Nice's Mario Balotelli (right) will face Ajax in the Champions League third qualifying round. AFP

PARIS: Mario Balotelli’s Nice drew four-time European champions Ajax on Friday in the standout fixture of the Champions League third qualifying round.

Ajax lost last season’s Europa League final 2-0 to Manchester United and will face a tricky challenge against Lucien Favre’s Nice who finished third in France last term.

Celtic, who face Northern Irish title-holders Linfield in the second qualifying round, would play either League of Ireland champions Dundalk or Norway’s Rosenborg if they progress.

The winners of the third-round ties, to be played July 25-26 with the return legs on August 1-2, will advance to the play-off round in search of a place in the lucrative group phase.

Third qualifying round draw:

League route

Steaua Bucharest (ROM) v Viktoria Plzen (CZE)

Nice (FRA) v Ajax (NED)

Dynamo Kiev (UKR) v Young Boys (SUI)

AEK Athens (GRE) v CSKA Moscow (RUS)

Club Brugge (BEL) v Istanbul Basaksehir (TUR)

Champions route

Slavia Prague (CZE) v BATE Borisov (BLR) or Alashkert FC (ARM)

FK Spartaks Jurmala (LAT) or FC Astana (KAZ) v IFK Mariehamn (FIN) ou Legia Warsaw (POL)

HSK Zrinjski (BIH) or NK Maribor (SLO) v FH Hafnarfjordur (ISL) or Vikingur (FRO)

MSK Zilina (SVK) or FC Copenhagen (DEN) v Malmo (SWE) or FK Vardar (MKD)

Linfield (NIR) or Celtic FC (SCO) v Dundalk (IRL) or Rosenburg (NOR)

Hapoel Beer-Sheva FC (ISR) or Honved (HUN) v Zalgiris (LTU) or Ludogorets (BUL)

Viitorul (ROM) v APOEL (CYP) or Dudelange (LUX)

Hibernians FC (MLT) or Salzburg (AUT) v Rijeka (CRO) or The New Saints (WAL)

Qarabag (AZE) or FC Samtredia (GEO) v Sheriff (MDA) or FK Kukesi (ALB)

Partizan Belgrade (SRB) or Podgorica (MNE) v Olympiakos (GRE).--AFP

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