Champions League Tuesday predictions: TNS can bank on home comforts

Bobbie Jackson
Spotlight
Anthony Limbrick led The New Saints back to the summit in Wales
Anthony Limbrick led The New Saints back to the summit in Wales

The first qualifying round of the 2022-23 Champions League gets underway this week, including an all-British tie between The New Saints and Linfield. 

There are first-leg games spread over tonight and tomorrow, with eight matches set to play out on the former. 

The likes of CFR Cluj, Ludogorets, Maribor, Ferencvaros, Malmo, Lech Poznan and Qarabag have all previously featured in the group stage but they face a long road to make it to that stage this term. 

The New Saints vs Linfield (Tuesday, 7pm BST)

Welsh Premier League champions The New Saints and NIFL Premiership winners Linfield square off at Park Hall in Oswestry this evening. 

TNS made it through to the second qualifying round in their last campaign in 2019-20, although they then failed to get past FC Copenhagen. 

Linfield, meanwhile, have fallen at the first qualifying round in each of the last two seasons, losing to Legia Warsaw and Zalgiris. 

Reaching the group stage of Europe's elite club competition is unlikely for both of these sides but they will want to remain in the mix for as long as possible. 

Tonight's match will be the first competitive meeting between the clubs with their only previous clash a friendly that ended goalless in 2010. 

TNS have lost just one of their last 25 games at home in all competitions and will be confident of extending that run. 

However, it could be worth exploring the both teams to score market with the Welsh outfit keeping just two clean sheets in their last six on home soil. 

Shamrock Rovers vs Hibernians (Tuesday, 7.30pm BST)

Shamrock Rovers lead the way in the League of Ireland Premier Division, sitting 10 points clear at the summit, and they welcome Maltese Premier League champions Hibernians this evening. 

Again, a spot in the Champions League group stage looks unlikely but Shamrock will have their sights set on a potential route through to the Europa Conference League. 

Victory in the first qualifying round will secure a two-legged tie with either Ludogorets or Sutjeska later this month. 

Shamrock have not tasted defeat at home since going down 1-0 against Flora in August 2021 so it is tough to make a case for anything but an Irish victory.

They have kept clean sheets in each of their last three at their own ground, winning all of those, so it might be worth exploring a home win to nil. 

Shamrock Rovers boss Stephen Bradley will have his eye on reaching the Europa Conference League at least
Shamrock Rovers boss Stephen Bradley will have his eye on reaching the Europa Conference League at least

Malmo vs Vikingur Reykjavik (Tuesday, 6pm BST)

Malmo came through all three qualifying rounds and the play-off round last season to secure a spot in the group stage and they will be hoping to repeat that feat this term. 

After being drawn with Juventus, Chelsea and Zenit, the Sky Blue finished bottom of Group H in 2021-22. 

Malmo begin their run towards the group stage with a home tie against Icelandic champions Vikingur Reykjavik, who have already featured in the preliminary round this campaign. 

Vikingur have never made it beyond the first round previously and it is extremely unlikely they will correct that record this season. 

Malmo currently sit fifth in the Allsvenskan — four points adrift of leaders Hacken — after losing 2-1 at Sundsvall on Friday. 

However, their home record is impressive with just one defeat in their last 12 in all competitions and they should come through with a first-leg advantage.

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