Europa Conference League Thursday predictions: Motherwell kick off campaign
The second qualifying round of the Europa Conference League continues tonight with Graham Alexander's Motherwell flying the flag for Scotland.
The first qualifying round concluded last week with the European minnows hoping to get through the three qualifying rounds and then the play-off round to reach the group stage, which kicks off in September.
Motherwell earned their spot in the competition by virtue of finishing fifth in the Scottish Premiership and they face Irish outfit Sligo Rovers.
Northern Ireland's Crusaders are also in action against Swiss heavyweights Basel, while Newtown of Wales travel to Slovakia to face Spartak Trnava.
Motherwell vs Sligo Rovers (Thursday, 7.45pm BST)
Motherwell are competing in Europe for just the second time in eight seasons with former Scotland international Alexander doing a solid job at Fir Park since his appointment as manager in January 2021.
The Steelmen will compete in Europe's tertiary competition against a Sligo side who have already had to get through one qualifying round.
Motherwell's form at home is generally much stronger than away and they only lost two games at Fir Park in the Scottish Premiership last season, excluding games against Celtic and Rangers.
Alexander's men should be confident against a Sligo side who needed penalties to get past Bala Town of Wales in the previous round.
Sligo have won only one of their last six matches away from home and are likely to be reliant on the home tie to get through.
A low-scoring affair is likely but Motherwell are expected to have too much quality for Sligo on the night.
With the Irish outfit coming into this match on the back of a 2-0 home defeat to UC Dublin, confidence will have been dented and the hosts can win this to nil.
Basel vs Crusaders (Thursday, 6pm BST)
Crusaders got past Gibraltarian outfit Bruno's Magpies after staging a comeback in the second leg.
Trailing 2-1 from the first clash, the Ulster side needed an 80th-minute goal from Jude Winchester to level the tie on aggregate, but then avoided extra-time thanks to Billy Joe Burns' stoppage-time strike.
Basel will be a different proposition altogether though, as Alexander Frei's side drop into the Europa Conference League following a second-place finish in the Swiss Super League.
Basel saw their title hopes evaporate last season due to too many drawn games in the second half of the season.
Six of their last nine matches finished level but they were still very strong at home, losing only two matches at St Jakob-Park.
Crusaders will have to be much tighter defensively if they are to get a result and the omens are not good as they have not kept a clean sheet in eight games.
Crusaders have been handed a tough draw and it is unlikely to see them getting a result, as they have won just two of their last seven games.
Basel have plenty of European experience at a higher level and should win this tie by at least a couple of goals.
Spartak Trnava vs Newtown (Thursday, 7.30pm BST)
Welsh outfit Newtown are looking to make history and advance beyond the second qualification round of a European competition for the very first time.
In the previous round, they defeated Faroese side HB Torshavn on penalties but face a bigger examination against Spartak Trnava, who finished third in Slovakia last season.
Newtown only just managed to scrape past HB and this will prove much trickier for the Welsh side, who failed to even register a shot on target in the away leg of the first round.
Their experience of European competition is minimal and they face a Trnava side who reached the third round of the Europa Conference League qualification process last year, as well as reaching the group stage of the Europa League as recently as 2018.
The White Angels boasted the best defensive record in the Slovakian top flight last season and began their Fortuna Liga campaign at the weekend with a 2-0 win against Zlate Moravce.
This is likely to be another contest where the plucky British underdog is undone with Newtown having gone as far as they can.
The Robins struggled at the end of last season, failing to win any of their last three matches and Trnava, on the back of the confidence-boosting opening-day league win, should win to nil.