With the season now over the wait for the 2023/24 campaign is well and truly underway with our first competitive fixtures just under two months away.
They will of course come in Europe as the club prepares for our third successive season with continental football and our first in the pinnacle of UEFA competition.
As the current Champions of the NIFL Premiership we have qualified for the UEFA Champions League First Qualifying Round.
Like our previous ventures in Europe the tie will be played across two legs with one at home, whilst the other will provide a memorable away day.
Unlike in previous seasons, there are various permutations depending on the outcome of this round.
A positive result will see us progress to the second Champions League Qualifying Round and guarantee that worst case scenario, we would have a UEFA Conference League Group Stage Play-Off.
Meanwhile defeat would see us bypass the Europa League and drop straight into the third tier of European football to take part in the Conference League Second Qualifying Round.
That means the only way which we enter the Europa League is by progressing through our first European tie of the summer, before eventually exiting the Champions League at any other stage.
Before any football is played, there is the small matter of the first round draw which will determine our first opposition of the season and more importantly our first ever Champions League fixture.
The draw itself will take place on Tuesday June 20th with Larne entering as an unseeded side due to our coefficient ranking and means we face a side in the seeded pot.
Simply, that means when ranking the European pedigree of the sides entering at this stage, we will face off against one of those who have performed best over the current cycle of the previous five seasons.
At time of writing the teams that are guaranteed to be in that pot are:
Ferencvaros (HUN), BATE Borisov (BLR), Astana (KAZ), Zalgiris Vilnius (LTU), HJK Helsinki (FIN), Flora Tallinn (EST), Shamrock Rovers (IRL), The New Saints (WAL), Olimpija Ljubljana (SVN), Zrinjski Mostar (BIH) and Maccabi Haifa (ISR).
Meanwhile the teams who are subject to change are currently:
Qarabag (AZE), Sheriff Tiraspol (MDA), ŠK Slovan Bratislava (SVK), Ludogorets Razgrad (BUL). – Credit: @NICoefficent on Twitter
Progression from our first tie would not only guarantee a very lucrative prize pot but could also set up some massive fixtures in the forthcoming rounds.
Turkey’s Galatasaray will be a name familiar with most people who have watched the latter stages of the competition and are likely to be in the pot for the second round, whilst FC Kobenhavn who played in the same group as Manchester City last season will also be present.
The first game of our European campaign is scheduled to be played the week beginning Monday 10th July 2023.