Friday, 31 August 2007

UEFA Cup: Italians avoid giants

The UEFA Cup draw has been kind to the Italian sides with Empoli’s clash against Swiss champions FC Zurich arguably the sternest test.

Palermo qualified automatically for this stage through Serie A and have to overcome Czech outfit Mlada Boleslav. The Rosnaero shouldn’t underestimate the Gambrinus Liga side as they stunned French giants Marseille at this stage last term.

Tuscan minnows Empoli make their first foray into European football and will play Swiss champions FC Zurich.

Cesare Prandelli’s Fiorentina will fancy their chances against Dutch side Groningen, who only finished eighth in the Eredivisie last year and qualified thanks to the play-off system.

Sampdoria beat Hajduk Split 2-1 on aggregate in the qualifying round, but endured some nervy moments as they conceded a late free-kick against the Croatian runners-up at the Stadio Marassi on Thursday evening.

Walter Mazzarri’s men have been rewarded with a tie against Danish side Aalborg, who overcame Finnish runners-up Helsinki 4-2 in an all-Scandanavian third preliminary clash.

Elsewhere, Bayern Munich will take on Belenenses in their first UEFA Cup tie for a decade while Ajax were paired with Dinamo Zagreb in Monaco.

The UEFA Cup winners for the last two seasons, Sevilla, were also in the draw due to the postponement of their UEFA Champions League third qualifying round second leg at AEK Athens due to the death of the Spanish side's midfielder Antonio Puerta. The losers of that tie will face Salzburg.

The first-round ties are played on 20 September and 4 October.

Five days after the second legs the draw will be held for the group stage, the fixture dates for which are 25 October, 8 November, 29 November, 5 December and 19/20 December. The top three from each of the eight groups will be joined by the eight third-placed teams in the UEFA Champions League for the Round of 32 in February, with the eventual aim a place in the final at England's City of Manchester Stadium on 14 May.

View the full draw here

Source: C4 Football Italia / UEFA

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