Football: Villa relish opportunity of revenge

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The Independent Online
JUST about the perfect draw in Europe is an opponent liberally sprinkled with glamour that camouflages a hint of waning power. Aston Villa managed that to perfection yesterday when they were paired with Internazionale in the first round of the Uefa Cup.

Inter defeated Norwich home and away en route to winning the trophy last season but even though they could call on the striking talents of the Dutchman, Dennis Bergkamp, the Milan club struggled in the Italian League last season and escaped relegation only by a point.

The tie, to be played over two legs on 13 and 27 September, also gives Villa an opportunity to avenge their Uefa Cup defeat four years ago, when they beat Inter 2-0 at Villa Park but were beaten 3-0 in the return, a match that included a goal by Tottenham's new hero, Jurgen Klinsmann.

Ron Atkinson, the Villa manager, said: 'The big glamour match against a club like Inter Milan tends to make it a proper European night. We are looking forward to having another crack at them.'

Andy Townsend, one of four Republic of Ireland players in the Villa team who faced Bergkamp in the World Cup, said: 'It will be a tremendous night at Villa Park, but we have no reason to fear anyone in the competition.'

Inter will play the home leg first after Uefa ordered the ties to be switched, to avoid a clash with Milan's home match against Salzburg in the Champions' League on 28 September.

England's other representatives in the Uefa Cup, Newcastle and Blackburn, avoided seeded clubs, drawing Belgium's 1992 Cup-Winners' Cup finalists, Royal Antwerp, and Trelleborg of Sweden respectively. Motherwell, Scotland's survivors in the competition, face Borussia Dortmund.

England's double-pronged attempt on the Cup-Winners' Cup should extend into the second round after Chelsea were paired with Viktoria Zizkov, of the Czech Republic, while Arsenal, the holders, face Omonia Nicosia of Cyprus. Dundee United, meanwhile, play Tatran Presov of Slovakia.

Five British clubs made it to the first round of the Uefa Cup, but next season there may be more. Uefa announced a back-door route into the competition yesterday via its summer International Football Cup competition that hitherto has attracted mainly Scandinavian and mid-European teams.

Next season, however, the four top teams in the IFC will gain entry into the preliminary round of the Uefa Cup, which will almost certainly prompt interest from clubs in England and Scotland who fail to make it into Europe via their league position.

Uefa also told its referees yesterday to follow the hard line on fouls and dissent introduced at the World Cup finals.

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