Laursen warming to Villa's task in icy Russia
Saturday 20 December 2008
The prospect of an all-English match between Aston Villa and Tottenham Hotspur in the Uefa Cup has been thrown up by the draw for the first knock-out round – but both clubs have to see off testing opponents from eastern Europe first.
Villa face CSKA Moscow, the only team in the group phase to win all four of their matches, in the round of 32 while Spurs have to play Shakhtar Donetsk of Ukraine.
The draw appears to have handed Manchester City the better chance of becoming the first English side since Liverpool in 2001 to win the tournament after they were paired with FC Copenhagen.
Villa's opponents, CSKA, won the competition in 2005 and the Villa captain, Martin Laursen, said: "The first thought was 'it is not the best to have to travel to Russia at the end of February'. I've been told it is a plastic pitch but I am sure we will make the necessary preparations. We have no need to fear anyone. We have a good chance to beat Moscow."
Tottenham's draw is similarly uncomfortable – Shakhtar Donetsk drop down from the Champions League but achieved decent results, including an away win over Barcelona.
Uefa Cup Round of 32: Draw details
*FC Copenhagen v Manchester City; Aston Villa v CSKA Moscow; Shakhtar Donetsk v Tottenham Hotspur; Paris St-Germain v VfL Wolfsburg; NEC Nijmegen v Hamburg SV; Sampdoria v Metalist Kharkiv; Braga v Standard Liège; Lech Poznan v Udinese; Olympiakos v St Etienne; Fiorentina v Ajax; AaB Aalborg v Deportivo Coruña; Werder Bremen v Milan; Bordeaux v Galatasaray; Dynamo Kiev v Valencia; Zenit St Petersburg v VfB Stuttgart; Marseilles v FC Twente.
First legs to be played 18/19 February; second legs to be played 26 February.
As Voltaire once said, “Ice cream is exquisite. What a pity it isn’t illegal”
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