The Uefa Cup has the seven-times Champions League winners Milan among its competitors this year, but some of the more obscure football outposts of Europe will host England's five competitors in the first round. The pick of yesterday's draw was Everton's tie against Standard Liège, the Belgian side who were within minutes of taking Liverpool to penalties in their Champions League qualifier at Anfield on Wednesday.
Like Milan, Everton, Portsmouth, Tottenham, Manchester City and Aston Villa were seeded, thus avoiding bigger names such as Seville, Ajax, Valencia and Feyenoord.
"[Liège] did look a good side [against Liverpool]," said Everton's manager, David Moyes, "but I am optimistic we can get through. It's a terrific competition and we really enjoyed it last season, as did the supporters." Everton will play their first leg at home.
Spurs face Poland's Wisla Krakow. Tottenham's sporting director, Damien Comolli, said: "They are on a run, they are on top of the league, they won the league last season. They beat Barcelona [in the second leg of their Champions League qualifier this week]. We will have to do well at White Hart Lane."
Manchester City face Omonia, the second-most successful club in Cypriot history. "The Harmonica Players", as the team from Nicosia are known, came second in their championship last season. Of the current City squad, only Richard Dunne and Shaun Wright-Phillips were in the side that lost to the Polish team Groclin in 2003, ending City's last Uefa Cup run.
Aston Villa have been drawn against the Bulgarian club Liteks Lovech and the FA Cup winners, Portsmouth, will play Vitoria Guimaraes, who finished third in Portugal last season. The Portsmouth chief executive, Peter Storrie, said yesterday that the club were confident that their manager, Harry Redknapp, had no intention of leaving. There have been suggestions that West Ham would approach him if they were to sack Alan Curbishley.
Storrie said: "Harry's very happy here, he signed a new contract and I think the West Ham thing was something and nothing. I know you never say never, but I'd say I was 99.9 per cent certain he's not going anywhere.
"You could argue that Portsmouth is a better place to be than West Ham. We've got a lot of exciting things going on, a very good team, planning permission has just come in on the training ground, which is going to be fantastic, and the new stadium plans are going through between now and December, so these are exciting times."Reuse content