vitesse, but they know they'll be facing the winner of the tie between FC Petrolul Ploieşti and Vikingur. Vitesse should be pretty heavy favorites in that one, even with the departures of Wilfried Bony, Marco van Ginkel, and Tomas Kalas this summer.
Marko Marin and Sevilla also have to win to advance, and they'll be facing one of FK Mladost Podgorica or FK Senica. Like Vitesse, they'll be favorites in the ties that will take place on August 1 and August 8.
For Sevilla and Vitesse, these games are crucial to their attempts to qualify for Europe. If they win the tie, they advance to the final playoff round, the draw for which will be held on August 9. If they lose, they can focus on their domestic aspirations, as their will be no European football this season.
Zulte Waregem has a bit more margin for error, as a loss to PSV simply drops them into the Europa League playoff draw. They'd still have an opportunity to win that two-legged tie and secure themselves European football.
A win over PSV for Zulte would be massive though, as that would guarantee European football this season. They'd be entered into the Champions League playoff draw on August 9, with a win in that round earning them Champions League football while a loss would see them enter the group stage of the Europa League.
Best of luck to all of our players as they attempt to help their clubs reach Europe next season, as qualifying will give us all an easy chance to see them play on quite a few occasions. These sorts of big games will be massive in their development, and will be a lot of fun to watch.