Football: Stuttgart stumbling block for Leeds

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The Independent Online
LEEDS UNITED, back in the European Cup after 17 years, will need to be at their resilient best if their challenge for the honour which eluded Don Revie's team is not to be short-lived.

In yesterday's first-round draw, made in Geneva, Leeds avoided Barcelona, the holders, and the all-conquering Italian champions, Milan, only to be paired with VfB Stuttgart, whose triumph in the German Bundesliga in many ways mirrored their own. The clubs are already scheduled to meet in the Makita Tournament at Elland Road on 1 August.

The other English entrants were more kindly treated, Liverpool facing Cypriot opposition for the first time in the Cup-Winners' Cup, and Manchester United and Sheffield Wednesday pitting themselves against clubs from Russia and Luxembourg respectively in the UEFA Cup.

The Scottish quintet may be more stretched. Rangers tackle Lyngby of Copenhagen, who provided four of Denmark's European Championship-winning squad. Airdrieonians' European debut in the Cup-Winners' Cup will be against Sparta Prague, conquerors of Rangers and Marseille in the premier tournament last season.

Leeds, whose last appearance in the European Cup was in the 1975 final in Paris, which they lost to Bayern Munich against a backdrop of violence by their followers, will make their re-entry in Stuttgart's 67,750-capacity Neckarstadion on 16 September.

Howard Wilkinson, their manager, said: 'We would have preferred an easier task, but this Cup is all about the top teams and coping with the challenge. It's a draw we can come through successfully, and the tie is so attractive it should fill both grounds.'

Like Wilkinson's side, Stuttgart were outsiders for their championship, but kept the pressure on Eintracht Frankfurt and Borussia Dortmund in much the way Leeds did with Manchester United. Widely perceived as more effective than attractive, they took the title after coming from behind to win at Leverkusen on the final day.

They are coached by Christophe Daume, an outspoken character in the Brian Clough mould, with Dieter Hoeness, whose brother Uli played for Bayern against Leeds, as manager. They boast Germany's top scorer, Fritz Walter, and the international defender Guido Buchwald, although Matthias Sammer recently left for Internazionale.

Whereas Leeds can point to five final appearances covering all three competitions, Stuttgart have a patchy pedigree. They lost to Bulgaria's Levski Spartak in the first round of their only European Cup foray, in 1984-85, yet reached the UEFA Cup final three years ago, before bowing to Napoli.

Theirs was the last tie out, immediately after Glentoran versus Marseille. Jean-Louis Levreau, the French club's vice-president, admitted: 'That's good - getting Leeds would have ruined the holidays.'

Liverpool's opening opponents in their 23rd European campaign, Apollon Limassol, habitually concede six or more goals in the away leg. Also in the Cup-Winners' Cup, Cardiff have a not insurmountable task against Austria's Admira Wacker, coached by Siggi Held of 1966 World Cup final fame.

Manchester United, whose first leg at home to Torpedo Moscow will be their 100th European fixture, have never played in Russia or indeed the former Soviet Union. Alex Ferguson called it 'probably the hardest draw in our section', although Torpedo alone among their city's 'big four' supplied no one to the CIS squad in Sweden and once lost to Cardiff.

Wednesday, who last competed in the old Inter-Cities Fairs Cup in 1964, will also break new ground. Trevor Francis's team return against Spora, of Luxembourg, who list a 16-0 aggregate defeat by Leeds among their litany of losses.

Celtic will do well to progress against Cologne; likewise Hibernian against Anderlecht. Elsewhere, Barcelona open against Norwegian part-timers, while Milan and PSV Eindhoven venture into the relative unknown of the 'new' nations.

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