UEFA Cup: Big fish fight in a small pond

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The Independent Football

Like the League Cup, which it so much resembles, the Uefa Cup only really becomes interesting once you approach the quarter-finals. So while Celtic's victory over Blackburn in November may have given the Glaswegians a chance to mock Graeme Souness, the match with Liverpool four months later seemed a true "Battle of Britain".

The Uefa Cup final will linger longer in the memory than its European Cup equivalent, and not just for the peaceful takeover of Seville by 80,000 Celts. There were goals, passion and attack. The competition gives Southampton, as beaten FA Cup finalists, their first taste of European competition since Lawrie McMenemy's side were eliminated by Hamburg in 1984 while Manchester City, who sneaked in via the Fair Play League, have not played competitively abroad since losing in the quarter-finals of the Uefa Cup in the days when Tony Book ran Maine Road.

There are, however, some very big fish in this small pond. Liverpool, Barcelona, Valencia, Parma, Roma and Sporting Lisbon will line up for the first-round draw and this is before the eliminated teams from the Champions' League come dropping by for a back-door entry into a back-door competition.

Qualifying Round second leg: August 28. First Round: September 24 & October 15. Second Round: November 6 and 27. Third Round: February 26 and March 3. Fourth Round: March 11 & 25. Quarter Finals: April 8 & 14. Semi Finals: April 22 & May 6. Final (in Gothenburg) 19 May.