Arsenal and United given top-seed status for Europe

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The Independent Football

Manchester United and Arsenal will be among the top seeds in next season's Champions' League. Uefa, the sport's European governing body, yesterday released the club coefficients which determine the sides to be ranked among the top eight and, like last season, the Premiership's top two are in the élite set. It means they will avoid three sides from Serie A - the holders Milan, Juventus and Lazio - the Spanish sides Real Madrid and Deportivo La Coruña plus the German champions Bayern Munich.

If they qualify, Chelsea would be among a strong set of second seeds including Internazionale, Celta Vigo, Borussia Dortmund, the French champions Lyon, Galatasaray and the Uefa Cup winners Porto.

Celtic, Newcastle and Rangers are provisionally among the third seeds if they secure qualification for the group stage. Celtic, however, will also have an interest in results elsewhere. If they qualify and two of Lazio, Deportivo, Celta Vigo, Galatasaray, Borussia Dortmund and Chelsea fail to do the same, they will move up to become a second seed.

Uefa will only finally confirm the seedings before the draw for the group stage in August but have always used the coefficient system in the past, which is based on a combination of an individual club's record in Europe and the performance of each country's clubs overall.

The Champions' League draw will split the 32 clubs into eight groups of four, with each group having one top-seeded club, one second seed, a third seed and a fourth seed. The draw for the first two qualifying rounds of the Champions' League takes place at Uefa's headquarters in Nyon, Switzerland, on Friday.

England's final home Euro 2004 qualifier against Liechtenstein will be played at Old Trafford. Manchester United's 68,210-capacity stadium will host the match on 10 September, which England will be expected to win comfortably ahead of their crucial trip to face Turkey in October.

The Bell's Scottish Football League will let 'x' mark the spot as the furore over Falkirk's non-inclusion in the Bank of Scotland Premier League rumbles on.

SPL clubs voted against allowing the Bairns to ground-share with Second Division Airdrie United at a board meeting last month. Motherwell finished bottom of the top flight and were reprieved by the vote.

But the First Division champions have now lodged an appeal with the Scottish Football Association and have met with the Office of Fair Trading.

Some Falkirk supporters have even petitioned the Scottish Executive over their exclusion from the SPL.

The Bairns will now present their appeal to a three-man SFA panel on Thursday although no verdict is expected immediately.

The Bell's Scottish Cup draw included both Falkirk and Motherwell as one team.

The SPL and SFL fixtures will be released on Thursday and League secretary Peter Donald will use the symbol 'x' to recognise the on-going conflict.

Donald said: "We will just refer to it with a general heading such as 'First Division club x' in the fixture list. Hopefully, the matter will be resolved before we get much further into the close season.

"It would obviously be better to know who we will have in each division, but it is a matter outside of our control."

The SPL fixture list will be printed with Motherwell included.

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