EUROPA LEAGUE PLAYOFF FINAL PREVIEW

The pulsating Danske Bank Premiership season comes to a climax with the money spinning Europa League Playoff final at Solitude between Cliftonville and Glentoran (kick-off: 3pm).

The prize at stake is entry into next season’s Europa League for the winners and the subsequent six figure prize money on offer from UEFA as both teams seek to join Crusaders, Coleraine and Glenavon on their travels this summer.

Games between the two Belfast based sides have been tight this year, with the Reds edging the three Danske Bank Premiership encounters by two wins to one, but the last meeting between the sides ended with a narrow 1-0 victory for Glentoran - thanks to a Curtis Allen goal.

Allen took his tally to 25 goals on Wednesday night, a figure only bettered by Player of the Year Gavin Whyte (Crusaders) and the Premiership's leading goalscorer, Joe Gormley with 33 strikes! Saturday's leading marksmen will have 58 goals between them going into this game.

How they got to the Playoff Final

Cliftonville bounced back from defeat in the Irish Cup final to Coleraine last Saturday, which would have potentially seen direct qualification into Europe, with a convincing 4-0 win over Ballymena United at Solitude. Barry Gray’s Reds eventually finished fifth in the Danske Bank Premiership after an indifferent league campaign.

Ronnie McFall leads his Glentoran team into potentially his final game of a stellar Irish League career and does he have one final hurrah left? Glentoran stunned rivals Linfield at Windsor Park on Wednesday as they came from behind to win 4-3 in a memorable derby encounter. The East Belfast club’s seventh place finish and the subsequent dismissal of manager Gary Haveron in March

Last time in Europe

It’s been two seasons since Cliftonville competed in Europe, when they successfully progressed to the second qualifying round in 2016/2017 after winning 3-1 on aggregate to Luxembourg outfit Differdange before a 5-2 defeat to AEK Larnaca of Cyprus in the next round.

Glentoran last competed in the Europa League during the 2015/2016 season under former Reds boss Eddie Patterson, albeit it resulted in a difficult 7-1 aggregate defeat to MSK Zilina of Slovakia. Glentoran have represented the Irish League in 98 matches in European competition, second only to Linfield.

Playoff History

The third instalment of the Europa League Playoffs marks a repeat of the first ever playoff final in 2016. Two years ago, Cliftonville came from behind against Glentoran to win 3-2 thanks to a Davy McDaid goal ten minutes from time.

Last season, only Cliftonville made it to the playoffs – losing to beaten finalists Glenavon in the semi-final stage, whilst Glentoran’s ninth place finish in the 2016/2017 season wasn’t enough to merit qualification.

Tags:  Cliftonville  Glentoran