Tottenham, Fulham, Stoke and Birmingham learn Europa League fate
Friday 26 August 2011
Tottenham will face Irish giantkillers Shamrock Rovers in the Europa League group stage.
Rovers, the first Irish side to have progressed to this stage of European football, beat Partizan Belgrade 2-1 on Thursday night to secure a place in today's draw.
The clubs are in Group A against Rubin Kazan, from Russia, and Greek side PAOK Salonika.
Fulham face FC Twente from Holland, Odense from Denmark and Wisla Krakow from Poland in Group K.
Stoke will play Dynamo Kiev, Besiktas and Hapoel Tel Aviv in Group E, while Birmingham are in Group H with Club Brugge, Braga and Maribor.
If Celtic are successful in replacing Sion, who are alleged to have breached a transfer ban, they would be in Group I with Atletico Madrid, Udinese and Rennes.
Tottenham director of football administration Darren Eales admitted the six-hour journey to Kazan, a city on the River Volga and a 90-minute flight east of Moscow, would pose challenges.
Eales however welcomed the prospect of playing Shamrock Rovers. He said: "I must admit after we had Rubin Kazan first out of the hat and then PAOK from Greece I thought I might struggle to go back to White Hart Lane with that draw - but at least we got Shamrock.
"It's a great fairy tale for them, the first Irish club to get into the group stage of a European competition, and it's what European football is all about.
"It should be a great night in Dublin. I know their stadium only holds 6,000 so I think they will need to find somewhere with a few more seats than that and it should be a cracking atmosphere there, and a great little trip for our fans."
Asked whether Tottenham would have to prioritise domestic competitions, Eales insisted not.
He added: "We are not going to treat this as a second-class competition but clearly we are going to have to manage our squad to make sure we get the best out of it for all competitions. That's part of the challenge of being in Europe."
Stoke face journeys to Ukraine, Turkey and Israel and club secretary Eddie Harrison admitted that would provide a challenge.
Harrison said: "There are long journeys and it is a tough group.
"The impact on Premier League matches is a fear that every club has expressed but our preparation will be correct - our manager is renowned for his preparation and we will use the travel as best we can and slot in with our Premier League fixtures.
"It's great for the club to be in Europe, the supporters love it. We have not been in the competition for 37 years so it's a novelty that has been embraced by the supporters and the club."
Shamrock chairman Jonathan Roche said the Spurs fixture was a dream come true for the fans.
He said: "We would have taken anybody, it's a great draw for our fans.
"Tottenham are so close to us. Last night was an historic occasion for us and to top it off like this, it hasn't quite soaked in.
"It's been an unbelievable two days. Five years ago we were relegated, then the fans took over the club. We won the league for first time in 16 years last season.
"Hopefully now this shows people that we play a good style of football. It's not really about the money but it's the whole razzmatazz and the whole profile on the football club. Hopefully we can do ourselves justice."
Roche insisted that the club would first see if they could play their home games at their 6,000-seat Tallaght stadium but that the Aviva stadium would be an option.
He added: "We will sit down with our association and see what the best thing is for ourselves.
"We might hope to use our ground because it is our home ground and that's where we will try our best to actually play. It might need a few adjustments but we will hopefully work on that first."
Draw for the group stage of the Europa League:
Group A: TOTTENHAM, Rubin Kazan, PAOK, Shamrock Rovers
Group B: Copenhagen, Standard Liège, Hannover 96, FC Vorskla Poltava
Group C: PSV Eindhoven, Hapoel Tel-Aviv, Rapid Bucuresti, Legia Warsaw
Group D: Sporting Lisbon, Lazio, FC Zürich, FC Vaslui
Group E: Dynamo Kiev, Besiktas, STOKE CITY, Maccabi Tel-Aviv
Group F: PSG, Athletic Bilbao, FC Salzburg, Slovan Bratislava
Group G: AZ Alkmaar, Metalist Kharkiv, Austria Wien, Malmö
Group H: Braga, Club Brugge, BIRMINGHAM CITY, NK Maribor
Group I: Atletico Madrid, Udinese, Stade Rennes, FC Sion
Group J: Schalke, Steaua Bucuresti, Maccabi Haifa, AEK Larnaca
Group K: FC Twente, FULHAM, Odense BK, Wisla Kraków
Group L: Anderlecht, AEK Athens, Lokomotiv Moscow, Sturm Graz
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