McClaren to seek Benitez' help on beating Graz

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The Independent Online

Steve McClaren, the Middlesbrough manager, will attempt to enlist the help of Rafael Benitez and Alex McLeish as he plots the downfall of Graz AK in the last 32 of the Uefa Cup.

Steve McClaren, the Middlesbrough manager, will attempt to enlist the help of Rafael Benitez and Alex McLeish as he plots the downfall of Graz AK in the last 32 of the Uefa Cup.

Yesterday's draw sends the Group E winners to Austria on 16 or 17 February with the return leg taking place at the Riverside Stadium a week later. Graz lost their Champions' League qualifier against Liverpool 2-1 on aggregate despite winning 1-0 at Anfield and were defeated 3-0 by Rangers at Ibrox in Group F but still progressed.

McClaren was happy enough with the draw, but said he would be hoping for a little help from his Premiership peers. "We will," he said. "Don Mackay [Boro's European scout] will be getting together the videos and the reports, so we will be well briefed.

"It is the last 32 and no game would have been easy, but it is a good draw for us. They are the Austrian champions, so they have a good pedigree. They played Liverpool in the Champions' League qualifiers. They lost 2-0 at home, but won 1-0 at Anfield, so they are no mugs and it will be a test for us.

"I am certainly delighted we are not heading somewhere like Ukraine or Russia. This is a good opportunity for us. We are delighted with the draw, and coming back to the Riverside for the second leg, we will know what we have to do.

"It is their winter break now and our game with them will be their first one back. I am not sure whether that will be a hindrance or a help.

"I suppose it will hinder us in our preparations because we will not see them play before we actually play them. They may have a couple of friendlies, but they will be hard to gauge.

"Then again, it may be an advantage because they will have had a period where they have not played. But either way, it is going to be a difficult first leg."

The away leg will be played at the Arnold Schwarzenegger Stadium, a venue McClaren has encountered previously with both Manchester United and England. "It is a nice little stadium, tight, probably something like in Ostrava when we played them, so we are used to that," he said. "It will be interesting."

If Boro manage to get past Graz, they will face either Sporting Lisbon, who finished third in Newcastle's group, or Feyenoord, although McClaren is not looking that far ahead.

"We are not looking at that tie at the present moment," he said. "We need to make sure we get through this one first. We cannot look beyond it."

Newcastle's reward for topping Group D was a tie with Heerenveen, the club from which they signed striker Jon Dahl Tomasson for £2.2m in July 1997.

Newcastle have enjoyed success over Dutch sides in recent seasons, claiming a memorable 3-2 victory over Feyenoord in Rotterdam to clinch their place in the second group stage of the Champions' League two seasons ago and defeating both NAC Breda and PSV Eindhoven on their way to the Uefa Cup semi-final during the last campaign.

Their captain Alan Shearer was happy enough with the draw, which pitches the winners into battle with either Olympiakos or Sochaux, the side the Magpies beat 4-0 in France last month, in the following round.

"It's not a bad draw for us," he said. "We could have got a lot worse. We are not having to travel too far. We are not playing a side from Eastern Europe as we could have done if we had come second in the group.

"The best thing about it is that we will have tremendous support there. It is not too far to travel and the lads will be happy that it is not too far to come back to prepare for the next Premiership game.

"The other good thing is that we are playing a Dutch side, so you can guarantee that we will be playing a side which will play football."

UEFA Cup Draw

Round of 32: Graz AK (Aut) v Middlesbrough; Heerenveen (Neth) v Newcastle United; Basle (Swit) v Lille (Fr); Parma (It) v Vfb Stuttgart (Ger); Sporting (Por) v Feyenoord (Neth); Alemannia Aachen (Ger) v AZ Alkmaar (Neth); Austria Vienna v Athletic Bilbao (Sp); Partizan Belgrade (Serb-M) v Dnipro Dnipropetrovsk (Ukr); Valencia (Sp) v Steaua Bucharest (Rom); Ajax (Neth) v Auxerre (Fr); CSKA Moscow (Rus) v Benfica (Por); Fenerbahce (Tur) v Real Zaragoza (Sp); Panathinaikos (Gr) v Sevilla (Sp); Shakhtar Donetsk (Ukr) v Schalke 04 (Ger); Olympiakos (Gr) v Sochaux (Fr); Dynamo Kiev (Ukr) v Villarreal (Sp).

First leg matches to be played on 16 or 17 February; Second leg matches to be played on 24 February.

Round of 16: Liebherr Gak/ Middlesbrough v Sporting/Feyenoord; Panathinaikos/Sevilla v Parma/Vfb Stuttgart; Valencia/Steaua Bucuresti v Dynamo Kiev/Villarreal; Basle/Lille v Ajax/Auxerre; Olympiakos/Sochaux v Heerenveen/ Newcastle; Shakhtar Donetsk/Schalke 04 v Alemannia Aachen/AZ; Partizan Belgrade/Dnipro v CSKA Moscow/Benfica; Austria Vienna/Athletic Bilbao v Fenerbahce/Real Zaragoza .

First leg matches to be played on 10 March; Second leg to be played on 16 or 17 March.

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