By Ashley Cox

ONLY days remain until Barry Town will finally learn their Europa League fate, with Sunday's Preliminary Round draw to determine whether the squad are bound for Gibraltar, Andorra, the Faroe Islands, San Marino or the closer surroundings of the Cardiff City Stadium.

Barry's one-off Preliminary Round tie will be staged behind-closed-doors on Thursday 20 August, with their opponents and its location to be confirmed this weekend at UEFA HQ.

Eight possible opponents from four different nations stand opposite unseeded Barry, for whom success would secure a place in the First Qualifying Round on Thursday 27 August.

Among them, top seeds Lincoln Red Imps could well prove the most difficult, the Gibraltar hopefuls having famously toppled Scottish champions Celtic in Brendan Rodgers' first game in charge, a result that proved the talk of the tournament in that glorious summer of 2016.

Now managed by former Benfica centre-back William, Lincoln went some 88 games without a league defeat between 2009 and 2014, asserting their dominance in record-breaking style.

However, their quest for a 25th championship was on course to fall short this season, with Imps some ten points adrift of Europa FC when the season was ended by Covid-19 in May.

Though Lincoln, much like Barry, have been without competitive football for months now, a number of the teams in the Preliminary Round draw have played on through the pandemic.

Among their number are Andorra's most successful club, FC Santa Coloma, who played no fewer than eight competitive games this July, including a run to the Copa Constitució final.

Santa Coloma's most famous results include a 1-0 victory over Israel's Maccabi Haifa in the 2007-08 Europa League, while a headline-grabbing 94th minute equaliser from goalkeeper Eloy Casals helped the Andorrans squeeze past Armenia's FC Banants on away goals in 2014.

Among their other key names, Chilean striker Nico Medina is said to have turned down Real Madrid as a youth, before later sealing his big money move to fellow La Liga outfit Osasuna.

Fellow Andorrans UE Engordany have been busy themselves this summer, playing six times in the restarted Primera Divisió, ending with a 2-0 play-off loss to Santa Coloma on 23 July.

Engordany's campaign included an 11-game unbeaten streak from September to February, results that have helped the club qualify for Europe for only the third time in their history.

While leagues across the world shut down this year, football barely stopped in the Faroe Islands, making its trio of Preliminary Round representatives perhaps the most prepared.

NSI Runavik have been one of those tackling competitive matches since May and will aspire to replicate the form that saw them earn a draw with Fulham in the 2011-12 Europa League.

Years after their trip to Craven Cottage, NSI visited Hibernian and Ballymena United in their last two Europa League campaigns, but were yet to set foot in Wales prior to Sunday's draw.

Countrymen HB Torshavn are the oldest club in the Preliminary Round, forming in 1904 and playing in all four European tournaments, including the former Cup Winners' Cup and Intertoto Cup.

This club was involved in a notable qualifier in 1993, when Latvian opponents Jelgava were besieged by travel issues and unable to reach the far-off Faroe Islands, resulting in a forfeit.

Capital foes B36 Torshavn meanwhile are a good example of the kind of run a small nation outfit can still put together in Europe, winning back-to-back rounds in the 2018-19 Europa League to earn a two-legged tie with Turkish heavyweights Besiktas.

This landmark success for the White Tigers came a mere three seasons after a 6-2 aggregate humbling by Wales' once-perennial Champions League representatives, The New Saints.

San Marino's Tre Penne have never made it through their opening tie and were themselves on the end of a two-legged thumping to TNS in the 2016-17 Champions League, losing 5-1.

Amidst their playing squad, professional Mirko Palazzi is one of few to score for the San Marino national team, netting in a 2018 FIFA World Cup qualifying defeat to Azerbaijan.

The last of the eight are fellow Sammarinese side La Fiorita, who replaced Gibraltar's St. Joseph's as a seeded team after Folgore were thrown out of the competition a week ago.

Domestic double winners in 2018, La Fiorita are possibly best known on these shores for holding Irish League champions Linfield to the 89th minute at Windsor Park, before David Healy's men snatched a 1-0 win, setting up their own Champions League date with Celtic.

Next week's Barry and District News will have news from the draw in Nyon, Switzerland, as well as a preview of the 20 August showdown and details of how to follow the action.

Of added note, the draw for the First Qualifying Round will take place this coming Monday (10 August), meaning Barry and their opponents will know exactly who awaits the winner.